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Thread: A primer on the american electoral nomination process

  1. #1

    A primer on the american electoral nomination process

    Since there seems to be a lot of TRUMP-PHOBIA at the moment, I thought I would attempt to write out an explanation of our process.

    There are 2 major parties. Democrats (approximately = Labour) and Republicans (approximately = Tories). Each party has certain subgroups that traditionally find their voice within that party, as we do not have a parliamentary structure that allows non-affiliated subgroups to have their own independent representation.

    We hold elections every 2 years, with all members of the House of Representatives (= lower house) standing for election. Additionally, 1/3 of Senators (=House of Lords) stand for election to a 6 year term. Every 4 years we elect or a President (who may serve no more than 2 terms). This results in some national elections (like this one – 2016) being more “influential”. A popular or unpopular presidential candidate can result in gains or losses “down” the ticket (for Senators and Representatives). Therefore, these more important elections tend to have more vitriol to whip up the fervor.

    Now – to the process.

    Each party may begin selecting a candidate for president (and also Representatives & Senators if there is an intra-party contest) in January of the year of election. The first state to do so is IOWA, followed by NEW HAMPSHIRE. Shortly behind them is SOUTH CAROLINA. This provides some otherwise minor states (in overall electoral strength) to serve as an early indicator for that region (IOWA representing the MIDWEST. NEW HAMPSHIRE representing the NORTH EAST, and SOUTH CAROLINA representing the SOUTH).

    In each of these states, the selection of a national party nominee begins, but in a different manner. A state may hold a CAUCUS (IOWA), whereby the party controls the voting process for that party, and can set the rules. A state may also hold a PRIMARY where the state election board sets the rules. A PRIMARY may come in one of three flavors – OPEN, CLOSED, or MIXED. A CLOSED primary allows only those voters registered as a member of a specific party to vote on that party’s ballot. As such, this tends to be the party loyalists who are usually farther left or right than the electorate as a whole. An OPEN (SOUTH CAROLINA) primary allows ANY REGISTERED VOTER to vote on a ballot – so crossover voting may occur. MIXED (NEW HAMPSHIRE) allows anyone registered for that party or as an independent to vote.

    From these CAUCUSES or PRIMARIES delegates are awarded or assigned, with one caveat (UNPLEDGED or SUPER DELEGATES - I'll abbreviate as SD). The Democratic Party has approximately 4700 total delegates, with 2383 required to clinch the nomination. The Republican Party has approximately 2500 delegates with 1237 being required to clinch. These numbers do not reflect the relative number of registered voters (There are NOT 2X more Dems than Repubs nationally registered) but is a number that is determined by the national party. Prior to March 15th, delegates are normally awarded in a proportional manner. From March 15th onward a state’s party may choose to award all of their delegates in a Winner Takes All fashion. This date is chose because at this time one or two nominees are usually the only viable candidates left and it accelerates the nomination process.

    Unpledged Delegates (aka SDs) are “party faithful” that are afforded delegate status based on their position (members of congress, state governors, etc…..). These constitute 6.5% of the Republican delegates and 15% of the Democrats. One particular and very un-Democratic quirk is that the Democratic SDs are not required to vote as their state voted. So, in the case of NEW HAMPSHIRE, where Sanders won by a large majority, Clinton came away with more delegates because she wooed the entire slate of SDs. This is why she appears to have such a substantial, even insurmountable, lead over Sanders in delegates when the margin of separation for percentage of votes cast is much narrower.

    In early Summer each party holds a National Convention. For a candidate that has already acquired the delegate count to clinch the nomination, this is a time for the party to select a Vice Presidential candidate (often from the second runner up subgroup within that party) and unify around their national ticket. This is when they will also begin electioneering for Senate or House candidates in their party. Also during the CONVENTION we see a swing back towards CENTER politics. The primaries play to the staunchest party members, while the national election seeks to bring in independents voters, undecided party voters, and dissatisfied crossover votes from the opposing party.

    In the event that a CONVENTION meets and no single candidate has acquired the necessary votes to clinch the nomination, a brokering process begins. In some cases, after the first vote fails to make a choice, all or some candidates are released from their candidate obligation and are allowed to vote for who ever they choose. This is when a 2nd and 3rd place candidate could conceivably join forces to share delegates and overcome a 1st place candidate. Also, a lower tier candidate could trade their delegates for a promised cabinet post in the leaders administration. It is at this point our system probably most closely resembles yours.

    If I have erred on certain points I will ask Muir and Southern to help me correct or clarify those.

    Hope this helps.

  2. #2
    That is a great synopsis, Cootmeurer.

    I will add that in an Open Primary, like in South Carolina, they usually hold the voting in separate premises and even separate days. If you vote in one primary, you cannot vote in the other.

    Some states have caucuses ( more used to ), where party members meet and discuss and advocate for a few hours, then vote.

    The Democrats have been vociferous in their legal attacks on the state elections (all elections are state and local ), to prevent the identification of voters as being citizens of that state, and of that precinct. They don't even want any proof that the voters are in the United States legally. Hillary, and others, quietly push letting convicted felons vote, not only before their parole time expires, but from their prison cells.

