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ND Expert: Presidential primaries system chaotic and broken

Author: Arts and Letters


The recent news that Democratic presidential candidates have signed a pledge that would forbid them from campaigning in states seeking earlier primaries is symbolic of the broken and unrepresentative presidential nominating system that currently exists in this country, according to a University of Notre Dame expert.

“Candidates ought to be taking the lead in proposing a fair, coherent and democratic process of selecting candidates for the nation’s highest office,” said Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies and a national political analyst.

“What we have now is chaos, with individual states trying to elbow each other out of the way. Nobody, not even the candidates, knows what to expect. One hopes criticism will grow – and force the necessary changes.”

This week’s decision by Michigan to join the ranks of states leaping ahead on the primary calendar by moving up its primary to Jan. 15 underscores the need for a system-wide reform.

“As long as the every-state-for-itself mentality exists for the presidential nominating process, we will see situations, such as Michigan’s, of seeking advantage and clout by establishing an earlier date,” Schmuhl said.

“There’s no method to this electoral madness. Until the process is removed from the states and designed on a rational and national basis, the chaos will continue. It’s not too soon to come up with an entirely new system for 2012.”

Schmuhl is the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Professor of American Studies and Journalism, and director of Notre Dame’s John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is the author of 10 books, including “Statecraft and Stagecraft: American Political Life in the Age of Personality” and “Wounded Titans: American Presidents and the Perils of Power.” He also serves as a political analyst for both print and broadcast media.

Media Advisory: Schmuhl’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He can be reached for further comment at or 574-631-5128

Originally published by Susan Guibert at on September 06, 2007.