Opinion

Unsure of who to vote for? First primaries may not represent you

Campaign season is in full swing. It’s the time every four years when the U.S. proudly shows the rest of the world how democracy should work. The process by which political parties select their presidential candidates can be a little confusing, however. Young voters may have a lot of questions such as “What is a caucus?”, “What is a delegate?”, and “Who cares?” Allow me to answer the first two.

The U.S. Constitution is the basis of our great nation. It lays the foundation for every aspect of our government and unwaveringly guides us to liberty and democracy. If there is ever any doubt about a legal or governmental issue, the first place to look is the Constitution. Except in this case. The Constitution does not mention anything about primaries or caucuses (please hold your laughter until the end). In fact, it doesn’t say anything about political parties at all. The reason the founding fathers, the visionaries who laid the groundwork for the United States, omitted such a crucial element of our political system is simple: they just forgot. It’s understandable – most of them were old.

So in 1972, the Democratic Party decided to have elections (referred to as “primary elections”) in each state to determine the number of delegates they would send to their national convention. The Republicans followed lead soon afterwards. The candidates who receive the most votes in a state’s primary (or caucus) have the support of that state’s delegates at the convention. The candidate with the most delegates at the convention wins his or her – by “her” I mean Hillary’s – party’s nomination for the office of the presidency. (If you are asking yourself why there should even be national conventions if the results are determined beforehand.stop it.) The exception is “super delegates.” Super delegates are just like regular delegates, except for two things. First, they can vote for whomever they want. Second, they have superpowers.

Early in the history of primaries, states realized that the earlier they held their elections, the more influence they had on the nation’s voting. Americans, it turns out, are followers. Florida, for that reason, tried to move its primaries up to earlier in the election season. That resulted in the forfeiture of half of its votes at the Republican National Convention and all of its votes at the Democratic National Convention. In other words, if you’re a registered Democrat in Florida, your vote doesn’t matter (which is the case in all elections, but is especially the case this year). Most states hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, which is on February 5 this year. It is also the day that super delegates become especially powerful.

The Iowa Caucuses kicked off the election season. New Hampshire’s primaries followed soon afterwards. These states are exceptionally important, as indicated by their receiving 40 percent of the media coverage dedicated to primaries. Their delegates only comprise about 2 percent of the total delegates sent to the conventions, but it’s the most important 2 percent of any of the various 2 percents. Only in a democracy as great as ours can less than 1 percent of a nation’s total population play such a big role in determining its future leaders. There is a lesson here: when there is doubt, leave it to white people. Ninety-one percent of Iowa’s residents are non-Hispanic whites.

By now you may be beginning to doubt whether the U.S. is actually a democracy (as opposed to some strange hybrid form of government – let’s call it…”Americracy”). It is. Democracy is government by the people, according to Abe Lincoln and some dictionaries. Rest assured: Most voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are, in fact, people.

Anthony Vega is a sophomore majoring in finance and English. He may be contacted at a.vega7@umiami.edu.

January 17, 2008

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.