"D-----!" A Democratic Party leader slams his fist on the table. "Obama's the right candidate for this party!"
Another party leader, shakes his head and chews on his cigar. "Not enough experience."
Across the table, a woman flicks the ash off the end of her cigarette. "It's prime time for Hillary to run. She's amassed an impressive war chest," she offers. Then, as the first party leader begins to protest, she continues, "but Obama would be an exceptional 'candidate for change.'"
That, perhaps, is what the nomination process would have sounded like if the 2008 presidential nominee were chosen like in years gone by - in smoke-filled rooms by party leaders. Remember when they were selected before the expansion of democracy and before primaries evolved to allow each and every party member to have a say in which candidate would be selected to be the nominee. It was a time before the candidates became the choice of the people.
The 2008 primary season has demonstrated what it means for a candidate to be the choice of the people. It has demonstrated, without a doubt, that we need to take that choice away from the people and give it back to party leaders, closed away in smoke-filled rooms. Or at least in conversation-filled rooms.
It may seem rash, but consider this: The majority of party members aren't making the decision, anyway. Voter turnout is notoriously low; just 20 percent of registered voters is considered a good turnout for a primary. Additionally, in the Democratic primary system, Iowa and New Hampshire have unimaginable influence. Most states have little - if any - influence (think how exciting it was this year when Pennsylvania's primary actually mattered).
Most Americans just don't care that much about politics. And they shouldn't have to. Most Americans have a decent grasp of what the Democratic and Republican parties stand for. Asking them to make an informed, educated choice for one of several candidates from the same party is ridiculous. We're busy. Only a poli-sci nerd is going to make time to look up every single candidate on the Internet.
Allowing party leaders to select the nominees puts those poli-sci nerds in charge. It allows the most experienced, most informed people to make the decision. And people who know what they're doing are more likely to pick a competitive, viable candidate.
Eliminating the primary process also solves another key problem: flip-flopping. What many people don't realize is that flip-flopping and vagueness actually are required to become president. Since voter turnout is low during the primaries, most of the party members who show up to vote are the extremists. Therefore, in order to win the nomination, the candidate must play to the extremes. However, in order to win the general election, the candidate must appear to be as moderate as possible. That means that every successful candidate - that is every president - has had to either flip-flop or be extremely vague.
The smoke-filled-room selection process eliminates the need to play to extremes and allows the candidates to come out with a strong, clear, message straight from the get-go. It prevents the intense disunity that results from a long and grueling primary process, like we saw this year in the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Clearly, our primary system is broken beyond repair. Allowing the most informed to make the initial choice of candidate is the best thing for American democracy. Party leaders will choose viable, competitive, winning candidates. The final choice will still be up to the American people. They still have the ultimate control. Party leaders will just take away many unnecessary elections.
Smokey rooms will produce much more worthwhile candidates than the smoke and mirrors of the primary campaign.
Sarah Dotter, of Wyomissing, is a sophomore at Juniata College. She is attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo.