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Confusion Over Convention Delegates Due To Lack Of Civics Education

April 10, 2016

Once again we are witnessing how the lack of civics education impacts our nation.

The New York Times has a font page story this morning about the delegate selection process.  This matter of how delegates are selected and what role they serve has become a topic of discussion since both parties now have a spirited presidential nominating season underway.

For decades, both major parties have used a somewhat convoluted process for picking their nominees, one that involves ordinary voters in only an indirect way. As Americans flock this year to outsider candidates, the kind most hindered by these rules, they are suddenly waking up to this reality. And their confusion and anger are adding another volatile element to an election being waged over questions of fairness and equality.

Where exactly were all these concerned citizens over the past (pick a number) years when it came to nominations, conventions, delegates, and the process that is undertaken to select a general election candidate?  Where is their sense of history about the grand traditions of volatile conventions and bare-knuckle politics?  It seems as if the the word delegate were just invented instead of having a rich storyline in our country.

Which leads to me a question I ask honestly though there is no way to not make it sound unduly snarky.

Why are there so many Bambi-eyed folks wondering how the system works?

I am not asking for the average American to be as smart as Michael Beschloss but I do expect folks to have a general grasp of the way we nominate a presidential candidate.   While I have often been disheartened with the words and antics of candidates this cycle I must say it is a feeling of bewilderment that overtakes me when considering the lack of knowledge the citizenry has about our political processes.

Though some voters are only now discovering that sometimes their choices amount to little more than a Facebook “like,” party leaders today say the rules are nothing new.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, pointed out that superdelegates have been around “since 1984, the year I graduated high school,” and have never been a decisive factor. Sean Spicer, the chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, said of the rules, “This is a process that has existed since the 1800s,” even though he acknowledged, “It is incumbent on us to explain it.”

The lack of background knowledge about delegates this campaign season is just another topic for a long list of things most Americans are not aware of when it comes to government and politics.  Like many of my readers I am not pleased to learn of news reports that air from time to time about the lack of knowledge too many of our nation’s students have when it comes to some basic subjects.  For decades I have been speaking out for higher standards and better ways to educate our nation about history and civics.  It is the lack of training students correctly in our schools which then produces outcomes that we now witness among adults at election time.

There is no reason to have citizens who can not locate places on a map, name the three branches of government, talk at least in broad terms about how a bill becomes a law, or grasp how we nominate a presidential candidate.  We must do better at every level when teaching history and civics.

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