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Wed Feb 26, 2020, 10:12 PM

The Primaries Are Just Dumb

How fitting that Twitter a social media platform apparently built for bickering co-sponsored a political debate on Tuesday night that often descended into an unintelligible screaming match among too many candidates whose differences belie a vast common ground.

Any one of the candidates in the Democratic race would be among the most progressive leaders ever elected to the White House, so common sense suggests that a few contenders bow out, to clarify the choice and ensure that a consensus nominee can emerge. That would be welcome. But disarray has a way of keeping even the slimmest of hopes alive.

As the country learned in 2016 with Republicans, the primaries and caucuses are a mess, giving the illusion of a choice in a situation where in fact voters have just the opposite no clear choice. This year, Bernie Sanders won close to a majority in Nevada, but in the two earlier contests, in Iowa and New Hampshire, no candidate won more than 26 percent of the vote. This fragmentation helps those candidates with passionate followings, like Mr. Sanders, as it helped Donald Trump in 2016, but it produces nothing like a consensus candidate. Mr. Sanders has won only 2.3 percent of the 1,991 delegates needed to secure the nomination, yet hes widely considered the front-runner.

Single-winner elections do a poor job of winnowing a large field of candidates down to one who reflects majority agreement, and encourage the type of nastiness were seeing now, because its all-or-nothing for each candidate. And the winner of this process can be the choice of as little as 25 or 30 percent of the electorate, which is another way of saying that he or she was not the choice of up to three-quarters of voters.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/opinion/democrats-primary-south-carolina.html

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