Don’t Blame Your Choices – Blame the Primaries

Connor Vargo

Ever since Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were nominated as the Democratic

and Republican candidate for president of the United States respectively, I have

constantly heard one question asked, rhetorically and literally, by friends, family

and strangers alike: how did we get here?

Out of the 152 Million people who meet the requirements to become president of

the United States 1 , these are the best two our system of democracy could come up


Regardless of your political leanings, or whether you feel strongly about one

candidate or the other, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two most

unpopular candidates to ever run for the Oval Office. 2 This isn’t necessarily

because of polarizing party politics either.

Droves of Republicans have come out against Donald Trump over anyone of his

outlandish comments he’s made throughout his campaign, and many Democrats

have been apathetic towards Hillary Clinton, calling her careless after her email


So if this many people have such disdain for one or both major party candidates,

how did these two candidates win their respective party’s nomination? Was the

process rigged as some citizens on both ends of the political spectrum have

claimed? Or did bias media coverage play a part? Well, the answer to both of

those is ultimately no.

The real answer, the one that is supported by facts and hard statistics, is that

people did not come out and vote in the primary process.

The primary process is the system used to select each party’s nominee for

president. Primaries are run by each party at the state level, so for example, the

Connecticut Democratic Party dictates how the democratic primary election will

be run in the state of Connecticut.

Each state has a primary election or a caucus, which essentially is a mini

convention of sorts where supporters of any candidate have the ability to make

the argument for their candidate to other voters.

One of the caveats of the primary process is that each state runs their election a

little differently. Some states allow for open primaries, meaning your party

affiliation doesn’t prohibit you from voting for any candidate. Other states have

closed primaries, which mean in order to vote for a candidate of a certain party,

you must be a registered member of that political party.

The Democratic and Republic Party also have party elites who get votes at their

respective conventions, which are referred to as “super delegates.” Many claim

that this process is undemocratic, however there is not law that mandates

primaries have to be democratic.

The presidential nomination process has actually become more democratic

compared elections several years ago; however, the turnout for primary elections

is staggeringly low.


The 2008 primaries brought out a record high participation rate of 30 percent.

Democrats, many excited by the idea of the first African-American president,

turned out significantly more than Republicans.

This past primary process lead to the second highest participation rate since 1980

with 28.5 percent, however, that doesn’t say much, considering primaries get

significantly low turnout every election.

Only 14.8 percent of eligible Republicans and 14.4 percent of eligible Democrats

had a say in their party’s nominee. 3 What’s even more troubling is that more than

half of those who came out didn’t even vote for the two nominees, meaning in

total that about 9% of eligible voters in the US voted for either Donald J. Trump

or Hillary Rodham Clinton. 4

Simply put, the reason why we have the two nominees we do is because people

did not vote in the primaries. We got to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

because people didn’t know how, want to, or cared enough to vote in the

primaries, which makes me wonder if the people asking how we got to this point

even attempted to have a say in who their party’s next nominee for president of

the United States would be.