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The Path to the Presidency: Primaries and political parties

Jan. 3, 2012

By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer

If you watch television news or keep up with the headlines online, it’s difficult to miss the presidential primary elections. Every day there’s an update: results from another debate, a campaign speech, one candidate dropping in the polls while another takes the lead. Presidential primaries are the elections and caucuses held in each state to choose delegates to party conventions. There is a lot to keep track of. In this series, we’ll explore the presidential primaries, from the roots of party politics to the process of nominating a candidate.


The Iowa caucuses this week launched the presidential primary season. To understand how the primary process works, you first have to understand political parties. They are organizations of citizens banding together around shared beliefs and seeking power in numbers.

The United States is run on a party system. This means voters choose leaders from the nominations of two major political parties (Republican and Democrat) and several smaller political parties (Green Party, Libertarian Party, Constitution Party).

This was not always the case. Historians suggest that many Founding Fathers believed that parties led to corruption and wanted citizens to vote based on candidates’ policies and ideas, not their party allegiance.

This did not last long. George Washington was the only president not affiliated with a party. By the time his successor, John Adams, was elected in 1796, the leaders of the country had grouped themselves into the Federalist and the Democratic-Republican Parties.

By the mid-1800s, the Federalist Party faded, and the short-lived Whig Party (which gave us Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor) lost power as well, settling U.S. politics into a party system similar to what we see now, almost two centuries later. The Democratic-Republicans became simply the Democratic Party, and the various opposing groups joined the newly formed Republican Party around the time of the Civil War.

While those two parties remain the primary political players, new political movements continue to establish themselves – most recently the Tea Party in the 2010 midterm elections and carrying into the 2012 presidential elections.

Political parties exist at every level of government. At the national level, it’s how representatives, senators and presidents align themselves. At the state level, it’s governors and state legislators grouped together. And at the local level, it’s how mayors and town council people identify themselves.

It’s also a way for voters to band together. Citizens can register to become a member of the party that is most aligned with their beliefs. They can attend its local committee meetings and decide who represents that party in local, state and federal elections. Citizens can also choose to be independent, meaning that they have no party preference.

What do you think?

What are the advantages of choosing leaders based on political parties? What are the disadvantages? Are there any changes you would make to the party system?  Are you following the presidential race? Why? Join the discussion!
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5/23/2012
Newark
Kylah
Essex County College
The founding fathers were always right about the corruption with political parties. As we have seen in the Citizens' United Case that was passed which deregulated the Corporations' financial endorsement of political campaigns. Every aspect of the factions within these political parties are so deeply intertwined along with the laundry list of interest groups that its hard to honestly believe in the position of the elected officials. They are puppets that are owned by corporations who own the government as well. Well the countries that we are in debt too. The bet change to make would be to first get rid of the Citizens United law and abolish the two-party standard. I followed the presidential race of 2008 however, after watching numerous videos on youtube quoting and interviewing whistle blowers, I know that either way, democrats or republicans, change is only moving in a planned direction. Of global governance. It sucks too.

2/13/2012
Irving/Texas
Marlene
Bradley/Nimitz
People corrupt ideas. That's true of any idea, but we most commonly associate it with Politics. And, I think that a big reason for that is because of what political parties have become: an excuse. An excuse for people interested more about their own well being than their responsibilities to the their nation. Political parties are disadvantageous when they divide up a nation. Throughout my high school career, which is how long I've actually kept up a little with politics, I've seen how this Nation has been at a standstill because the Government has lost its power ( desire) to compromise. On the flip side , Political parties symbolize what this nation is based on: the protection of freedom. They are what allow a diaspora of people with opposing views and clashing opinions to identify themselves with their government. That's how it begins. By identifying yourself with a certain group , you e feel more powerful and willing to have a say and to actually voice it. I'm not of age yet, so I can't vote. But, voting isn't the only way to become involved in politics. Because , let's face it, politics is all around us. Government is everywhere . We can't outrun it and we shouldn't be afraid of it. If we don't agree with it, let's changed it . That's what our forefathers did. We can't let apathy ruin their efforts. I follow the political race although I don't have the power to vote yet because I do have the power to influence and because it affects all of our lives in every aspect.

1/23/2012
Sidney Montana
Brett
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney Montana
Voters should pick a candidate because of their policies and ideas, not there political party.

1/20/2012
Sidney, Montana
Tori
Mr. Faulhaber/ Sidney High School
Political parties influence the way voters look at candidates. Voters should vote for the candidate that they feel will benefit them the most. Just choosing the candidate that the rest of their political party is voting for may not benefit them how they would like.

