A friend of mine and I sat down for Cherry Blossom coffee during Spring Break a few years back, when as former political science students, our conversation began to gravitate towards politics. We discussed the results of the caucuses and the primaries, some of the pitfalls of the electoral college, and the importance of the rise of the anti- establishment.
Despite the mass of eloquent statements from two political science students who have been taught too much academic jargon, one thing became quite clear I asked my friend, "what is the point of the caucus?", that both of us, politically conscious millennials and young professionals, did not know what the importance of a caucus was, or how to fully explain the importance of the primary without a Google search. Another quick Google search will show that those of previous generations chalk the lack of voting by millennials up to apathy, disengagement. I would argue the sheer lack of understanding the political process is the greater issue.
"Lower youth turnout is not a sign of a broad malaise. Millennials are about as interested in politics as youth in prior generations, and about as politically active outside elections....If we look at the full range of political activity, millennials are good democratic citizens — at least as much as their elders were in their youth."
Why millennials are politically active but do not vote is quite simple. Maybe it's not the fault of our government and civics teachers. After all, we may have had a chapter about the primary and the caucus (if that), but what's to speak of the political science students at a top university, who had little to say? It's a common conception that millennials don't vote where it counts. They don't show up for general election nearly as much as they post they do on Twitter. One would think there are only few millennials in the entire world if you look to the turnout of the caucuses and the primaries (let's forget about local/ state elections) . So, instead of keeping ignorance as a reality, let's break it down:
- Both the caucus and the primary are methods of the electoral process used to nominate a candidate for president.
- While it seems that the caucus leads to the primary season, they are essentially one in the same. States can choose whether they will use a caucus or a primary.
- Caucuses are local gatherings with open voting systems, where generally only registered members of a party can attend and vote for a candidate (if closed). At a caucus, the validity of the candidate is debated. Interest groups can dominate the presence of a caucus since the voting is open.
- A primary, depending on the state, can be closed, meaning only members of the party vote for a candidate for nomination, or open to all residents of the state. At a primary, the voting is election style, with closed and private ballots.
- States do not have both a caucus and a primary. Each state selects which one they want.
- The only states that have the caucus over the primary system are: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa. (they're the weirdos).
- Each state used to follow the caucus system and transitioned in the twentieth century to primary to allow a more democratic process.
- Essentially, both the caucus and the primary are collecting delegates for nomination of a candidate for president. The primary and caucus system is how we, as a country, decide who are final two candidates for president will be.
Now that you know, why is this important:
In an election where it seems like 99% of millennials are feeling the Bern and not feeling Mr. Trump, it does not make sense that Senator Sanders is losing and Mr. Trump is winning for either of their respective sides.
When speaking with a friend and I asked him if he was going to vote in the California primary, he responded, "I''ll just vote in the general election. It's all rigged anyway, who's going to get the nomination," In calmed frustration, I had to explain, this is where it all changes. It may seem as though year after year, the elections never have candidates that garnered the widespread support, but we could possibly have Bernie Sanders, John Kashich or Marco Rubio if millennials understood that political power lies in the nomination stage, not only when it's down to the final two and the general election.
Elections are like getting sick. You have two options after the very first tickle in your throat. You can say, "I'm getting sick! It's inevitable!" and never understand why you are getting sick or how you could prevent it; or you can down vitamin C tablets, start washing your hands more often, get proper sleep, drink water until your stomach is about the explode, and avoid getting a sore throat for the third time this semester. This method may not stop you from getting sick every time, but if everyone had this mentality, there would be less sick people in the world. Like an election, you can complain that whatever happens happens, no matter your involvement and always be disappointed by the outcome, or you can get involved early, get others involved earlier, and possibly change the outcome.