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The McBournie Minute: Primary season isn’t real

Today is election day in Canada. Our friends are going to the polls today to decide who is going to run their country. But who cares about Canada? We’re just 13 months away from the U.S. presidential election, so let’s focus on that instead.

If your Facebook feed is any indication, it’s primary season, and that’s super important. We as Americans get the rare treat of directly choosing who will head the executive branch of our federal government for a period of four years. On top of that, the current guy isn’t eligible for another term, which means that both parties are trying to figure out who to run. It’s double the excitement, and it’s doubly important we get involved in the process. After all, our country’s future is at stake.

Except it really isn’t important right now.

I want to encourage you all to vote — not just in this election, but it every other one that is held for the rest of your life. It is important to participate in the electoral process, so do it.

That said, you can calm down about the primaries right now. I know you’re excited about your favorite candidate, or concerned about the candidate leading in the polls in the other party is going to wreck everything. The primaries, for the most part, are like professional wrestling for most of us. Unless you live in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire or South Carolina, you’re not really going to have a say in your party’s selection process. It’s just not how the system works.

Everything you see right now — all of the debates, stump speeches, headlines, SNL skits and image quotes on social media — all of it is just theater right now. Who says what doesn’t really matter at this point, it’s just an act. And if you’re getting all worked up over something that’s purely entertainment, you’re that guy who thinks professional wrestling is real. (“I don’t believe what I’m seeing! Donald Trump has put Marco Rubio in a verbal headlock! … Wait, that’s, that’s Ben Carson’s music!)

If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’ve seen a few presidential elections in your time. When was the last time you saw a candidate lead in the primary polls from the beginning, up to the finish, and then go on get the nomination? You’ve never seen that, because it doesn’t happen.

In 2008, we had both parties figuring out who they would nominate to succeed George W. Bush. People were pretty vocal about their support for candidates like Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, only to lose out to John McCain. All the Democrats were rallying around Hillary Clinton, and to a lesser degree, John Edwards, until they didn’t, and ended up going with Barack Obama instead.

In fact, go back as far as you can under the current primary system, where the nominations are a foregone conclusion by the time of the conventions. You’ll have a tough time finding anyone who isn’t already the president dominate the polls wire to wire and then win the nomination. It’s not even unheard of for the candidates leading in polls near the primary to end up losing.

That’s because only the voters in a few states decide who their party will nominate. Have you every noticed how it seems like states keep leapfrogging each other to be the first to hold their primaries? At one point, Super Tuesday, in March, was what really kicked things off. Now, four states, the ones I listed earlier, have all finished up their voting by the end of February.

These states keep vying to be the first to vote because who wins those first primary result generally indicate who will win the rest of them. It turns out that we humans are influenced by the decisions of others. If we support one candidate for nine months, then see that he or she didn’t do well a couple weeks ago in another state’s primary, we go with our favorite out of the ones with better numbers, or we get depressed and just don’t vote. So really, we all just follow the lead of those first few states.

That means that we give these states special powers. States know this, that’s why they want to be early, and get more attention from candidates on the campaign trail. This means they get sprinkled with more candidate magic dust, as best as I can tell.

The U.S. has an insanely long selection process for its executive powers. Why does it seem so long, especially when so little of it early on matters so little to the nation as a whole? It’s all about money. Campaigns raise and spend billions of dollars during election season. More people watch the news during this time, which means more ad revenue for channels, especially local news stations. They also get the bonus of campaign ad dollars being sent their way, since so many people are watching the news.

But the main reason it’s so popular is that it’s the greatest reality show imaginable. The personalities are big, the egos are massive, the stakes are high. Every now and then someone gets voted out. We love to watch these people and the shows that make fun of them because it’s pure entertainment. We forget that it’s not a real sport.

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