Opinion

Party primaries are not democracy

Will the Democratic superdelegates support the candidate who has the majority of pledged delegates or will they vote for whomever they want? This is the question that has been preoccupying many Americans’ minds since Super Tuesday. The superdelegates issue is unfortunately most often presented as a “will of the voters” question. Far from actually being so, the question itself is less one of democratic expression than a misunderstanding of the partisan electoral process the country is currently experiencing. To put it succinctly, any notion that we are witnessing “democracy in action” in the form of the presidential primary contests is fundamentally incorrect.

When we watch a primary contest in which citizens cast votes, it is easy to forget that we are not actually witnessing an “election” in which the outcome directly results in someone being elected to office. What we are actually witnessing is the process by which two of the more than 200 American political parties choose their presidential nominees. Within that, we are in actuality observing 50 different state selection processes.

Why is this? Because even though these primaries will determine which candidates will run for president under their parties’ banners, the Constitution places the authority – and expense – for administering all elections with the respective states in which those elections take place.

While the national parties can set some rules pertaining to the time frame in which a state’s nomination contests occur – and in the case of this year assess penalties for violating such rules – they do not control the administration of these contests as if they were actually one national nominating process. As such, each state political party determines its own rules for the allocation of delegates. This is why there are some states where the winner takes all the delegates, some where the delegates are determined by a party caucus, some where various proportional award systems are employed, and some where only registered members of either party can participate. In a few cases, the popular vote winner even received fewer delegates than the person who came in second.

All of these conditions are completely contrary to the characterization of a “democratic” vote in which citizens exercise their right to select their choice for leadership. The fact that in some cases like Florida you can only vote in those contests if you’re registered as a member of one or the other party completely flies in the face of the will of the “people.” Party primaries are no more about the will of the American people than is an election for Student Government. They are internal organizational processes that the vast majority of the electorate doesn’t ever take part in.

In the end, the candidates chosen will participate in an election in which all citizens can vote, but not until their organizations select them. And if those candidacies are ultimately determined by unpledged and unelected superdelegates, then it is an internal party organizational matter, not a matter of one’s constitutional rights.

Scott Wacholtz is a graduate student in the history department. He may be contacted at s.wacholtz@umiami.edu.

February 28, 2008

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Here is some impressive news for the University of Miami football program: All but one of the remain ...

Lonnie Walker IV stood out on and off the court at the NBA Draft Combine, which ended on Sunday in C ...

University of Miami incoming prep star Will Mallory, the other half of the soon-to-be No. 1 freshman ...

View photos as Miami Hurricanes Coach Jim Morris ends 41-year career on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at M ...

The sullen, charcoal sky opened with a vengeance Saturday afternoon at Mark Light Field in Coral Gab ...

A snapshot guide to the start of summer in and around UM. ...

Former investment banker Charmel Maynard leads UM’s investments and treasury functions. ...

Over his more than two decades at the U, the dean of students from 1976-1989 always put students fir ...

The final Sea Secrets lecture at the Rosenstiel School examines the biofluorescence of marine organi ...

Maintenance mechanic Milton Davis has kept UM housing humming for decades. ...

Sinead Lohan and Estela Perez-Somarriba of the Miami women's tennis team earned ITA Southeast R ...

Sophomore righthander Evan McKendry and freshman Freddy Zamora were among those recognized by the At ...

Senior Jeb Bargfeldt was recognized as ACC Pitcher of the Week following a dominating performance ag ...

No. 7 seed Miami opens its run at the 2018 ACC Baseball Championship Tuesday, May 22 against No. 11 ...

Although 17th-year head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews has made Sweet 16 appearances commonplace the jour ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

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.