1/20/2012
Sidney, MT
Daniel
Sidney High School
Well, I think that a person should go with what they think is right. When a person goes by what their party goes by, then they are just "bandwagoners." That is not the way to do things the right way.

1/20/2012
Sidney, MT
Jaycee
Mr. Faulhaber
I think that when you choose a leader based on a political party, you are going to get a leader who relates to people more. I think that politcal parties bring together many top notch government officals and they would work together to form a government that worked for every citizen of the U.S.

1/11/2012
Irving,Tx
Melissa
Bradley/Nimitz
The fact that someone can vote for the candidate that is in the same political party as you is a great advantage because they will probably view a lot of things the he/she feels. Most of the times they people who correspond to their political party will have a set opinion on the big issues and that is one of the things that citizens look at. Maybe the only disadvantage to that is that they might not have the same opinion on all the things, but for the most part I don't really think there would be many disadvantages. The way that all the parties are now seem to be working fine. They do have disagreements amongst each other, but I don't think there the disagreements will ever end. I am not following the presidential race now. At this time, they are only the primaries and it really doesn't appeal to me. Perhaps later on in the process I will tune in and see what is happening.

1/10/2012
Irving, Tx
Itzel
Bradley/Nimitz
The fact that as a citizen of the Untied States, we get to be involved and vote towards our politics is a profuse advantage. It provides us as citizens with the opportunity to have a say in the presidential elections, political parties, and council meetings. It also helps towards becoming more involved as a citizen and being informed with what is going on. I personally come from a family whom work for the city of Irving, and I always hear my parents and uncles disusing their opinions towards the mayors, presidents, politics, etc. My parents are always talking to me about how important it is to vote and have a say. Unfortunately, barely turning eighteen, I don't have much time nor experience with the whole voting situation. I go to school full time and work two jobs, so watching TV and looking into politics is no part of my busy schedule. The only disadvantage I would see about the whole political parties is all the votes one has to go against. Since I'm not an informed voter, there isn't any changes I would want to reenforce as of now. Being the daughter of two parents who take these elections seriously, I know I will have to become more soon, it's always nice to have a say towards your surroundings.

1/9/2012
Irving, TX
Jocelyn
Bradley
I like many other teenagers my age are on the verge of turning 18, and being able to vote. Unfortunately our lives are so chaotic at the moment, being filled with college applications, graduation approaching, and keeping our GPA up, that we have not been able to keep up with presidential race. Although I have not been keeping myself informed with the race, I do believe that once you have your mind set to become an active voter you do become known to all of the facts about the candidates and their parties since one of them is the person who will be running your country. I believe that when you decide which candidate to persue you need to look farther than the tittle of democratic and republican. You need to take a hard look at their platform, and agree with all of their main points. As of right now I would not make any changes to the party system, but that is probably because I don't know much, but as I grow as a person I'm sure that I would find some things that I would want to change.

1/9/2012
Irving, Tx
Adam
Bradley, Nimitz High School
Political parties are valuable assets to the American government system because it helps citizens to identify with a candidate of their similar political views. Unfortunately I think that sometimes people just assume that a candidate running for the party they favor has the exact same views as themselves when they may actually differ. Although it is not perfect I would not make any changes to the party system. I have been keeping up with the current elections by occasionally watching the news and reading articles online discussing the political race so that I will be well informed when it comes time to vote.

1/9/2012
Irving, Texas
Fatima S.
Bradley/Nimitz
Choosing leaders from political parties can help because if you know the history of the party then it makes the decision making process easier; however, when people know the political teams they can be biased towards them because of what they have represented in the past. I personally don’t keep up with the presidential race because I find that I rarely have time to watch the news or keep up with what is going on. I know that I should make time to keep up with the race because every vote and every listener can make a difference.

1/9/2012
Irving/Nimitz
Michael U.
Bradley/Nimitz
For political parties, They chose there candidates from those who show interest in leadership, based on the party ideology. Those Contestant or candidates stand for debates to tell the party and citizens, what there programs are and what the intend to do for the country. The benefit is that if they are elected, they can be held accountable for there promises the made during the campaign. The disadvantages is that those who do not have the same resources or money to contest may not have enough money or resources for the rigorous campaigns. I don't want any change because I think the process is electoral good for now. Yes, because you want to follow the trained of the election and they know who has the best plans for the parties and for the countries.

