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The Invisible Primary and Its Effects on Democratic Choice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2009

John Aldrich
Duke University


The current method for selecting presidential nominees by the two major parties went into place mostly in 1972 and certainly by 1976, after Buckely v. Valeo. It was the natural culmination of reform efforts over the history of the republic in that, while prior reforms consistently invoked greater openness and democratic governance as rationales for their adoption, this method actually empowered voters as the central figures in determining who would be nominated (see Aldrich 1987). This fact became fully evident almost at once. The selection via primaries of senator George McGovern in 1972 and governor Jimmy Carter in 1976 as the Democratic presidential nominees arguably not only would not have happened, they would not have even come close to winning nomination without successful appeal to the voting public.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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