In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 2,864,903 votes. Yet, on January 20, 2017, President Trump was sworn into office. Both sides of the aisle have publicly said that the nation cannot afford another four years of President Trump, and the argument presented is not whether that is true. As a nation, we will have to vote in the primaries to determine the sole person that will stand up to President Trump. If more candidates join the race, however, the democratic process will be strained by the number of applicants due to the front-loaded and archaic primaries and democratic deconsolidation.
In class, we discussed the process of primaries being categorized throughout history into three eras: King Caucus, Party Conventions, and Democratization and Fragmentation. The first of which presidential candidates are nominated by congressional elites and hand-picked by the electorate after. From 1800 to 1824, this system put too much power into the hands of Congress, as the president was dependent on Congress for a recommendation, rather than running to reflect the will of the people. The second, party conventions, which lasted from 1824 to 1968, was heavily focused on state caucuses. The electorate was still hands-off, only this time the president became dependent on state bosses and political machines to be nominated. Any revolutionary or changemaker would be disadvantaged, as the people in power would nominate those who would keep the power consolidated. Finally, the current system is from 1968 to present, the primaries and caucuses. This system ties the president to the people, not a middle man. State party leaders are now unimportant, Congress no longer decides which candidate is best for the elites, and this system finally allows for non-elites to participate in politics. A result of this system is the potential democratic deconsolidation presented by Paul Howe. It’s argued that as more people feel disconnected or misrepresented, the electorate will be less admiring of democracy and may propose alternative forms of government. This feeling of misrepresentation is the driving force of the shocking amount of candidates the Democrats have offered. With this democratic deconsolidation there is a shocking potential for division among the democratic party.
With this split the Democrats are going to experience, it would be ridiculous to not look at the 2016 election, focusing on the 17 candidates that ran for office on the Republican side, as well as the urgency placed on the first 10 weeks of an election cycle. The process of the primaries rests heavily on the first 10 weeks because of the necessity of name recognition and out performing opponents in the field. Last presidential election, at the time of primary count, only four Republican candidates stood a chance. The cutting of 13 candidates is the result of front-loading the process. As the weeks go by during the election cycle, it has become imperative for candidates to be well known and in every American household in order to stand a chance. As the images show below, the process of gaining delegates happens incredibly quick, forcing Americans to make decisions largely on what they hear about candidates, rather than their actual platforms.
And while this process isn’t necessarily flawed, it becomes flawed when the amount of competitors grows larger than anywhere from 3-5 candidates. With the republican party, there were many candidates who didn’t receive anywhere near the 1,237 delegates needed to be nominated. Competitors such as Kasich, Carson, or Bush dropped mere weeks into the primary cycle because of a lack of delegates.
The antithesis to this argument is that by having more people in the competition there is increased competition and only the true best candidate can advance to the presidential race. This simply isn’t the case, according to evolution and a study from Michigan State University. This study argues that too much competition in a fast pace setting like the primaries results in snap judgments that, while maybe informed, are not the most accurate. Having a lower level of competition motivates humans to think it out and conduct research before choosing. The base of this research comes from studying hermit crabs, who, when placed in a low competitive environment, will inspect shells to grow into, taking time to inspect for the best fit. In a highly competitive environment (lots of crabs), they have been observed to choose ill-fitting shells, even going so far as to claim a shell before they are ready to shed their current. Not only does this evolutionary tendency effect the electorate, but candidates who need to be relevant and require constant media attention to win the primaries will also make these snap judgments which result in poorly planned statements or other ill-thought-out events.
With the current era of the primaries being entirely voting oriented, the candidates must have massive media attention, common name recognition, and a strong platform to back it up. However, in the case of the Democrats in the upcoming election, the surplus of 12 candidates all fighting for that precious media time will undoubtedly result in President Trump claiming all republican air time.
The presidential selection system is more connected to the people now more than ever. With that, however, comes the front-loaded primaries which force us to make snap decisions, hindering our ability to research and vote for the best candidate. Pairing this with the democratic deconsolidation our nation is currently facing causes the 12 candidates for the Democratic nomination. By allowing this overwhelming number of candidates to run, our nation has signed the 2020 election away to President Trump simply because of his ability to capitalize on the indecisiveness of the people.
Photo Citations: Photos by ElectionGraphs.com, https://electiongraphs.com/2016ec/