1/9/2012
Irving, Tx / Texas
Lucy T.
Bradley / Nimitz
To be honest, I don't bother to follow the presidential race anymore. I used to have a somewhat interest in what political leaders had to say, but year after year, they seem to do nothing but simply disappoint me. Why? My top reason would be because they all seem to talk and “promise” more than to actually try and follow through with their words – giving us all false hopes and disappointment. You see, the trouble with politics these days is that it is? full of pompous idiots who have no grip on reality. They all seem to just run in elections for the money or media, nothing more. The perfect example at the moment would be Mr. Rick Perry. He might of helped us Texans somewhat during the beginning of his years as our governor, but he only followed through with some of our requests to gain our trust towards him. It wasn't long before he started cutting funds for our educations and even cut around 75% of funding for fire departments. Even before the national recession hit in 2008, jobs seem to grow at a slower rate in Texas under his position. He went from being well respected by his peers to now being nationally known as the 'idiot who doesn't know how to think before he speaks' – who already secured his losing position in the presidential election coming up. But back to choosing leaders based on political parties....No matter what side you choose, you're just going to be “wrong” because individuals from the other or same parties will always have some sort of negative comment / argument towards the chosen leader and his/her party. In other words, in my opinion, it is completely pointless to choose leaders based on political parties.

1/8/2012
Irving/TX
Dalena
Bradley/Nimitz
Having political parties is like having cliques in high school; they unite individuals with similar attributes, but they're never a good factor to have in an environment. Choosing a leader based on political parties would help simplify the electorate’s voting decisions by giving the voters a label to associate with a candidate, or issue. This reduces the research time and provides the electorate with a large amount of information without the voter having to actually get information specific to that particular candidate or that particular issue. Though this is a great advantage, there is an even more significant disadvantage. Instead of individuals voting on a candidate’s good morals, lucid visions, and reliable intentions, these individuals merely vote for candidates who fall in their political party. Instead of putting a label on candidates, we should repeal those labels and be more focused on what the candidate will do and can do for our country. Following the presidential race is probably one of the most important decisions and declarations that we should make in our lifetime. In order to receive the opportunity to have a say on how our country should be ran, we must follow the presidential race. If nobody followed the presidential race, then how could an individual really have a legitimate say on how our country should operate?

1/7/2012
Irving,TX
Richard
Bradley/Nimitz
To be honest, I don't follow the presidential race. It does not interest me and I could care less about the whole thing. I can understand the drama surrounding the race. The American people must decide who is in charge of the United States for the next four years. One careless vote could place someone in the White House who doesn't know what their doing. Political parties play a factor on the decisions that Americans must make. From my point of view, the political parties are large companies that are trying to sell a new product to the American people. The new product would be the candidate representing that political party. In order to attract attention to their new product, the companies use advertising. The commercials I see on TV promoting a parties candidate are tactics used by that party in order to attract the attention of the American people. The advantage and disadvantage of choosing leaders based on their political parties are the same. The American people are able to learn about a candidate based on the beliefs of the party that the candidate represents. That can have a huge affect on the decisions that Americans must make when it comes time to vote. If I could make any change in the party system, it would be that the parties be honest with the American people. I'm not saying that they aren't, but it would be nice if they were more honest than they let on.

1/7/2012
Irving/Texas
Cathy
Bradley/Nimitz
All the parties being created around us nowadays are created not to help us elect our future representatives, but rather to gain recognition and skyrocket in popularity. Instead of choosing a candidate who believes in abortion rights, health care, etc..why can't we choose a candidate who will hear the voice of the common people and put our political party views aside? I feel as though claiming to be a part of one party and not another is the factor that determines whether you are a well liked nominee/candidate or not. Metaphorically, it's like choosing a more popular kid to be on your team instead of the kid who's been playing the game for years prior. The few advantages to choosing leaders based on their political parties include having the sense of belonging to a certain group that has the same ideas and mindset as you do making it easy to agree with your leader's actions and ideas. Although, some citizens of the United States belong to a group that they never chose to be in but rather it was fabricated into their mind that they had to chose that certain party because their family or peers support that certain party. Therefore, their decision to be a part of that party was made merely due to the fact that a family member claimed to be of that certain party and not based on their own judgment. The only change I would make to the party system would not to have one at all. In my opinion, people running for any office shouldn't go around flaunting what party they claim they're a part of. Instead, they should clearly state their ideas and policies and they'll have the assurance that the people who voted for them agreed with the way they said they'll run things instead of being worried that the voters won't accept them for their party. Honestly, I am not following the presidential race due to the fact that politics have never truly engaged me in their topics. Although, I hope that after this government class, I will be more interested in politics.

