Politics for Dummies: What Exactly’s Going On?

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Kathryn Daigle'17 and Maggie Morrone'16

You may have noticed that it’s almost that time of year again, time for political campaigns to continuously run on our televisions sets. It seems as if people who are well educated in the topic of politics enjoy this time of year while everyone else considers taking a very long T.V. hiatus. But ignoring the situation will never make it go away. So in order to pick our heads and understand what just is going on, let’s take a deeper look at politics in general, or politics for dummies.

We’ll start with these things called political parties. These parties, or divisions, began way back when at the founding of America. The Federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton) wanted a bigger government, while the Anti- Federalists (led by Thomas Jefferson) wanted a smaller government. The Federalists and Anti- Federalist parties eventually evolved into what we now call Republican and Democrat. Most Republicans want to maintain tradition and stick to the status quo, while many Democrats are more progressive and open to change. But please understand that these labels are very loose and do not apply to every Republican or Democrat. This is why many people call Republicans conservative and Democrats liberal. Unfortunately it is not that easy. You can be a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat. Nowadays, the differences between the two parties are harder to see. Lobbyists and people who have influence, either corporate or otherwise, “greatly affect the political agendas of both parties,” as Mr. Defillipo states. People or corporations that have money, give their funds to a party or an individual so that they they take the affluent corporation or person into consideration as a favor to them instead of protecting the interests of the common man. So the ordinary people are being pushed out of the ballot. Now, there are people who do not affiliate with any party, called independents. These people support policies that differ from the two major political parties.

So, this is all well and good, but just what is going on now? Why are there ads all over the Internet and during every commercial break, and posters in many yards? Well, we are in primary season. The primaries are a way for the parties as a whole to determine whom they want to put forward as president. In 2015, 16 people are running for the republican ticket and 6 are running for the democrats, which means that the republicans have 15 different people to choose from to put on their ticket and the democrats have 6 people to choose from. These candidates all entered the primaries by collecting signatures. After these signatures were collected, the fundraising begins. This is when the big corporations start helping out candidates. While they cannot give money directly, they can pay for things like commercials (which explains the millions of false promises made on television during the Steelers game). Then comes the actual primary. Different states have different designs for them. There are three to four major ways to work the primaries. One is an open primary. If you want to vote in this setting, then you need to register as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, but it does not matter what party you vote for, as long as you are registered under a party. Closed primaries are different. In order to vote in this system, you must register as one of the three parties, but you can only vote for the party under which you are registered (i.e. if you are a Republican, you must vote in the Republican primary). However, not all states require registration before voting in the primary. Then there are these things called Caucuses. Caucuses are the gathering of both Republican and Democratic voters in order to decide on which person from their county they want to represent them in the state gathering. Then the Republican delegates and the Democratic delegates from each county gather together to decide which candidate they want to represent each party. The Democratic delegates decide on a Democratic candidate and the Republican delegates decide on the wanted Republican candidate. The primaries will all be completed by June of 2016. After all the primaries are in, we will know the two major candidates for the presidency. There will be more heavy campaigning, targeting states and different groups, until November 8, 2016. This is the day when all the people that are eligible to vote (a citizen of the United States and at least 18 years old) come together and decide on who they want to represent them in the executive branch of the United States government. Once all the votes are counted and added to each candidate, the job of the people is finished. Then in December the Electoral College will meet. As Mr. Defillipo says,“Using the popular vote results in their states, the electors will then cast their votes for the candidate with the highest number of ballots cast and we will have our next president.”

Okay, let’s hope that we have gotten some of confusion out of the way.  Now, what do we do with this information? We can be educated voters. Why do we need to be involved and educated voters? Well, if we simply do not vote, then candidates can say and do all sorts of hogwash and do not have to be responsible for it. Sound familiar? Probably because 70% of eligible voters refrain from going to the booths. So candidates can promise something and fail to complete it or do something sneaky under the radar, and many Americans will not even recognize the mistakes. Most of the Americans do not take their civic responsibility seriously. Why is this an issue? We will not end up with the amount of representation that we should, since Washington only hears from the minority of the majority. So if you are going to vote in this upcoming election, what should you do? Take a careful look at your own opinions on controversial topics and decide which candidate’s ideas you think would work well in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, if you want a great president, you are going to have to work for it. You’ll need to research each candidate’s ideas and start to see where you land on these issues. Listen to the media, but balance that with other unbiased perspectives. Look at the way candidates are seen in other countries. Take civic responsibility, because if you don’t, we’ll lose the little voice that we have left.