Reforming the Party Presidential Nomination System

Reforming the Party Presidential Nomination System
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   Reforming the Party Presidential Nomination System Austen John Angers Dr. Ryan Teten POLS 335 10 December 2013   Angers 1 In a presidential election year, the citizens of the United States vote in a general election to choose who will become the new president of the nation. Before the general election occurs towards the end of the year, each political party chooses a nominee several months in advance. The process by which political parties choose their presidential nominees is unnecessarily convoluted and endlessly complex. The members of the parties in each of the fifty states decide whom their state will support to get the nomination from their party. The months and weeks during which the states use this system is often referred to as the “primary season”, in reference to one of the methods used in the process, the primary election. It has changed and evolved in several ways throughout the years. Every time the primary season rolls around, it becomes a source of a myriad of reform proposals seeking to change the process and solve the problems that  plague it. In this paper, I will explain frontloading, primary matching funds, and the rise of 527s and 501(c)s as some examples of how party presidential nomination has changed within the last 20 years. I will then go through some of the problems that the nomination system has, specifically campaign spending, the allocation of delegates, and frontloading, which were all observed in 2008 and 2012. Then I will list some alternatives to the system that have been  proposed including the Delaware Plan, the California Plan, and the Rotating Regional Plan. Lastly, I will present my own proposal to replace the system of presidential party nomination. For the members of each party in a state to choose their nominee for the presidency, they can use a number of methods. One method is to have a caucus, where the members of one party will hold meetings at several locations throughout the state in order to select a nominee. Another method is the primary election, often referred to simply as a “primary.”  In order to choose a candidate from the party for the nomination, these contests are held several months in advance of the general election. “ The primary election season usually begins in February ” (“ The Primary   Angers 2 Election). This way, each political party can select their nominee as soon as possible. The state legislatures throughout the country decide when their state will hold its nomination contests. Political parties will sometimes make national rules regulating the schedule and process of the  presidential nomination system. In the last election cycle, some states decided to try and break the rules. “ Last year, officials in Florida announced that the state would hold a January 31, 2012,  primary, in violation of party rules ”  (Coleman). By moving the date to January, Florida officials  placed their state’s contest at the forefront of the primary season. It is not a mystery why a state like Florida would want to move their primary to the front of the season. Other states have attempted to do the same throughout the years, with varying degrees of success. In the 2000 calendar year, several states moved their primaries from later dates to the first Tuesday in March including California, New York, and Ohio (Coleman). The  phenomenon of more and more states moving their primary and caucus dates to earlier points in the cycle is known as “frontloading.” This occurrence has grown to become a huge change to the  presidential nomination process. State parties and officials are willing to break the rules put in  place by national parties in order to practice this method. “ Both major political parties have adopted rules that primaries must be scheduled after March 5 ” (Weaver).  There is one dominant reason why a state would want to do this. John Haskell explains the main reason for this practice as “the perception that s tates with primaries or caucuses earlier in the year will receive more attention from candidates and the media than those states with events later in the year” (Haskell 381). Essentially, states are moving their primary dates earlier in order to secure more electoral importance for themselves. More and more states have participated in the frontloading  phenomenon throughout the past few decades.   Angers 3 In order to understand the significance of frontloading, and the changes that it brings to the electoral process, it is important to know the history of its development. Many have placed the beginning of the modern frontloading phenomenon in the 1980s or 1990s. According to Atkeson and Maestas, “Frontloading began in earnest in 1988 and has continued to increase” (60). This cyclical event has continued to permeate the election cycle in recent years. With each new election, there is a chance that more primaries will occur earlier than they previously were. In 1976, less than 50% of primaries were conducted by the end of the twelfth week. In 1988, however, more than 50% of primaries had been conducted by the fifth week of cycle (Atkeson and Maestas 60). Nomination contests are being held earlier and earlier with each new primary season. Besides frontloading, there have also been many changes to the way that the presidential nomination process operates on the inside. The way that presidential campaigns have been funded changed dramatically in recent years. Presidential candidates that are seeking their  party’s nomination receive financing for their campaign from a number of sources. These include  but are not limited to private citizens, political parties, and political groups. One of the ways that  prudential candidates fund their campaigns is through public grants that they receive from the federal government. According to the Federal Election Commission, “ Public funding of Presidential elections means that qualified Presidential candidates receive federal government funds to pay for the valid expenses of their political campaigns in both the primary and general elections ” (“Public Funding of Presidential Elections”). Candidates that are attempting to secure their party’s nomination receive  federal money. The candidates that ultimately receive nominations from political parties also receive public funding in order to continue their campaigns for the months between the nomination and the general election (“Public Funding of   Angers 4 Presidential Elections”). For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on the public funding given to candidates during the primary season, or “primary matching funds.”  Presidential candidates and their campaigns must fulfill certain requirements in order to receive public funding. One such requirement is that candidates must agree to not exceed a limit on their campaign spending. “ Presidential candidates and party convention committees must first meet various eligibility requirements, such as agreeing to limit campaign spending to a specified amount ” (“Public Funding of Presidential Elections”). Only after these eligibility requirements are met can the amount of public funds that a candidate will receive be determined. These limits on campaign spending allowed the federal government to keep a regulatory lid on the amount of money spent in a presidential campaign. This tradition continued until a republican presidential candidate, Steve Forbes, ran for his party’s nomination in 1996 and did not take primary matching funds in order to spend unlimited amounts of money (Crowley). This allowed Forbes to spend as much money as he wanted during the primary season. Although he was the first eligible candidate to turn down primary matching funds, Forbes is not the candidate that is associated with the most significant change in primary politics. George W. Bush’s 2000 bid for his party’s nomination led to a marked shift in the financing of  primary races. Don Natta explains the moment that Bush changed the primary environment, “ Gov. George W. Bush declared today that he would not accept federal matching funds because of his enormous $37 million campaign war chest” (Natta). By refusing primary matching funds, Bush effectively transformed the nomination process. Bush’s move blew the lid off of campaign spending. The amount of spending that would come to be expected in a primary season also received a significant increase. “ Bush proceeded to raise far more money than anyone had
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