1/7/2012
Irving/Texas
Nicole
Bradley/ Nimitz
The advantages of choosing a leader based on their political party is simply that you know that the person you're choosing isn't going to do something you don't agree with. You don't have to worry that you may not agree with something that happens since you pretty much tell them what you want. The disadvantages are that you are somewhat stuck to one group, if you feel that another candidate may be better for the job you will look like a trader if you happen to go and vote for them or go support them – and no one really likes traders. I don't really like the party system at all. I think it is better if you go through the all the candidates and decide for yourself without having to be worried about sticking to a “party”. I am following the race yes, but not as much as I'd like to be and I will change that now seeing all the ways I can get my feelings and beliefs out there and hopefully into our government.

1/6/2012
Irving, Texas
Trey
Bradley/Nimitz
The founding fathers once feared the corruption of citizens that comes with association with a party. In modern times, I believe we should fear such blind allegiance as well. Advantages of political parties are aplenty. By association with a party, we generally know the politician's stand on issues, and accordingly, we can associate them with a "brand" of politics, and ultimately allowing the people to put a "brand" on what they feel should be in office. This ease-of-access, however, is a double edged sword, leading to a blind allegiance with many "republican-hating" democrats, and vice versa. Furthermore, the people voting may feel that less research will suffice, as they already know where most people associated with a certain party stand on an issue. This in turn, however, creates a desire with politicians to fit into an image when attempting to appeal to the people. I, personally, would like to see politicians that are less concerned with putting themselves into a box, for votes, and more concerned with the well-being of the people. There are advantages to both the democratic, and republican parties and I’d hope that a politician could come and take the best from both of them. A truly great politician, in my eyes, would be influenced, not controlled, by the political parties that we have in place. This is the candidate that I’m looking for when I follow the presidential race, because the gift of being able to choose a powerful leader is a gift, and following the race is something that I would be foolish not to do, not only because the leader of our country is important to me, but also because I’ve realized that my small impact ultimately creates a bigger impact in the long run.

1/6/2012
Irving, TX
Lilly H
Bradley/Nimitz
Political parties are like microsoft powerpoint templates. Each has its own preset beliefs they claim to follow. This allows conscientious people to streamline the process of finding a suitable candidate that represents their beliefs; however, sometimes people just abuse this by blindly following a party's candidate without digging deeper into his or her platform to see if their interests truly coincide. It would be like buying a peanut butter jar while faithfully trusting the integrity of the label only to find grape jam inside. I also can't help but feel that nowadays, the convenience of political parties have allowed if not promoted complacency. It's very important that everyone invests a proper amount of research in finding a fitting candidate that would use his office to effectively express the people's interests. We are a representative democracy after all. Lately, I haven't been following the presidential race closely with homework and college applications keeping me busy, but I plan to soon because it's also my responsibility as a citizen, who will eligible to vote, to know the possibilities the course of the nation could take.

1/6/2012
Irving/Texas
Alyscia M.
Bradley/Nimitz
The advantages of choosing a leader based on political parties is that each party has a stated platform that all members should adhere to. This means that the person running for election by default stands behind the party platform. The disadvantages are that you may not agree with all of the party’s platforms. I think that a good change would be to get rid of all the party systems in general and make everyone independent so everyone would base their choice of a leader based on the person not the party. I am following the political race, but only a little, so I can find out which person President Obama will defeat.

1/6/2012
Irving/Texas
Kacie
Bradley/Nimitz
Upon hearing about the presidential election, I have chosen to not follow simply because I believe it is no longer about what the candidate can “bring to the table” but has turned into a popularity contest. I believe having different political parties has far more disadvantages than advantages because of the reason mentioned previously. The main disadvantage is simply the name that is listed under a specific political party whether it be Barack Obama, John McCain or even Sarah Palin. Their name can influence someone's vote significantly because most Americans do not follow the Presidential race and simply just vote because of the candidate's name, race, etc. Every time someone runs for office, they promise things that will happen or will change the United States for the better, but where is the proof? Why are we being promised things that are not being followed through? I believe an advantage of political parties is they help us, the Americans, in knowing which candidate has what beliefs and who will “back them up”. I believe that Americans, including myself, should further educate ourselves by becoming more involved in the Presidential race because there are thousands of Americans complaining everyday about issues but made the choice to not vote so their voice is never heard.

