The U.S. presidential elections are divided into two main stages: the primaries and general election.
The primaries are contested among members of the same political party, and are used to determine the political party’s “nominee” for the general election. There are two main political parties, those being the Democrat and Republican parties (ironically, the U.S.A would be considered both a democracy and a republic, thus making the party names rather uninstructive).
Each president is eligible for exactly two terms of four years each, so in theory, the president would have to seek out his/her party’s nomination if he/she would like to win a second term. In application, the president normally faces no major contest in earning the nomination, since it would look kind of bad for the president to be ousted as the spiritual leader of his/her own party after only one term in office. Therefore, if the incumbent president has used up his/her second term of office, both the Democrats and Republicans have to nominate new candidates, and if the incumbent has used up one term, only the opposing party needs to nominate a new face. In particular, in this upcoming election year only the Democrats will need to undergo a serious nomination process, since the republican president Trump has had only one term since his election.
Since both the primaries and general election involve their own procedures, it is probably best to explain the primaries now and general election later (if my articles are still being posted at that point). Also, since only the Democratic Party primary process is being undertaken seriously this year, we will explain this one only for now.
As of now, there are exactly 21 Democratic candidates that are recognized by Wikipedia as being considered “major”. For those that are a little surprised by this whooping number, it is important to note that this is the greatest number of candidates running for president within any political party in the last 50 years.
However, not all candidates are created equal. The current frontrunner in the race (who we will talk more about in future articles) consistently has more than 20% support of voters in polls, while at least 8 of the 21 candidates struggle to gain even 1%. Obviously, candidates with significantly higher polling numbers will have much more money poured into their campaigns, which helps for all sorts of goodies like political ads and rallies. So, if we keep turning this wheel of capitalism, the strong should keep getting stronger, and the weak should get weaker and drop out.
However, the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which is the organization that oversees the nomination process, doesn’t really like that political scheme all too much, so they organize political debates to help add in a bit of variance. In political debates, all the “major” presidential candidates are gathered up on a stage (or two stages), which is filmed for 8.7 million viewers, and are asked to explain their policies for the presidency and argue with their rivals. Even for those who don’t watch the debates, debates are heavily covered by the media, thus making any key moments that happen on stage reverberate across the U.S.
This disrupts the political model described above, as the strong can be utterly exposed on primetime television, and the weaker polling candidates can watch their fortunes turn before their eyes. More importantly, debates offer a crucial way of introducing the individual candidates to the public, which is quite important considering that there are 21 of them.
So, if a candidate does not make it to the debate stage, this would normally be considered a disaster that could potentially end the campaign. This is where things get interesting. The aforementioned DNC, which organizes the debates, clearly finds it a little difficult to manage 20 candidates who are competing with each other for much needed attention. So, as the debates progress, they slowly increase the qualification threshold in order to limit the debate stage to candidates who have a legitimate change of clinching the nomination. In particular, the upcoming democratic debate is on September 12, and only 10 candidates have qualified (the qualification criteria is at least 130,000 individual donors and at least 4 polls where the candidate earns at least 2%). The other 11 candidates are now hard-pressed to try and rapidly earn support in order to qualify and save their chances of winning the nomination for president.
Now, let’s talk about some of the issues that these candidates are shaping their campaigns around. The following is a bucket list of issues that currently affect American politics:
- expanding/limiting private healthcare
- reforming gun legislature
- legalizing marijuana
- maintaining the economy
- paying off the excessive national debt
- dealing with global warming (or the climate crisis, as it is referred to by politicians)
- illegal immigration
- economic inequality
- taxation policies
The ideas mentioned above are very open-ended, and thus have very different proposals regarding them. This will be discussed in more detail when I discuss the candidates individually.
The last thing that I want to discuss in the entire context of this process. Namely, why would I be talking about the U.S. presidential election when the general election is over 13 months away? Why would anybody care when it is that far in the future?
The ultimate reason (in my opinion) is that the U.S. is one of the world’s largest and greatest democracies, ths making it very important that every voter knows who each candidate is and what they support. If this nomination process occurred 3 months before the election, there would simply not be enough time for this information to fully disseminate clearly, and there certainly wouldn’t be time to dissect each candidacy and debate over policies. There would be voters who would face the dreaded “I have no idea who I am voting for”, which doesn’t seem too great for the country that prides itself on democratic choice.
So while this process may seem a bit farsighted, it is probably for the better that we are openly analyzing and discussing the 2020 presidential choices in 2019.