Early primaries steal all of the limelight

David Bordelon

Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. New Hampshire, New Hampshire ­— or is it Vermont? With the presidential race in full swing, and the Iowa caucus next week, one might think these two states are the greatest and most important places on the Earth (they are, right?). 

The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are historically the first two states to conduct primary elections in presidential election years. New Hampshire is even required by state law to reschedule its primary if another state schedules its primary too close to, or before, New Hampshire’s. 

This is a very strategic move. Two states that might otherwise receive little to no attention in presidential campaigns are suddenly front and center. Every politician proclaims their profound love for Iowa, as though loving a state shows their capability to run a country. 

This hubbub is not necessarily bad, but it is misguided. These primaries act as indicators for the political climate of the country — failing to perform well in them tumbles into a failure to gain a nomination. For instance, George H. W. Bush was expected to lose after placing third in the Iowa caucus in 1988, but he won the nomination. Many candidates would have dropped out after such an abysmal first showing.

Herein lies the problem with these early primaries — they’re almost treated as final, but they do not always act with finality. If a Texan voter intended to support Kasich or O’Malley in their primary, they might not be able to do so because those candidates may have dropped out after an early, poor showing by a largely unrepresentative base. Of course, this could also be construed as a good thing, because now that Texan voter can place a vote that actually “matters,” as opposed to “wasting” his vote on a losing candidate.

Continuing this thought, one may reach the conclusion that complaining about the order of primaries is irrelevant to the political process. Government sophomore John Jacobs elucidates this idea by arguing that even if the primaries were all done at one time on the same day, the outcome would be the same as the staggered primaries. 

“It’s not the best way to do it,” Jacobs said. “But, do I really think it’s going to cause a huge difference if they do it otherwise? No. Either way, I think the same people are going to get chosen, and it’s not going to cause a huge difference.” 

The problem with the primaries, then, does not seem to lie in their distortion of political outcomes, but rather in their arbitrary, traditional basis that just adds one layer of complexity to convoluted world of politics. This convolution may confuse and direct one (a columnist) to write about them instead of what really matters. 

The issue is still important, however. Traditional presuppositions are just one more hindrance in the march of ‘progress,’ one more aspect we think is fine but just might be subtly affecting us. If anything, the staggered primary system that disproportionately weighs two small states as the end-all must be examined like anything else, and not backed merely because it is “the way things are.” 

Bordelon is a philosophy sophomore from Houston. Follow Bordelon on Twitter @davbord.