Archive for November, 2019|Monthly archive page

Undemocratic: The Presidential Primary System, Year 2020

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2019 at 17:23




The primary system for both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States is undemocratic. For now, I will set aside the discussion of how the two-party system in the U.S. supports a plutocratic government. For my thoughts on that, please read the article linked here. I will also address the way debates for presidential candidates are corporate controlled in a future article. Finally, I will emphasize the Democratic primaries this time around, for the Republicans control the White House and won’t have a primary season.

The U.S. elections themselves are just for show; “they are not democratic. Our choices are limited and the elections are dominated by corporations that work exclusively to guarantee their profits.” Not only are the elections and our two-party system undemocratic, but the process for selecting the candidates for president in both parties is run by the elites and does not allow for real choice.

The primaries start in Iowa (Monday, February 3, 2020) and New Hampshire (Tuesday, February 11, 2020). These states are two of the least representative states in the U.S. Iowa, which runs a caucus and has about 3.156 million people  and New Hampshire has about 1.356 million people. That is 4.512 out of 327.2 million people or slightly less than 1.4% of the U.S. population. Together, they have less then 2% of the members of the House and the Senate, numbering ten. Yet, “Since 1976, when the Iowa caucuses went to first it became an influential part of the nomination process, the eventual Democratic nominee has almost always won either Iowa or New Hampshire (or both).”

Not only does Iowa and New Hampshire have a tiny part or the country’s population (thus being unrepresentative) they are both two of the whitest states in the nation. Iowa is 90.7% white and New Hampshire is 93.2% white.  The nation as a whole is 76.5% white. If you claim to represent the people, why not choose a state that better represents the U.S. population as a whole, like Florida which is 76.5% white?

Furthermore, “The Iowa primary is not even a vote by the people. It has a caucus (group meetings with the party faithful) that favors party insiders and not candidates with alternative ideas. The primary in New Hampshire has very small turnout. For example, only three to four percent of voters nominated McCain in New Hampshire. So, a few thousand votes in a small state decided who would represent the Republicans in 2008.”

Several state parties block voters from primaries who do not registered with their parties. In this way, voters are coerced to sign-up with one of the two majors parties or have no vote in determining the choices for president.

Click to view: Iowa compared to US demographics
Click to view: New Hampshire compared to the United States

Currently, there are 18 dates for primaries.

The later dates seldom matter, for the candidates are almost always decided before then. So, populous states such as Florida (March 17) and New Jersey (June 2) often have little say in who gets nominated as their primaries happen after 40 other states have had theirs. That disenfranchises California’s nearly 17.2 million and New Jerseys 5.3 million registered voters (2012 numbers).  At least California moved up to Super Tuesday, March 3, when twelve states vote. (ibid)

Closed primaries are ways political parties force party loyalty on the public. The list of closed primaries is here.

In summary, 14 out of 50 states have closed or semi-closed primaries. The reason for this is that the Republican and Democratic parties don’t fully trust voters and don’t want a full democratic process. They believe in unquestioned loyalty: ‘party first, love it or leave it!’ If we wanted a democracy, we would have open primaries for all offices with a limit of one vote per contest.

Fair Vote Reform Suggestions

Setting aside all the other problems with our electoral system for now, here is a way to make the primary process more democratic: set up primaries based on regions and geography. That would make it easier for candidates to travel from state to state. The regions would rotate every four years ensuring that one region would not dominate the process like Iowa and New Hampshire do today. So, the group that votes first in 2020 would rotate to the bottom in 2024 and other regions would move up.

The U.S. could be divided up into nine regions, each occurring three weeks apart. That would be 27 weeks of primaries, slightly over half a year. That would allow each party to prepare for general elections. States could be divided into regions as follows:

Far West:
Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington 

Mountain West:
Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico

South Central:
Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana

Central and Northern Plains:
Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri

Great Lakes:
Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio

Central South:
Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina

Deep South:
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C.

New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

In this way, each region would have a say in who gets nominated. This would take the power to decide the presidency away from two of the least diverse states in the nation, Iowa and New Hampshire. There would be some diversity in each region. While Iowa is very white, there are many native tribes in the other plain’s states. Certainly, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than letting two of the whitest states with large rural populations, NH ranked 12 (39.7% rural) and Iowa 13 (35.98% rural), decide who the nominees are for president in the United States. (2010 numbers)

Moreover, the Republican and Democratic parties would have to pay for their own primaries. Taxpayers currently fund the duopoly that limits our voting choices, paying over $500 million in 2016. So, we end up funding parties that limit our participation in an undemocratic process. It’s just one more problem of many with what we call ‘democracy’ in the United States.

Tex Shelters