Why Do We Have Primary Elections? They're Outdated, Exhausting, And Almost Useless – So Is It Time To Give It A Rest?
Ted Cruz became the first major candidate to announce his bid for the 2016 election on March 23, 2015, which means that for nearly a full year, the United States political system has been in the throws of a presidential election cycle. By the time the general election is finally here in November, the campaign season will have lasted a full 19 months. That amount of time is excessive, and just seems to contribute to the media circus and desperate attention grabbing that has been on display in this election. At the very least, primary season should be officially and drastically shortened, and the U.S. should really consider getting rid of primary elections altogether.
Don't get me wrong — there's nothing like a good primary, such as Tuesday night's Democratic contest. It's enthralling and exhilarating to see a close race and a stunning upset. But enthralling and exhilarating doesn't equal political expediency, something that the country desperately needs to promote. Streamlining the primary system would be extremely beneficial to the country for a number of reasons.
First of all, primaries are theoretically a redundant system. If the goal is to ensure that states get proportionately represented by population, that already exists in the form of the electoral college. Candidates could easily go straight into the general election after a brief campaigning period, like Canada's 78 day federal election in 2015, without dragging the election out over a year and a half.
Besides, the primaries aren't all that representative anyway — the country doesn't need the redundant system because the first part of the redundancy doesn't even work that well. Between superdelegates and faithless delegate rules, the public has about as much actual control over the party's choice for nominee as a toddler has over what their parent makes them for lunch. In the general election, every vote actually counts for the same amount, and one person gets more sway or gets to override other people's opinions.
But let's say that the primaries are politically necessary for the good of the people, and they can't be gotten rid of. Even if that's true, there's still no reason that the campaigning season can't be dramatically cut, and it really should be. From an environmental and economic standpoint, primary season is really wasteful. Candidates and their entourages of advisors, journalists, security details, family members, and fans are constantly driving and flying around the country, using untold gallons of fuel and wasting millions of campaign signs and literature. In the 2008 election, the Obama campaign alone left a 78,000 ton carbon footprint, which seems pretty dangerous and hypocritical for a candidate who advocated for increased environmental protections.
Taxpayers also foot the bill for Secret Service protection for candidates, some of the cost of the national conventions, and pay the salary of candidates who are currently serving in office, even if they aren't doing their jobs while campaigning. In total, the combined cost of the 2012 election was $6.3 billion — an alarmingly large and ultimately superfluous amount of money just for one man to keep his job. Think of all the time, money, and waste that the country could save if election season was cut in third, or even half.
This election season, more so than others, has been really exhausting. Media has gone on Donald Trump overload, the Republican field whittled down way too slowly, and the rivalry between Sanders and Clinton is intriguing, but taking way too long to really proliferate. Realistically, there is no reason that the country needs this much time to slog through campaigns, especially when candidates find it impossible to stay focused on the issues. If you insist on the necessity of the primary elections, at least you can admit that it doesn't have to drag on for quite so long.