Governing the Presidential Nomination Commons
58 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008 Last revised: 16 Sep 2010
Date Written: August 24, 2008
States jockeying to hold primaries and caucuses as early as possible has become the central theme of the presidential primary system. While the trend of racing to vote is not new, it has increased alarmingly. In 2008, more than half the states held contests by the first week of February. This free-for-all hurts the democratic process by encouraging uninformed voting, emphasizing the role of money in campaigns, and pressing candidates to rely on sound-bite campaigning. Because the presidential nomination is one of the most important decisions left to voters in the United States, this problem is well-recognized. It is also widely misunderstood. This Article casts the problem in a different light, demonstrating that the front-loading of the nomination process is a classic tragedy of the commons. Recognizing the problem as a commons dilemma provides a powerful explanation for the trend towards earlier primaries and, more importantly, provides insights into how best to reform the nomination system.
Keywords: tragedy of the commons, frontloading, presidential primary, presidential nomination, commons, common-pool resources
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