    What scares them is that the Republican primary turnouts are 20% to 75% larger than ever, while Democrat primaries are 25% below normal. Additionally, Carson, Cruz and Trump have drained away blacks, Latinos, and union members to the tune over about 25% of them, which matches right up with the lower turnouts in the Democrat Party primaries and caucuses.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Cootmeurer View Post
    In the event that a CONVENTION meets and no single candidate has acquired the necessary votes to clinch the nomination, a brokering process begins. In some cases, after the first vote fails to make a choice, all or some candidates are released from their candidate obligation and are allowed to vote for who ever they choose. This is when a 2nd and 3rd place candidate could conceivably join forces to share delegates and overcome a 1st place candidate. Also, a lower tier candidate could trade their delegates for a promised cabinet post in the leaders administration. It is at this point our system probably most closely resembles yours.
    Has this happened recently?

  4. #4
    It happened with the Republican Convention in 1952, which his how Eisenhower was nominated over Robert Taft. The establishment tried to do it to stop Goldwater in 1964 and Reagan in 1980. Other times, the parties have split up. That is how Bill Clinton won in 1992 with less than 40% of the vote. That is how the Republican Party was formed, when the Whigs split, and Abe Lincoln won with less than 40% of the vote in a three-way race as a Republican.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Cootmeurer View Post
    There are 2 major parties. Democrats (approximately = Labour) and Republicans (approximately = Tories).
    Here's a bit of context from The Political Compass, plotting parties or candidates on two axes, one economic left to right, the other a libertarian-authoritarian axis. As I've mentioned before, left and right is too simple. So here are UK political parties as they stood at the last general election and the current US frontrunners:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
    I find the terms "Left" and "Right" as meaningless and antiquated, misapplied residue of the seating on the sides of the assembly during the French Revolution. There really is no such thing as a libertarian-socialist, outside their own minds, because what they vote for, like a Sanders, Obama or a Clinton, will always be an authoritarian.

    But on that chart, Cruz would be more libertarian-right, Trump more in the center, in the blue, a pragmatist. Rand Paul would be far down in the libertarian, on the center line. Hillary would be up in the far left corner. She is one of those "liberals" who long ago gave up on selling their ideas, and needs the power to enforce their great vision on lesser mortals.

    A better chart, in generalities, to my mind:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Thank You Southern. I was looking for that same chart to respond to Pine Marten.

    Also, one additional thing that you will hear soon is "Well he/she doesn't represent me or the US because they only got elected with 25% of the American public", or something similar.

    In the US, in the this Century, we normally only see about 57% of registered voters actually voting. During a presidential year that creeps up to 60%. When you have a "despised" President and someone Fresh and Full of Political Promises (for example Obama's first election following GW Bush) that number creeps to 62%. So, in truth we NEVER have a President elected by a Majority of the registered voters. One thing that Trump seems to be doing is attracting a percentage of voters that have not voted before, either non-voting registered voters, or non-registered eligible voters. Regardless of what the talking heads on TV say, no one is quite sure what/who these voters are and how politically astute or inept they are. They are the great mystery at this time.

  8. #8
    I'm not sure I understand the depth of hatred for Clinton.

    She seems no better or worse than the majority of roughly centrist politicians, in the US or elsewhere. If we take as a starting assumption that ALL of them, of every flavour, are liable to be duplicitous, devious and power oriented, she doesn't really stand out at all. She always struck me as pretty unremarkable in any direction.

    In terms of enforcing visions, I don't see any evidence that she is any more extreme in pursuing a grand plan than anyone else?

    I don't particularly like or trust her (and would vote for Sanders if I could, just to make my position clear), but don't see that she's really any different to most mainstream candidates.

    Even Trump, while a loathsome egomaniac isn't really that terrifying - it's Cruz that would scare the Sh*t out of me. He really does strike me as someone with a pretty extreme social vision that he's intent on enforcing.

  9. #9
    And for those that want to play around with actual facts/numbers (rather than Mass Media Sensationalism).

    DELEGATE COUNTS
    Republican (requires 1237)
    Trump 384
    Cruz 300
    Rubio 151
    Kasich 37
    Drop outs 20

    Republican Remaining to be allocated 1585

    Democrat (requires 2383)
    Clinton 1130
    Sanders 499
    Other 171

    Democrat Remaining to be allocated 3136

  10. #10
    Hillary is a known entity: a phony, a power hungry person who will do anything to gain more power and wealth. She mouths socialist and populist claptrap while having more mansions than Trump. This latest with her stealing state secrets and having foreign countries "donate" tens of millions of dollars to her husband's phony charitable foundation, is only the latest in a string of similar legal escapades. She worked as a legal aide for the Communist Party attorneys, was fired from the House Watergate Committee for stealing evidence and sharing it with politicians and journalists, lost her billing records for her law firm while her former partners went to prison, used FBI files against her political enemies, hid records showing that she constructed a real estate scam for Madison Guaranty Trust Savings & Loan. She cares nothing for the law, much less the Constitution.

    Cruz is probably very benign, as he believes in small government, including a limited role for the President. He is a strict Constitutionalist, meaning, if it is not enumerated explicitly as a lawful power in that document, no branch of the federal government can do it. The expectation is that Cruz would dismantle as much of Obamanism, Bush, Clinton, Carter, and LBJ as he could. That is what a lot of Americans want.

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