A recent article in Bloomberg speculating on the possibility of a Joe Biden bid for the White House highlights a serious problem with the present Democratic and Republican primary voting systems. It goes a long ways toward explaining why American voters have generally been dissatisfied with their choice of Presidential candidates.
A recent Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll analyzes likely results of races in three battleground states, were elections held today. As it would shake out, Hillary Clinton would take Ohio and Pennsylvania, but would lose Florida, if competing against Donald Trump. However, Joe Biden would defeat Trump in all three states. The GOP might actually be better off with Jeb Bush; under that scenario, Clinton would lose all three swing states. Biden would win Ohio, but still lose Florida and Pennsylvania.
The bottom line, according to the poll: Democrats would do better with Biden running against Trump, while the GOP would have greater success in a Clinton – Bush matchup. As things now stand, we’re looking at a race between centrist corporate candidate Hillary Clinton and utter fool Donald Trump – and American voters will once again feel they are having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Biden, who likely would be a better executive than Clinton, is expected to announce whether or not he will run toward the end of September.
Not surprisingly, the Bloomberg article makes virtually no mention of Bernie Sanders. However, the survey does indicate that, while Clinton appears to be the Dems’ current favorite, Sanders is running a strong second – ahead of Biden. The Quinnipiac poll doesn’t bother to analyze Sanders’ chances against the GOP candidates. Based on his increasing support across the social and political spectrum, however, under an un-rigged system in which he was able to get as much media exposure and support as the corporatist candidates, Sanders would likely win hands-down.
Were we to have open primaries, it’s a good bet that Bernie would be the Democratic candidate (a scenario representing the GOP’s worst nightmare). There are, in fact, a number of states that do hold open primaries in which any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, may vote. Some, such as Utah and Idaho, have “semi-closed” primaries, in which voters without party affiliations may choose to vote in one primary or the other. Louisiana has done away with primaries altogether for “down-ticket” races; under that state’s system, the two candidates who garner the most votes compete in a runoff election in December.
Today’s presidential primary system was created nearly half a century ago in order to address problems that left the Democratic party in shambles after the 1968 elections and virtually handed the race to Richard Nixon. That year, the party completely disregarded one candidate that had a demonstrated appeal to voters in favor of another whose primary advantage was name recognition. That year, Eugene McCarthy ran on his opposition to the Vietnam War, which was becoming very unpopular, especially with young people. However, the Democrats felt that Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice-President, had a better chance of winning. Humphrey was also a supporter of President Johnson’s policies in Southeast Asia. The violent demonstrations that took place outside the DNC in Chicago should have come as no surprise. After that debacle, a commission was formed in order to come up with a system that would improve the nomination process and allow for greater voter participation, particularly among women, African-Americans and youth.
Advocates for closed primaries argue that such a system allows Presidential candidates to speak their minds on hot-button issues – which has certainly been the case for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They also criticize the idea of open primaries, on grounds that it allows a type of political sabotage known as “party crashing.” This happens when members of one party vote for the opposition candidate they believe will be easiest for their own party’s candidate to defeat. For example, Democratic voters might support Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz in order to maximize Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning.
The current system, while better than what was in place in 1968, is still showing weaknesses. Polling as well as growing support among voters suggests that Sanders could likely be the Democratic nominee – if primaries were consistently open. Another problem has to do with the fact that some states, such as Iowa, hold their primaries earlier than others – and as result, wield undue influence. Candidates who do well in early primaries tend to get the most media coverage, and as a result, attract more campaign money – resulting in more media coverage. To many critics, this gives such candidates an unfair advantage. One idea, which is already taking shape, is to have the entire process, including debates, carried out online. This would cut down on massive expenditures on travel, venues and security. It could also allow candidates to be nominated within a much smaller time frame, thus eliminating any advantage of early primaries.
One thing is certain: the election system is in need of significant reform.