I think it would be appropriate today, on so-called Super Tuesday, to pause for a moment and think back over all the barnstorming, fund-raising, straight-talking, bickering, crying, debating, horse-trading and good old-fashioned political fun we’ve had these past nine months. It’s more than a little sad to think we’re almost halfway done with the 2008 election, isn’t it?
If you didn’t enjoy yourself at all, don’t worry. Today might signal the end of step one. If a candidate on either side emerges with a clear victory, it will be the beginning of a bigger, meaner, faster, more expensive general election campaign.
Today, more than 20 states will hold primaries or caucuses as the presidential candidates engage in their biggest day of voting yet in this extended primary campaign. People will go to the polls, and maybe at the end of the day, we will glimpse the eventual Republican and Democratic nominees for president.
Super Tuesday is big – think Super Bowl, Final Four, last episode of “American Idol” big. This is an opportunity for someone to win huge and everyone else to go home empty handed. The Washington Post reported on Jan. 15 that 52 percent of the total Democratic delegates are up for grabs today. On the Republican side, 41 percent of the total available delegates are at stake.
If one candidate emerged on both sides, it might be nice to have some closure. We could stop, take a breath, gather our collective wits as a nation and prepare for the battle – sorry, I meant general election – to come.
A break would be welcome. This exhausting primary campaign will be remembered for its unpredictability. Just when the pundits were ready to hand the victories (and party nominations) to Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton in Iowa, voters put the political world on its head. When it seemed Huckabee-fever and Obamania would sweep through New Hampshire, voters showed they were not ready for these races to be over. It has been one month since the Iowa caucuses, and the contests on both sides are still a dead heat, too close to call.
However, I hope the ratings are still close at the end of the day. I hope no candidate runs away with a clear victory. I hope Super Tuesday fails to produce clear nominees for either party. I hope things become even more exhausting.
Predictable politics are uninteresting. They’re stagnant. They certainly don’t help improve low-voter-turnout rates. Watching politics like that is about as exciting as the NCAA Basketball Tournament probably was in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was a foregone conclusion coach John Wooden and UCLA would cut down the nets at another national championship. Races can get a little boring when everyone knows who the winner will be.
Close races generate interest. They make candidates more accountable. Close races not only are good for our democratic process, they are immensely entertaining. Politics can be enjoyable. We want to feel like our participation really matters.
So, forgive me when I say this: I hope campaigns gear up, more fundraising records are broken and people now, more than ever, get involved. This primary race – the first without an incumbent president or vice-president since 1928 – has raised public interest in politics. People are sitting up, they are taking notice and listening to (not just watching) the debates. They know our country is at a crucial moment and that electing a leader who can restore our confidence in our country and our reputation abroad is of the utmost importance.
I say bring it on. May this Super Tuesday bring us one step closer, – but not finish off – one of the most important primary election seasons in our history.
Joe Vossen is a senior in political science. Please send comments to email@example.com.