One of the best innovations in American politics in the 20th Century was the institution of primary elections to select candidates for public office, especially the greatest of public offices: President of the United States (POTUS).
Heretofore, candidates had been selected in the not-so-proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” by party hacks in their respective party machines. In theory, the primaries were supposed to allow the ordinary citizen a voice in whose names would appear on the final ballot for everything from county dog catcher to POTUS. And in practice, they do—sort of.
Unfortunately, American voters stay home in droves for the spring primaries. (They do so for the main election in the fall, too, but the numbers there are a little better.) Voters who do turn out for the primaries tend to be the “true believers” in both parties, the extremists, if you will. Not quite party hacks, but…
And those who do turn out (for both elections) tend to be older voters, not younger ones—the 18- to 24-year-olds who will actually be affected for a longer period of time! Primary elections are an improvement over the old system, but only just, because so many care so little about exercising a fundamental American right—one that is denied millions of others with whom we share this planet.
Sadly, in the fall, we often hear folks saying that they won’t vote because they don’t like any of the candidates running for office. But if you ask them if they voted in the primary, 60 to 65% will have to say they did not. We simply accept a 35 to 40% turn-out as normal!
Admittedly, registering to vote and then actually voting is sometimes difficult for people who don’t drive or those who must take time off work to fulfill this civic duty—especially if they must wait in interminably long lines to do so! It is nothing short of outrageous that many politicians are not only reluctant to do anything about this issue, but actually offer more impediments to the voting process!
My plea here—regardless of your political affiliation—is simple: IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO SO, VOTE! Voting is both a privilege and a right—and a civic duty we owe ourselves and our fellow citizens.