America has evolved and so has the Democratic Party in the way we choose candidates for President.

In the years leading up to 1831, Congress chose who our candidates would be. Political Party Conventions became the vehicle by which our nominees for President were chosen after 1831. In the intervening years, the Democratic Party required that the nominee obtain 2/3 of the delegates support to gain the nomination.

Early in the 20th century Progressives recommended the use of primaries as a means by which political parties chose their candidates. This process failed initially to gain support and the effort fizzled around 1930 due to the high costs of the process. The fact that we had entered a Depression might have had something to do with the discontinuation of the use of primaries.

Conventions have become primarily an affirmation of who has won the primaries now. We should note that the last time we had the need for a multi-ballot convention was back in 1948 for the Republicans and in 1952 for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party chose,  Adlai Stevenson as their party’s nominee even though Stevenson did not win a single primary.

The old ways of doing things came to a head during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Hubert Humphrey was the nominee of the Party. This was in spite of the fact that Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy had won 2/3 of the primary votes. Humphrey won nothing but was named the party nominee. As a result of all of the controversy the McGovern-Fraser Commission was formed to promulgate badly needed reforms.

As a result of the commission the current system of how the Democratic Party chooses a candidate changed. The primary reforms that resulted were that we now have mostly primaries by which the voters get to choose the candidate. In the past delegates were on the ballot and not the name of the candidate. The results became proportional based upon the percentage of the vote and the vote in each congressional district. The party was given the power to certify the delegates.

A remaining controversy is the fact that we still have caucuses. A caucus has certain problems that need reform. The caucus is a way by which a less popular candidate can gain support. You can win in low-turnout elections by getting more people in a room. The sanctity and privacy of a voting booth does not exist.

Caucuses worked in McGovern’s favor in the following election as he,  McGovern only received about 1/4 of the popular vote in the primaries but he was highly successful in the caucuses.

The issue of the Super Delegates is of a more recent vintage. For the Democratic Party, the Super Delegates represent 15% of the total delegates to the Convention. Why do we have Super Delegates? This year is a perfect example of why a Super Delegate exist. These are ladies and gentlemen who are the party elders, those who are elected officials and other highly placed party officials who are in existence to try to prevent choosing a candidate whose nomination would be a disaster if nominated.

This element of the process is a two edged sword. One can argue that if the prospect of a Trump nomination was in order, you would want to have the chance to put a stop to it. For a political party should they not have a certain percentage of party elders who might prevent a selection that is unwise or not. Some would argue let the will of the people be the judge.

Another area of controversy is whether or not to have an open primary or a closed primary. Independents want to have a say, well, that is all well and good but each political party has a right to require of the voter some measure of loyalty. We are not talking about a general election where anyone can and should vote.  If you are to chose a nominee of a political party does anyone have a right to determine that other than those who are democrats. After all, the nomination is for the Democratic Party. Perhaps in the future, the time and manner of whether or not you can register to vote on the same day as the primary should be a requirement. But this is an issue that each state must decide.

If we are to have the process for choosing a presidential nominee be more democratic in nature we should require only primaries as a means to choose our respective political party’s nominee. We can shorten the process by having regional primaries. We are rather provincial in all of this, in that New Hampshire likes to be the first primary in the nation and Iowa likes to be the first caucus. The fact is we should make the process easier and shorter to choose a nominee.

For this election it is too late to change the rules. Let us look at whether we need to reform what we have now in the future. Let the voting continue!


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