SURIANO: Iowa Caucus displays systematic problems
Column: A RINO's View
Last Monday, we had the most baffling primary election in my admittedly short life.
Well, technically it was a caucus.
After a new application failed, the results were not known for several days, and we still have two candidates declaring victory. So, you may think that this column will be about why Iowa should not be the first primary contest, why we should get rid of the caucus or why apps should not be at the center of any election.
But no, I have a much hotter take in store for you, my dear readers. We should end the primary election system for electing presidential nominations and return to the traditional American system.
Now, the first question is what we did before the primary election system.
Well, much like we do now, delegates were elected from local parties and sent to a national convention to pick a presidential nominee. Once at the national convention, the state delegations would support various candidates until a single candidate was chosen after many votes. This candidate would often be a compromise candidate. This system lasted until the '70s, when our current system went into full effect.
So, you might ask why this system was better than the one we have now. Our current system forces candidates to the extreme end of the political spectrum, as the primary electorate is far more extreme than the general election electorate. This means candidates must leap to the left or right during the primary campaign and then lurch back to the center for the general election.
This creates a disconnect with the American people, as they can plainly see the cynical nature. This further alienates the American people from our institutions. The old system gave the power in picking their candidates to the party, who were invested in the wellbeing of the party’s future. So, the person nominated had the best interest of the party in mind. The current system creates more rifts in the parties and the nominee only has their own interest in mind.
Furthermore, the primary system also draws out the election cycle close to two full years because the primaries are spread out. This is a problem because it burns out people on politics. The average person does not want to care about an election for two years. This naturally causes a burnout by the time November comes along. People are concerned about low participation in elections, but this was less of a problem before the primary system.
Now there are several criticisms of this.
The first one I will attempt to deflect is that it is anti-Democratic to end the primary system. I say to this, yea sure it is but who cares. Democracy is not a synonym for good. What we should care more about is fairness, and the primary system is unfair to the political parties.
Imagine if you ran a bowling club and every so often the club elected a president, but instead of just the club members picking a leader, you had to let anyone who happened to hangout at the bowling alley vote for your private club’s president.
Furthermore, you even had to let members of your rival bowling club vote for your president. You would think this is silly and yet this is the American primary process. Instead of letting the parties pick their leader, basically anyone who wants can pick the party's nominee even if they do not share any of the party’s beliefs.
There is nothing in the constitution saying we have to do this and the people get to vote for or vote against the parties nominee in the general election. So it is not like this is a strike against democracy, it is a strike in favor of improving our democracy.
The second criticism is that ending this would return us to “smoke-filled rooms,” and thus hurt diversity. I disagree as the primary system prevents any forward-thinking in presidential elections. As the country becomes more diverse there is a natural incentive to create a more diverse ticket.
On the other hand, the primary system starts in Iowa and New Hampshire, not exactly anyone’s idea of diverse places. There is no way to ensure a diverse ticket in the primary system as there is no way of knowing who will win — as we can see in the Democratic primary which has come down to a rather nondiverse group. So in fact, getting rid of primaries would at best help diversity and at worse be no change.
Now I do not think this proposal will actually happen, but the primary system is broken and it is fundamentally unfair to have a party nominate a candidate without much say in the matter.
Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.
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