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Published on January 4th, 2012 | by Sam Hargreaves
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="The primary process while democratic may lead to some bad feelings on the street. ©FlungingPictures"][/caption]

So here we are again, even though it's on the other side of the world the news is dominated by the United States political system. Many will question why this is considering that the presidential election is not until November, yet our TVs and news feeds are crammed full of phrases that are unintelligible to most people. These include phrases such as ‘caucus’ and ‘primary’. Naturally since these are concepts are relatively unknown in the UK it would be tempting to simply ignore them; however as the election in America starts up we have a chance to learn from them and perhaps learn a new way to get young people engaged.

What’s actually happening over there? The primary system can be thought of, for those who are of a sporting persuasion, as a qualifier before the main event of the election. In the US, at every election, candidates must be elected by a referendum of the members and supporters of their respective parties. This occurs for every presidential, congressional and senatorial seat in the US.

This referendum process aims to allow for political campaigns based on grounded bottom up movements, in theory it means that any candidate can take the nomination for political office whether its' party ‘elites’ approve of them or not. Politicians rely on huge teams of volunteers to engage with communities and subsequently report back on what they want; this system should build a two way dialogue between the public and the politicians.

However as with most things the reality does not quite match the theory. A number of problems have popped up with the system in the US.

The first problem with the primary system in the US is its length, as all states are stretched out over six months before the main event, this can lead to the voters being bombarded with so much information that voters are worn down and become apathetic.

The second problem is one of money. Each year a greater amount of money is spent in the United States elections in order to influence voters, grass roots volunteers are being controlled by professional paid staff. The US does not have the same financial restrictions as the political process in the UK, and over a billion dollars was spent by the various groups and candidates involved in the 2008 presidential election. The money required to run a candidacy means those potential candidates for any kind of seat risk being priced out of the market.

The final problem is that within the primary process there is the risk of  misrepresenting the views of the electorate. In a primary election it is possible for a ‘loud’ minority to dominate a quiet majority. Many commentators have attributed this problem to the Republican Party moving further to the right.

Do not abandon hope dear reader there is a happy ending for the story of the Primary.It is perhaps in France that we see a truly successful example of a primary.

In 2011 for the first time the French Socialist party opened up the candidate selection process. They opened up the voting to anyone who agreed to anyone who sign an agreement that they broadly supported the goals and aims of the French socialist party. Also by ensuring that the voting took place over a short amount of time the amount spent on it was considerably lower than a comparative US election.

It will be seen on the 22nd of April whether the Socialist party's gamble will pay off for them.

The French have only just began their trails with primaries, however we should watch and wait with anticipation; we may be seeing them spreading over the channel and new opportunities for young people to contact and engage with politicians in this country.

1

Will There Ever Be A British Primary?

The primary process while democratic may lead to some bad feelings on the street. ©FlungingPictures

So here we are again, even though it’s on the other side of the world the news is dominated by the United States political system. Many will question why this is considering that the presidential election is not until November, yet our TVs and news feeds are crammed full of phrases that are unintelligible to most people. These include phrases such as ‘caucus’ and ‘primary’. Naturally since these are concepts are relatively unknown in the UK it would be tempting to simply ignore them; however as the election in America starts up we have a chance to learn from them and perhaps learn a new way to get young people engaged.

What’s actually happening over there? The primary system can be thought of, for those who are of a sporting persuasion, as a qualifier before the main event of the election. In the US, at every election, candidates must be elected by a referendum of the members and supporters of their respective parties. This occurs for every presidential, congressional and senatorial seat in the US.

This referendum process aims to allow for political campaigns based on grounded bottom up movements, in theory it means that any candidate can take the nomination for political office whether its’ party ‘elites’ approve of them or not. Politicians rely on huge teams of volunteers to engage with communities and subsequently report back on what they want; this system should build a two way dialogue between the public and the politicians.

However as with most things the reality does not quite match the theory. A number of problems have popped up with the system in the US.

The first problem with the primary system in the US is its length, as all states are stretched out over six months before the main event, this can lead to the voters being bombarded with so much information that voters are worn down and become apathetic.

The second problem is one of money. Each year a greater amount of money is spent in the United States elections in order to influence voters, grass roots volunteers are being controlled by professional paid staff. The US does not have the same financial restrictions as the political process in the UK, and over a billion dollars was spent by the various groups and candidates involved in the 2008 presidential election. The money required to run a candidacy means those potential candidates for any kind of seat risk being priced out of the market.

The final problem is that within the primary process there is the risk of  misrepresenting the views of the electorate. In a primary election it is possible for a ‘loud’ minority to dominate a quiet majority. Many commentators have attributed this problem to the Republican Party moving further to the right.

Do not abandon hope dear reader there is a happy ending for the story of the Primary.It is perhaps in France that we see a truly successful example of a primary.

In 2011 for the first time the French Socialist party opened up the candidate selection process. They opened up the voting to anyone who agreed to anyone who sign an agreement that they broadly supported the goals and aims of the French socialist party. Also by ensuring that the voting took place over a short amount of time the amount spent on it was considerably lower than a comparative US election.

It will be seen on the 22nd of April whether the Socialist party’s gamble will pay off for them.

The French have only just began their trails with primaries, however we should watch and wait with anticipation; we may be seeing them spreading over the channel and new opportunities for young people to contact and engage with politicians in this country.

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