1/6/2012
Irving/Texas
Carly T
Bradley/Nimitz
The reason for, or the advantage behind, a candidate running for election associating their name with a political party is to give a voter a set list of goals and values that he will hold to and strive for, making those going to the polls less overwhelmed by the personal beliefs of all the individual candidates. But the disadvantages to these associations are that often voters affiliate themselves with a party to the point of obstinately not examining the candidates of other parties because of the way they were raised or where they were brought up, and those running for election must conform to holding with all the beliefs listed in the party description, and so it is much more difficult to find a moderate candidate to vote for. I don't know if I am qualified to suggest changes in the political party systems, but if a leader and founder of America as wise as George Washington says that political parties are a problem in our country then I would say we should further examine the systems we've created. My one thought on political parties is that I don't think a person running for election should have to identify themselves as a member of a certain party. If a leader wants to identify themselves as a person who has their own outline of beliefs that don't necessarily coincide with a single party's list of goals, it shouldn't be an issue. This ties into why I'm following the presidential race. I want to see what the parties stand for, what the candidates stand for, and if anything represented in those who are putting their names on the ballot is what this nation needs as a leader. I want to be an informed citizen who deserves the freedom present in a representative democracy.

1/6/2012
Irving/Texas
Ashley Lenart
Bradley/Nimitz
We've all heard of the Grand Old Party, Democrats, the Whigs etc. but are the names all they're cracked up to be, or are they just rallying devices that make people feel as if they belong to something bigger? In my opinion, the disadvantages of political parties outweigh the advantages simply because political parties seem to just attract the attention of a citizen and lure them into voting for one particular party based simply on a name. People are often influenced by friends and family and associate with that same party without taking the time to delve into the issues that are at hand, and seek to understand how the representative from that party is planning on dealing with the issues. Political party names are flashy and seem to be made in order to create a popularity contest for the certain parties based on the beliefs they are supposed to hold. The advantages however are this- to create a name under which a group of people unite who hold the same or similar points of view on how things should be run, and they set out to acquire new members who have their same beliefs in order to earn more power for their side. I haven't been following the presidential race lately, but plan to start up again seeing as how I will soon be able to vote myself. The presidential races are exciting and you are able to feel you have a say in the way you want issues to be handled.

1/5/2012
Irving, TX
Allison
Bradley/Nimitz
Political parties are useful in the modern political scene because we can readily identify the certain beliefs and qualities of our two major parties, Democrats and Republicans. For example, without deep political knowledge, most Americans know the differing ideas Democrats and Republicans have over such issues as health care, gun control, and abortion rights. However, some might just take these easily conceived notions at face value and blindly follow their party without knowing the merits of its leaders. I would like to see more independents running for major office—people who don't strictly follow just Democratic beliefs or just Republican beliefs, but find the right mixture that they truly stand for. I take this into consideration as I follow the presidential race. While it's hard to ignore my friends on Facebook, chanting “don't ignore Ron Paul just because the media does,” or the many spoofs on Rick Perry's many “oops” moments, I know I will have to figure out what each man and woman running for the presidency stands for personally, not just what their party, or the media, or other people tell me, if I want to make the right choice when I vote this year for the very first time.

1/5/2012
Irving/Texas
Marvin
Ms. Bradley/Nimitz High School
Personally, I don't follow the presidential race. It's gone from something so life changing to a popularity contest. People promise things these days that they can't comply with, just like the guy yelling wolf. Just want attention, gets it, and goes the opposite direction. Not only that, but racism has really scared this nation. Biased voters will go for who ever they can compare backgrounds with rather than experiences. What the voters need to be saying is “hey, that candidate is really stressing out the importance of education, he has my attention” not “oh, he's Irish, cool! Vote!”. If everyone voted for what they believe in, and for what can make this nation better for everyone not just individuals, we would be at a better level than any other type of government out there.

1/4/2012
Montgomery, Texas
Alejandro Gonzalez
Mr. Metzger
I consider this article to be somewhat informative. In my opinion the importance of political awareness is crucial to a society, the reason why America is going downhill is that Americans are becoming apolitical. People simply do not keep up with what is occuring in their own country anymore and this ignorance is provoking an atmosphere of blindness that allows for exploitation and potential tyrannical government. I hope the person that is selected to be the republican candidate is someone that can truly represent the American values and address the problems the country is facing in a manner sufficient to solve them. But I insist, Americans need to become politicaly aware in order for progress to happen.

1/3/2012
Montgomery, Texas
Jenna Russell
Mr. Metzger
I agree with this article, Its a good idea to watch the election to see whose the next person to be elected, and what the president is doing. We the people need to know what is going on around in the world.

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