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Primaries, parties, and the public

The 2020 primary season officially begins this week with the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11 and Nevada and South Carolina later this month.

It’s easy to forget that the primaries have not looked like they do now. In fact, it was not until 1968 that things really began to morph into the system of state-by-state contests that we know today. Before that, nominees were largely chosen by party leaders in preverbal smoke-filled back rooms.

While the parties once ruled the primary process, they seem to have lost some of that control, particularly in recent years. Donald Trump, a candidate the Republican Party opposed for much of his candidacy, received the nomination in 2016. Bernie Sanders one of the top candidates in this year’s Democratic candidate field, even though he is officially an independent. What does this change mean for democracy? We explore that question this week.

David Karol is an associate professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. He is an expert on primaries and the role that the political parties play in them and join us this week to help make sense of how we got here and where things might go moving forward.


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