Are We Doing U.S. Presidential Primaries Right?

U.S. Presidential Primary Elections

A U.S. presidential primary election will be held today in New Hampshire for the 2016 presidential race.  I have to admit that I get excited about primary elections.  The reason I love primary elections is that there are so many choices for president.  However, I am also bummed about primary elections.  I happen to live in Colorado.  Since our primary caucus is the first of March, we hardly ever get to weigh in on the entire field of presidential candidates in either party.  At this point, many of my candidates have already been eliminated.  This year is no different.  My favorite was Rand Paul.  He was the only candidate that seemed to view political issues objectively.  He was willing to look at cutting our bloated military budget in a time when we really need fiscal responsibility.

This year, Colorado Republicans decided not to hold a caucus at all.  So, I will not be able to weigh in on any candidate.  Even one of the front runners.  That means that the Colorado Republican delegates will choose the Republican nominee without considering what most of the voters in the state want.  Colorado is the only state that has made such a move in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I am used to my candidates not making it through Iowa and New Hampshire.   So I’m not too disappointed in the decision by the Colorado Republican Party, given the current way we hold primary elections.  In fact, if you follow many of my posts, I would support ridding ourselves of political parties altogether.  The reason for my blog post today is to simply pose the question, “Are we doing presidential primaries right?”

In my view, we have a few problems with our presidential primary election process that seem to make all the difference.

Why Iowa & New Hampshire?

As I have just claimed, most states besides Iowa and New Hampshire ever get to weigh in on which primary candidate they would like the most.  In Iowa, you get discussions about farm subsidies and Christian values.  In New Hampshire, it seems to be veteran’s issues and heroine addiction.  Although most issues are national concerns, presidential primary candidates spin their campaigns to address these local concerns, because they know they have to win one of these states in order to make it to the other states.  The problem with this approach is that other states are not pandered to at all.  Not that pandering is a good thing.  But it seems like if you don’t live in one of these low-populous states, your opinion simply doesn’t matter.

Partisan Debates on the Issues?

So that everyone understands, the U.S. presidential primary election process is a method political parties use to try to figure out who their party’s nominee ought to be.  As such, we have debates and try to figure out which candidate is Democratic enough; or Republican enough.  In the vernacular of politics, this mostly means the candidate who is most ‘progressive’ and/or ‘liberal’ on the Democratic side of the ticket; or the candidate who is most ‘conservative’ on the Republican side of the ticket.  So what if most of our country is not ‘progressive/liberal’ or ‘conservative’ in their political views?  I guess the majority simply get lost in our primary elections.

I believe this is one reason my candidate never makes it to a general election.  As I have stated, I liked Rand Paul because he was the only Republican willing to look at reducing the military budget while all of the rest said they would expand this budget.  In the Democratic party, there is no talk about the military at all… except for support of the notion that we need to keep a failing Veteran’s Affairs.

If we have a process that guarantees we will get an extreme candidate on both sides, is it any wonder nothing gets done in Washington DC?  Is it any wonder we get compromises by two extreme parties that result in more spending?  We really need to have a non-partisan debate on the issues.  Unfortunately, by the time the general election rolls around, we have two polarized and extreme positions which simply divide our country and do nothing to ultimately solve our political problems.

What can we do?

Use Technology

I understand that personalities in a presidential race are important.  However, I believe the most important part of a political process is the public’s majority opinion on specific issues.  Could you imagine if voters had a single discussion platform where they could weigh in on political issues and express their opinions?  I understand that this may be a completely confused mess if not handled properly, but it seems we could save a lot of time and money if we invested in a website that would allow public discourse on the issues that matter to all Americans.  These discussion boards could be facilitated to narrow down consensus on important issues so that politicians get input from all Americans.

I know that such discussion platforms exist now, but I am thinking of a single system that allows people to participate in our political discussions.  I know, “What about the people who don’t know how to use a computer?”  I get it… there are still a few folks that don’t know how to use a computer.  I’ve got news for you.  There are even more folks that don’t have time to participate in a town-hall meeting; or attend a political caucus.

Abolish Political Parties

The fact that we decide on candidates in an extreme setting to run in a general election guarantees that we will end up with an extreme right or an extreme left candidate.  It also means that politicians have to be clever enough to win a primary and still win the general election.  Or, to be honest, this cleverness is more like lying.  If we could have non-partisan debates and discussion, we would not even need to have a primary election.  Many Americans have tried to thwart the political party system by nominating some popular Independent candidates every once in a while.  However, these nominations have usually ended up hurting the party that the Independent candidate usually favors… resulting in a worse result than if the Independent did not run at all.

If we had no political parties, it would force voters to genuinely understand the nature of political issues rather than jumping on some emotional band-wagon that feels like it is in their personal best interest.  Could you imagine if we had a national discussion on political issues with technology; and actually came to consensus and had a president that fully understood our desires?  I believe this president would truly represent us all…. Not be allied with a political party.

National Primaries

Okay.  I understand that the first two ideas would be a dramatic change in the way we do business.  So, what if we simply made the primary election a single national election?  Some of you may say, “That would cost too much.  How could candidates travel to all states, have town-hall meetings, shake hands, kiss babies, and knock on millions of doors?”  They wouldn’t.  We act as if we are still living in the 19th century where we have no technology to communicate to a national audience.  Most Americans do not get a knock on a door, hand shake, or personal interaction by a candidate before casting their vote.  If you want money out of politics, why do we create a system that requires so much money?

If we had a national primary election, we could still have multiple debates, but the topics would be more national in nature.  Not local.  After all, did you know that the president holds a national office?  Not a local one.

Multiple Candidate Selections

If I set up the ballot, I would allow voters to vote for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in a primary as it is almost impossible to simply pick one candidate out of several.  Such a selection process will allow candidates that are desired by most voters to reach the top.  Often times, it seems like candidates that are desired by most voters never make it through the election process because voters are trying to get on the band-wagon of a supposed winner; without consideration of which candidate(s) match their political opinions.  This system could also work with a 100 point system where a voter can assign so many points to each candidate so they can proportionately support issues they favor.  Not just a popular candidate.

Conclusion

I think we can do a lot better than we are currently with our primary election process.  It just seems like we are too focused on the things that don’t matter in campaigns.  Personally, I believe each candidate running in this 2016 presidential race supports something I like; and supports something I don’t like.  If we could somehow weigh these opinions by all Americans, I believe we could have presidential candidates that can truly represent us all; rather than a partisan hack.

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