Jonathan Alter

We’re hours away from GOP primary contests in Arizona and Michigan.  What we want to do tonight is ask one question — where have all the leaders gone?  And how can we create a system to identify and choose more effective political leaders?

To figure that out, we’ve brought in our “big picture” guy to look at tonight’s contests, MSNBC Political Analyst and Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Alter.

“Where are the leaders!?”  It seems like every four years we ask that question, even though this current field of elected officials has been called one of the weakest fields in recent memory.  Some would say we’re looking at the past with rose colored glasses, but the pickings are pretty slim at this point, and voters know it.  Only 12% approve of the job Congress is doing. 44% of GOP voters say they’re less enthusiastic now about voting now than in 2008, and 55% of GOP voters would love to see an alternative candidate emerge.

The dissatisfaction is not only aimed at GOP side, as you well know.   Obama’s favorable ratings nationally are at the lowest point of the year — 43% according to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll.

We’ve stuck in neutral with leaders like Democrats Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on the left, and Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner on the right.  Compare that to Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and Speaker Sam Rayburn in the 50’s, giants like Speaker Tip O’Neill in the 80’s, or even the loyal opposition of Gerald Ford and Everett Dirksen in the 60’s and 70’s.

So, what’s the solution? Alter points to the primary process as part of the problem.  “We can fool with this system, and we should. California is leading the way,” says Alter, to revisit and redesign their primary system.

For more from Jonathan Alter, check out his columns at Bloomberg View, and follow him on Twitter @JonathanAlter.  Jonathan is also author of “The Promise: President Obama, Year One.”

– Meg Robertson is a digital producer for  You can find her on Twitter @MegRobertson.