OPINION: America’s “choice”

An elephant (left) and a donkey represent the Republican and Democratic parties. (DonkeyHotey/ Creative Commons)

(DonkeyHotey/ Creative Commons)

Every election season political parties provide American voters with a variety of faces throughout the process only to disillusion them into thinking they actually have a choice. At the end of the process, voters are still left with a false dichotomy to choose from.

The 2016 presidential campaign race has been no different. This year, and in the years leading up to the election, both prominent political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have been supporting candidates that do not necessarily match the traditional “politician” mold.

At the beginning of the race, multiple people from diverse backgrounds were all trying to win the nomination. The Democratic party has a chance to have the first female president elected with career politician Hilary Clinton, the other candidate is socially progressive senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Republican voters had even more candidates to “choose” from. For example, Ben Carson is an African American retired neurosurgeon, Carly Fiorina is a retired CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Marco Rubio is a young senator with Cuban heritage and Donald Trump is a Caucasian business man and reality television star.

One of the ways the illusion of choice has been presented is through the media coverage of political events. This year’s primary has seen Democratic and Republican candidates participate in 34 debates and forums with three more scheduled. Each time millions of Americans watched as candidates paraded themselves on national television as the “right choice.”

As of Super Tuesday, the day in which the greatest number of states are holding primaries, those choices were even more limited. The original seventeen potential candidates for the Republicans now stand at four and the third Democratic candidate dropped out with less than a percent of the vote.

What is more problematic is how confusing our system makes the process. The Electoral College is famous for its complexity, but its is just the tip of the iceberg. Caucuses, primaries, delegates and super delegates are all words that get tossed around this time of year with little understanding of what they are or how they function.

One of the reasons the process is so convoluted are the different ways each party in each state decides to set the rules in order to control the outcome. While some of the formatting is the same across the states, the lack of consistency between the two parties is confusing.

The major difference between caucuses and primaries is how votes are cast. In primaries people simply vote by ballot. However, in caucuses, voting is much more intimate and passionate supporters can go around lobbying for more votes for their candidate.

Going beyond the simple contrasts of a caucus or primary, each party decides how the votes count differently state-by-state. In the Republican party all the votes go towards the delegates with some states deciding to have a “winner takes all” model and other states keeping the delegates proportional to the votes.

The Democrats have an entirely different way of counting their votes. In their party there are two types of delegates. Regular ones and super delegates who are important party leaders that are not pledged to the candidate with the most votes from the caucus or primary. Essentially, this means that Democratic party leaders have as much say as the people.

The false dichotomy that is our presidential primary system is only furthered by the fact that citizens have to affiliate themselves with a party to be able to have a say in who can run for president. Registered independents in this country are deprived of the nomination process simply because they do not absolutely agree with a party or its ideals.

Ultimately, Americans are left to choose from a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican who have been molded by their parties political ideals in order to win the nomination. While new faces appear every few years, the choice remains the same.

Photo used with CC BY 2.0