The way we choose our presidential candidates in the United States is unique among the world’s democracies. In other countries, party leadership often plays a much bigger role in choosing candidates. As we discussed in the first installment of The Primaries Project, the parties initially held a lot of power in nominating processes, but everything changed after the disastrous 1968 Democratic national convention in Chicago. Although somewhat unintended, the reforms following that convention created a candidate selection system more open to public input than ever before.
At first blush, allowing for greater public input may seem like the most democratic thing to do — but there is more to a well-functioning democracy than whether people have the opportunity to vote. The quality of the system also depends on its design. How does the voting process seek to find a consensus across the many interests in a party or a nation? In the second installment of The Primaries Project on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we examine the consequences of the post-1968 reforms:
To understand how our modern system shapes our presidential candidates, we look at elections from three periods: first, the 1970s, when the reforms were relatively new and the parties and candidates were still figuring them out. Next, the ’80s and ’90s, when the parties got a handle on the rules and used them to promote their preferred candidates. And last, the modern era, when for a variety of reasons, the parties have begun to lose their grip again.
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