This past Tuesday, our group had the really cool opportunity to visit Harvard and attend lectures by prominent presidential primary professors. Alliteration aside, it was a day jam-packed with information on how the system got to be the way it is currently and how democratic it may or may not be.
One of the professors in particular made a quite thought-provoking statement when he said something along the lines of: “Parties aren't in the democracy business, they are in the winning elections business.” He went on to explain that when candidates come to him for advice he always asks them “What is your number?” What he means by this is, how many votes do you need to get elected. He drew up on the blackboard a scenario where in a district of 10,000 people (for examples sake) there will be x amount of legal voters, x amount of registered voters and so on. Essentially the “number” that he drew up on the board was something along the lines of 900 voters. Hypothetically, this imaginary politician could win his district with around 9% of the people in his district voting for him. Which brings us back to the “Parties aren't in the democracy business” comment. It is important that in a world where our government relies on people to vote for the very people intending to represent us, they really only need one more vote then their opponent. For every calculated strategy to get people to vote for them every campaign has just as many to make sure that they don't inspire others to vote for their opponent.
So how do we combat a system that occasionally wants to limit our voice as much as it needs it to survive? We vote. As our people become less and less active in the political spectrum it becomes easier and easier for strategies that limit our ability to speak our voice to come to fruition. For the second time in a week, I say to you- vote. Not just in presidential elections, but in every way you can.
-- Tristan Voegeli is a St. Olaf freshman from Winona, MN, majoring in Political Science. He is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential election.