The Smoke Filled Rooms

I remember when we did not have primary elections. At least not very many of them. In the “old days” it was the party leaders who made decisions. They got together  in those smoke-filled rooms and selected the candidates.

Of course not all the leaders agreed. There were conflicts and favors asked for and given. There was back-stabbing and lies . The old men of the political parties fought it out behind closed doors, for the most part, and ended up manipulating the political conventions to nominate a ticket. Sometimes there were “floor fights” on the convention floor.

But all the participants were loyal members of the party. And all wanted to win the presidency.

Now, of course, we have multiple primaries. On the surface it sounds more “democratic”. Let the people vote, Let the people decide. Now we see some problems with that system.

Some states, for example, have “open ” primaries. So anyone can vote for either party. This has the effect of allowing Dems to disrupt GOP primaries and vice versa.

Some states allow anyone to change parties at the polling site. Again, that can mess up a primary as folks who are not devoted to a party can have the same voice as the guy who has worked for the party for 30 years. Being a member of the party means less and less.

But the worse part about the primary system is what we saw happening in the GOP in 2016. And in the Democratic primaries this year. While well-meaning, the primary process encourages more radical elements of the party to have a greater say in choosing a candidate. Get people hyped up, give them some nice phrases, appeal to easy solutions to tough problems and the idiots will vote for you. (Yes, most people are idiots).

I prefer the “good old days”. The time when the party leaders, responding to pressure within the party and to common sense, decided who the nominee would be. So, let’s look at some of the candidates who might never have won a primary contest but did get the nomination of the party.

In 1860 the Republican convention was held in Chicago, Illinois. A small group of party leaders, mainly from Illinois, were able to manipulate the convention and push a young , funny looking lawyer to the forefront. They stole the nomination for “Honest” Abe Lincoln. He turned out to be a pretty good president.

Other men who were selected by the party leaders in deals made in “smoke-filled rooms”?

Try these on for size. US Grant. Teddy Roosevelt. FDR. Harry S Truman. IKE. JFK.

Whether liberal or conservative, these guys ended up being pretty good presidents. Without going through a primary election vetting process. Most were selected by the party leaders in each state. As candidates that were real leaders and had a lot of common sense.

Which brings me to Andrew Cuomo.

I have watched Cuomo for many years. He has been vilified by the NRA and pro gun groups. And by conservatives in NY in general. For much of his term he has had to deal with a split legislature. He worked with both sides. He made decisions about educational testing, then when the data showed it was not working, he changed his mind. He has always been a liberal who has been able to get things done. Effective.

This makes we wish for the good old days. Days when the political conventions were not signed, sealed and delivered by primary voters. When the party leaders at the biggest smoke-filled room, the national convention, could choose the candidate they felt was best.

Does anyone doubt that if we did not have a primary system who the Democrat nominee would be? And who the next president would be? Maybe the DNC should throw open the convention and let the delegates for for whomever they want.

The next president of the United States, without a doubt, would be Andrew Cuomo.

Give me a smoke-filled room.



Filed under Politics, Society, United States

6 responses to “The Smoke Filled Rooms

  1. No doubt Cuomo would make the best President, but is he the most electable President? We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the presidency is won in the electoral college, not by total popular votes (witness Hillary beating Trump by almost 3,000,000 votes in 2016). Cuomo could carry New York and California by double that number and still lose if he can’t win states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. I live in one of those states, and if I have a handle on the voters of my state (and I think I do), Trump would beat Cuomo here by an even larger margin than he beat Hillary in 2016.

    It’s a cliché, but true: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Biden has a better chance than Cuomo in “middle America” — the states the Dems must win in November.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sad to hear. I used to live in Michigan and I recall when the midwest was a “union workers” area. Times have changed. I suspect that this election will be all about Trump no matter who the Dems put forth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree — the election will be a forum on Trump…and he is a con man par excellence, as indicated by polls showing his approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus tragedy has soared to near 50% (though it has actually been a disaster of delay, dissembling, and deceit). That his mostly self-serving daily press conferences have fooled almost half of America into taking him at face value is a foreboding sign.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is discouraging to see how he maintains support.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. whungerford

    Party leaders selected TR and HST to balance the ticket; they did not expect them to be Presidents. The way VP candidates are currently selected isn’t good. Nixon selected both Agnew and Ford; Ford may have been a good choice, but Agnew certainly wasn’t.


  3. I think now that might have been possible, Joseph. I agree with you that he’s been exemplary. Biden actually pointed to him today as an example of true leadership. But he used to really turn people off.

    I don’t know about the smoke-filled rooms, but we sure do need big changes in the primary system.


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