Random rant: Primary season ends

I wrote part of this for something else, but I figure it’s worth posting here as a rant. Just remember, I’m not American, but I follow U.S. politics fairly closely and this is how I do feel about things. Oh, and I’d like John McCain to win. Not that that’s important in my arguments below.

As Democratic primary season draws to a close with voting today in South Dakota and Montana — two states which surely would not have believed you if you told them on January 3, when the first contest was held, that they would factor into the final equation. But such is the electoral system in the U.S. that this is the situation we find ourselves in:

Before the actual election in November (which, again, isn’t technically for President but for electoral college voters), there is still this long and drawn-out series of elections in all 50 U.S. states (plus the overseas U.S. territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and for the Democrats, one for ‘Democrats Abroad’) to decide who actually goes head-to-head in the “final”, so to speak.

To be fair, it is this series of contests — primaries and caucuses, held internally by the two main parties that elect delegates which are pledged to a candidate – which has given us the most riveting election in years, with the Democratic Party still having yet to decide between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. With 2,118 of these delegates needed to win the party’s nomination, neither candidate has reached that target yet – although Mr Obama looks set to achieve that number soon.

Between the two main American parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, their 50-odd primaries and caucuses are run in different ways, just to add confusion to the layman observer somewhere else in the world. On the Republican side — an argument Senator Clinton has made many times — some states award delegates on a ‘winner-takes-all’ basis (and Senator John McCain won most of these states). On the Democratic side, delegates in all states are allocated proportionately, sometimes at state level, sometimes at county level, or sometimes at district level.

It is not hard to imagine a person somewhere in the world who isn’t well-versed in American politics wondering why there’s such a confusing system and why they don’t use the popular vote (another Senator Clinton argument) rather than the delegate system, as the method of distributing the delegates can mean that even when one candidate wins more votes, the other wins more delegates (Mrs Clinton won the popular vote in Texas; Mr Obama won more delegates there).

But let’s face it, the popular vote doesn’t do anything, even at federal level — remember how Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000? Look who’s in office right now.

Even then, delegates aside, the DNC finally resolved (or at least one hopes so, seeing as how Mrs Clinton is considering an appeal to the Credentials Committee) the issue of Florida and Michigan delegates — originally penalised because the two states held their primaries too early.

Why have it staggered in the first place? Is it really such a bad thing to hold all 50 states’ primaries on the same day? Wouldn’t that resolve everything so much quicker? That might force superdelegates to endorse in advance of primary day if they don’t want their endorsement to slip by unnoticed if one candidate secures the nomination purely through pledged delegates. Or perhaps, as a more radical idea, put a deadline on superdelegate endorsements before beginning the primary season. But I digress.

Let’s get on to the “final”, if you will, then. What exactly is the use of the electoral college? As far as I understand it personally, the number of electoral college votes per state is based on the state’s population. If this is true, allow me to raise a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say state X has 4 million people and 40 EC votes and state Y has 5 million people and 50 EC votes. It doesn’t mean state Y has more registered voters than state X, nor does it mean that more people in state Y will vote compared to people in state X. Is that really a fair way of deciding a president? We’ve seen where it’s gotten us with President Bush.

Thoughts welcome.


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