ANGLES: Party Power: Should there be a limit on the number of presidential candidates?

Yes, parties need to stop splintering from within

John Walker


The pool for 2020 presidential candidates seems to be expanding every day. 

While the Republican party has almost unanimously chosen President Trump as its nominee, the Democrats have a long road ahead to choose who they will back. 

Currently the Democrats have 21 candidates that have announced they are running for President of the United States. 

The candidates  range from stars of the party like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sander to little-known democrats like Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Oprah’s spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson.

While it may be beneficial to start with many candidates, leaders in the party need to cut down the number of candidates sooner rather than later. 

It is up to party leaders to find people that would make beneficial front runners and stop in-fighting if they want to succeed come the general election. 

I am reminded of the 2016 election when the Republican Party was able to make hits at Hillary Clinton by showing videos of the Obamas’ insults towards Clinton during the 2008 primaries. 

Or maybe you can reminisce Trump calling Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” and then, less than two years later, the president publicly endorsed Senator Cruz against Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

It’s not a Republican problem and it’s not a Democrat problem. 

It is a party problem.

When too many candidates get in the pool it results in the individuals fighting among each other in order to bring themselves ahead. 

While the parties should allow for many individuals to announce initially, each party needs to quickly weed out candidates that will not make it as far. 

The reduced number of candidates will allow voters to be more informed on platforms  and more easily make a decision on who they want to support.

Fewer candidates could also prevent in-fighting within parties. 

Candidates hit each other hard throughout the primaries and make claims against one another to get ahead. 

These claims have turned the primaries into  toxic battlegrounds where candidates are not focused on their own achievements, but are driven to bring each other down. 

The problem is that the parties only get one candidate in the end. 

After all of the primary debates are done, supporters of other candidates have been against the nominee for at least several months. 

This leads to members of the party viewing the candidate as a partial enemy and having a negative feeling towards them.

While it is important that each party is presented with various candidates to ensure diversity, the parties need to quickly find the sole candidate they will endorse. 

It allows the race to be against the candidates that are on the final ticket and stop the insults the party members throw at each other. 

If the different parties want to win the election, the first step is to find a real contender. 

John Walker is a freshman government major from Sioux Falls, S.D.


No, limiting the number of candidates would be undemocratic

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The U.S. does not need further restrictions on who can run for president. 

There are already effective measures in place to screen disingenuous candidates and anything further is anti-democratic.

Declaration of candidacy only requires two simple online forms. 

However, the true test of a legitmate candidate is whether the presidential hopeful can get themselves on enough primary ballots in enough states to have a chance at winning the national primary. 

The exact requirements vary by state, but most states list candidates who the secretary of state deems “generally recognized” candidates and those who collect enough signatures in a statewide petition to be added. 

Therefore, national candidates are limited to those who can demonstrate legitimate state-by-state support.

The perception that there are too many presidential candidates is rooted in the zealous news coverage pre-primary candidates receive. 

The 2016 presidential election is commonly cited as an example of candidate oversaturation. On the Republican side, 17 potential candidates appeared in at least one nationally televised debate. 

However, the selection of candidates that appeared in these debates was made by the networks that aired them. 

Typically, these networks relied on their own polling systems and an arbitrary cut off to select the most newsworthy candidates, usually only candidates supported by 10 percent or more of viewers. 

News outlets could limit candidate fatigue by setting a higher bar for newsworthiness. 

However, there is no point in the official process where further cuts could be made to the candidate pool that would not unfairly disadvantage non-establishment candidates or hamper the rise of new players. 

As an example, had either the official process or the selection process used by the media been more stringent, two of the first candidates that would have been eliminated from public view in 2016 would have been Ben Carson, one of the only African American and  Carly Fiorina, the only female presidential candidates the Republican party has ever put forth. 

Their presence is an important historical footnote in our national dialogue about race and gender that would have been missed had they been elimated too early.

Even more notably, Donald Trump would likely have been eliminated in favor of more traditional candidates like Senator Ted Cruz or Governor John Kasich. 

Avoiding the question of whether that would have been a good thing in the case of President Trump, we must acknowledge that this openness of political office is an affirmation of our most treasured democratic ideals. 

We should strive to make it even more open, such as increased access to those without  vast personal fortunes or great fame, not narrow it by imposing more restrictions on who can or can’t apply for the job in the first place.

Joshua Morin-Baxter is a sophomore physics and computer science major from Rapid City, S.D.

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