How Stuff Works: US Presidential Nominations – Cartoon Logic
The US presidential nominations continue to chug on, and people are confused. Particularly non-Americans. In the UK, we pay more attention to the US elections than any other national election besides our own, and as the news continually tells us, Donald Trump is doing well. But people are confused. Here’s the thing. He’s not actually doing well in the presidential election. That technically hasn’t started yet.
What I’m going to do is attempt to briefly take you through the process of the presidential nominations. As the auteur of the incredibly popular Trumpsday clock (see below), I’m basically an expert now. It is, I’d say, far more complicated that the process we use to pick our prime minister, and infinitely more so than the process we use to pick our head of state (which is basically childbirth. Actually, that’s quite complex now I think about it).
We vote for a party through a national election using the ‘first past the post’ system. The leader of the winning party becomes PM. That’s about it. Not ideal, but simple. In America, they don’t really have party leaders. Not officially. Right now, Barack Obama is the ‘leader’ of the Democrats and Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is the ‘leader’ of the Republicans, but only because they are the members of each party with the highest ‘rank’ in the US political system.
Because of this, they have to pick their potential presidents differently. This whole business with primaries and caucuses is what the Americans are up to now. And it’s bizarrely complicated. Basically, each state chooses who they want to be the candidate, and whoever gets chosen by the largest number of states is nominated at the party convention. Actually, none of this is really codified in the US Constitution. The nomination stages are purely party political business, so state parties call the shots.
In the US, you’ve got caucuses and primaries, which are roughly meant to do the same job. Primaries seem to be more sensible. At primaries, party members (or anyone who can vote, depending on the state) hold a pretty standard mini-election and pick who they want by assigning delegates relative to the number of votes. Caucuses are basically unfathomable, and seem to involve groups of party members meeting and putting their hands up for the person they want. At the end, the person with more than half the total delegates for the whole country is nominated.
I looked around online for totals of which states do what, but I couldn’t find any. So, I churned through this list and calculated my own totals. 13 states hold caucuses. 35 hold primaries. Two (Kentucky and Washington) hold either primaries or caucuses depending on the party. 38 states hold both Republican and Democrat events on the same day. 12 hold them on different days. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to who holds which where when why. What?
Anyway, by the party conventions (July 18th for the Republicans, July 25th for the Democrats) we should know who is going to be picked unless no one has more than half the delegates, in which case, the parties begin a brokered convention and a load of wheeling and dealing starts. All the delegates are ‘released’ and they hold a new vote. By July 28th, we should know 100% who each party is going to nominate.
This is how it should play out. However, on the off chance that one or more of the caucuses or primaries is cancelled and can’t be put back on before the conventions, we enter something called ‘District of Columbia lockdown’. This hasn’t happened since the election of 1879 and is very rare. The party leaders meet at the Capitol and a number of coins equal to half the total delegates are flipped. The results for the missing states are assigned thusly, unless it’s a month with more than five Mondays, in which case we have to mulligan all results and start a grand gerrymander. Results are averaged and inverted, multiplied by five and tabulated against population densities if and only if more Republicans didn’t vote for the previous Democrat president when compared to the Republican president from the time after that. Otherwise, fold the paper lengthwise and steam for eight to ten minutes on a low heat under a well-shaded sycamore tree in June.
There you have it. I hope that’s cleared things up for you. If not, arrange the words in this article into alphabetical order and read the whole thing again. You’ll just as likely gain some insight into something. Maybe. Probably. Perhaps.
This week, the Trumpsday Clock slides backward to FIVE MINUTES to Trumpsday. Not an awful lot of voting has gone on this week. There’ve been Democrat votes recently, but the next Republican caucus isn’t until tomorrow, and it’s only a little one (North Dakota). Donald Trump hasn’t done too well on the media circuits this week, however. First, we had the business with Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. He has been charged with assault following a fracas with a reporter at a campaign event. This can’t be good for Trump’s image. Next, we had his bloody nasty comments on the legality of abortion, which he quickly retracted. He flip-flopped when he realised he was talking garbage, and to flip-flop is one of the worst things you can do in US politics. Basically, he came across like a massive arse. More on that (probably) next week.