An Introduction to Presidential Nominations
When citizens vote in elections, they choose between the candidates nominated by the two major political parties. Other candidates may appear on the ballot, but only the nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties have a realistic chance of being elected. Although citizens may wish that they had some “other” candidate they could vote for, they are effectively limited to the candidates nominated by the major parties. The ability to put candidates on the ballot makes political parties the arbiters of representative democracy. 1 As arbiters, the parties have the capacity to choose candidates that serve partisan interests, potentially at the expense of the broader public. 2
Nominating candidates is one of the main functions of political parties, which exist mainly to coordinate the efforts of groups that join together in order to win elections and, in turn, to control government for the purpose of delivering policies that are favorable to their interests. The selection of nominees is critically important to the political parties. The presidential nominee becomes the foremost spokesperson and the personified image of the party. 3 Presidential nominations also affect the ideological direction of the party. 4 The choice of presidential nominees helps shape what the parties stand for and what they will try to do should they win the election.