Iowa Caucuses Reveal Flaws in Archaic Primary Election System

Sean Para, Columnist

This week’s Iowa caucus began the 2016 presidential campaign in earnest. The media has reported on the various candidates’ every move and turn of phrase. The results promise a tough campaign for the candidacy of both parties. Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 0.3 percent of the vote, meaning that the two politicians will likely have a state-by-state duel in the coming months, a far cry from the bloodless nomination that former Secretary of State Clinton expected to obtain when she announced her candidacy. The Republican field remains scattered, with Ted Cruz narrowly winning the caucus with 27.6 percent of the vote, followed by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio with 24.3 percent and 23.1 percent of the vote respectively. This means that Trump did worse than many had expected, while Rubio has a real shot at clinching the nomination due to his broader appeal than the first two candidates. The caucus process has therefore dealt a relatively strong hand to Senator Sanders and Marco Rubio, while Donald Trump has become a loser in the minds of many; not coming in first place in Iowa is widely viewed as the beginning of the end for his scandalous and poorly organized campaign. These results and the coming months of campaigning will highlight the way our political system is broken. The way we choose presidential candidates in this country is ridiculous and must be changed.

The electoral system is fundamentally flawed and extraconstitutional. There were never supposed to be only two candidates or political parties in the presidential election. The modern system of primaries and caucuses evolved as a way to prevent any strong candidate from emerging outside the two presidential parties and to narrow a diverse field of candidates into two choices. Furthermore, different states have different electoral rules for primaries and caucus. Most states use primaries — general statewide elections — while others still use caucuses, which are more informal voting procedures held by each party in which they consult with their members in the state and hold a vote to assign delegates. Primaries can be open, meaning anyone can vote for a candidate, even if not a member of that party. The opacity of the process is furthered by the existence of superdelegates, independent delegates able to vote any way that they choose at the national party conventions. This system takes power and choice away from average voters and only allows candidates with enough backing from special interest groups to be elected. If there is to be any hope of creating a true American democracy, the candidacy process needs to end.

Instead of state-by-state primaries and caucuses electing delegates to vote in national conventions, we should institute an open presidential election where more candidates can run before a president is chosen in a second round of elections between the top two candidates. This would also involve scrapping the Electoral College system — a relic of a past age that is fundamentally oligarchic. Technically speaking, the electors, rather than voters themselves, elect the president; almost all states now have their electors vote for whoever won in that state, but this is not stated in the Constitution. A more streamlined and simplified electoral system would allow the citizens themselves to decide who becomes president. Our current process, on the other hand, does not: Voters are given a false choice between two candidates who have effectively been picked for them.