Decision 2016: Introduction to the Primaries

Election season contains some similarities to other holiday season: you don’t always get what you want, it leads to many awkward and tension-filled conversations with family and friends, and just as soon as you think it’s over, preparations are being made for the next one. However, instead of grumbling that Starbucks is playing Christmas music in November, you’re more than irritated at the fact that 24/7 cable news networks started covering “Decision 2016” over two years prior to the actual U.S. Presidential election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Moreover, despite obsession in the media and elsewhere over elections, this fascination has not spread to the general population. The 2014 midterm elections for U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives were the most expensive in U.S. history at a whopping $3.7 billion, yet had the lowest voter turnout since World War II (you know, when a large portion of voters were busy fighting overseas and you could still be denied voting rights based on your skin color) at 36.4%.

Voter apathy and misinformation over policies, candidates and philosophies is rampant in the nation today. Elections should be a time when the nation as a whole is able to sit down and have a rational conversation about the issues our country is facing, yet in the current political climate we reduce arguments to manipulated soundbites, philosophies to misconstrued catchphrases, and one’s patriotism to how large his or her lapel pin is.

The goal of these pieces is, in essence, to separate the signal from the noise that is present in the media and U.S. society at the moment. To provide nonpartisan summation, analysis and critique of candidates and the issues they debate. To educate and help the reader become engaged in the political process. For citizens to realize they have a valuable voice and deserve to be heard. If these articles help in any way to make someone more informed about the political process, encourage them take action and vote, or develop their own political views, then I feel I will have achieved my mission.

Primaries

Presidential primaries are essentially the elections before the election. Staggered from January to June 2016, all 50 states will hold these elections allow the general public to narrow the fields down from each political party to one candidate from the Democratic Party and one candidate from the Republican Party to be selected by delegates in each party’s national conventions, which will be held in late July 2016. How primaries operate differ by state and some states even run an entirely different election process, such as Iowa’s caucus system, but more details of these differences will be examined closer to January 2016.

Primaries are indirect elections. Voters don’t vote directly for candidates technically, but rather for delegates to represent them at each party’s national convention. Delegates are basically “points” for candidates. You may not win every state, but you can try to get a strong enough showing in each state to at least valuable points to help you in the overall race. For example, in the New Hampshire Republican primary, Mitt Romney won with 39.3% of the vote and received 7 delegates while Ron Paul finished second with 22.9% of the vote and received 3 delegates. Candidates need to receive a certain amount of delegates to clinch the nomination, so a poor showing in an early primary like the Iowa Caucus or New Hampshire primary may encourage candidates to drop out of the race. Some races like the 2008 Democratic Primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton lasted well into May 2008 whereas others, such as the 1988 Republican Primary saw George H. W. Bush virtually clinch the nomination in early February.

Preview

The 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents any President from being elected more than twice, so President Obama, a Democrat, will not be eligible to run again for his party’s nomination. Hillary Clinton is currently the pack leader for the Democratic race, but candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley will try to capture the nomination as well. There are expected to be five candidates in the Democratic primary when all is said and done.

The Republican race also promises to be an exciting one as well, as many Republicans are longing to make 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. a conservative stronghold again. By time for the first primary, there are expected to be 15 candidates all vying for the nomination and there is no clear front-runner.

In the course of the next several months, I will be providing overviews and analyses of the many candidates and issues that will be in the forefront to hopefully provide a clearer picture of the 2016 Presidential race. I think it’s safe to say that the election season is finally upon us.

Image Credit to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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