Thursday, February 20, 2020

Let Elites Decide..., (peep the url, WaPo changed the title in response to backlash)



WaPo | Julia Azari is an associate professor and assistant chair in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University. This is the third op-ed in a series about how to improve the presidential nominating process.


Only a fraction of the Democratic primary electorate has voted so far, but the nomination season is off to a rocky start. Independent Bernie Sanders seems to be leading in popular votes, while upstart Pete Buttigieg is ahead in the delegate count. And there’s also the question of whether either one — or any of the other candidates — can bring the party together moving forward.

The current process is clearly flawed, but what would be better? Finding an answer means thinking about the purpose of presidential nominations, and about how the existing system falls short. It will require swimming against the tide of how we’ve thought about nominations for decades — as a contest between everyday voters and elites, or as a smaller version of a general election. A better primary system would empower elites to bargain and make decisions, instructed by voters.

One lesson from the 2020 and 2016 election cycles is that a lot of candidates, many of whom are highly qualified and attract substantial followings, will inevitably enter the race. The system as it works now — with a long informal primary, lots of attention to early contests and sequential primary season that unfolds over several months — is great at testing candidates to see whether they have the skills to run for president. What it’s not great at is choosing among the many candidates who clear that bar, or bringing their different ideological factions together, or reconciling competing priorities. A process in which intermediate representatives — elected delegates who understand the priorities of their constituents — can bargain without being bound to specific candidates might actually produce nominees that better reflect what voters want.