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presidental elections - Presidential Elections Reading...

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Presidential Elections Reading Assignments: Schmidt, Shelley, & Bardes, Chapter 9 The American system of elections is more complicated and, in many respects, less democratic than many Americans realize. Those who do not understand the process can not effectively participate in it. One goal of this lecture is to help you better understand the system so that you can be one of those effectively participates. The second goal is to confront you with some of the undemocratic and negative features of the process and to encourage you to reflect on some of the ways to redress these problems. While the process is complicated, stay with me and I will walk you through it. We will cover the electoral process as a whole our main focus in this lecture will be on the process for selecting US Presidents. Two-Step Process: We have a two-step system for selecting our Presidents. The first step is the nomination process and the second step is the general election . First Phase: Nomination Process The nomination process refers to the method by which the various political parties select their respective candidates who will then run in the general election against the candidates selected by the other parties during their nomination phase. Most of what is discussed below concerns the nomination process used by the two dominant parties in our political system, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. "Smoke-Filled Rooms": For more than a century of our history, a party's candidate was selected by the Party's political elite. By the mid-nineteenth century, these meetings among the party elite took place at national party conventions; a system that the critics of this method labeled the "smoke-filled room." This system had several advantages. First, the party's elite had an incentive to select a candidate they believed was most likely to win. As sophisticated political analysts themselves, they often make good assessments on this point. Secondly, the elites were able to select those leaders who best represented the political views they wished to promote. While these views did not necessarily represent the views of ordinary Americans at least the elites selected people with coherent ideologies. Nevertheless, the system also had a number of disadvantages; most importantly, it was clearly undemocratic. Moreover, not everyone selected was high caliber. The system did produce Abraham Lincoln but it also produced Millard Fillmore. About the 1880s a reformist movement in American politics, called the progressive movement , began to press for a democratization of the process. As a result of that movement we eventually got the modern nomination system. In our contemporary system, most of the delegates to the national convention are selected by the rank and file
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party members (not the party elite) and these delegates, representing the rank and file, will ultimately vote on the party's candidate.
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