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The Way We Pick Nominees Is a Joke

David Leonhardt has some specific remedies to suggest
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2019 5:14 PM CST
Democratic presidential candidates from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate...   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Newser) – Want evidence that our process for selecting presidential nominees is a joke? Look at the last Democratic debate: "Three candidates in their 70s—and no African-American or Latino," writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. "There are two people who have never won an election—and zero who have ever run a state." Want more evidence? Look at the "reality-television star" who hijacked the GOP nomination process in 2016 and now sits in the White House, he adds. People say this is merely democracy in action, but it's not, writes Leonhardt. "It's one version of democracy," and the US is pretty much the only nation that relies on this weird mix of polls, donor numbers, and "distorted" primaries. Other countries give political parties more say in picking nominees, and Leonhardt thinks a middle ground can be found here.

"I’m not suggesting we return to the smoke-filled rooms of the past," he writes. "But the current process puts a higher priority on the appearance of democracy than the reality of it." Some suggestions: On the debates, it's fine to give poll leaders guaranteed spots, but the party could also reserve spots for a governor and perhaps a swing-state senator. In the primaries themselves, more states should embrace ranked-choice voting, rather than the winner-takes-all approach. And the primary calendar should rotate every four years to end the ridiculous prominence given to Iowa, New Hampshire, etc. The first to vote would always include "a mix of states: big and small, young and old, urban and rural, coastal and heartland." Change is long overdue, writes Leonhardt. Read his full column. (Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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