The 2nd of March, 2016 was Super Tuesday for the current presidential election cycle, and the results are now all in. This sample politics essay explores the significance of Super Tuesday in the presidential election, as well as an analysis of the 2016 Super Tuesday outcome.
Overview of Super Tuesday
Super Tuesday is simply the day on which a large number of states within the United States vote in the presidential primary elections for a Democratic or Republican candidate for the general election for the White House that will occur later in the year. As Eleftheriou-Smith has written:
“No other day sees more primary elections held across the US for the party’s prospective candidates, or more delegates secured—making it a pivotal moment for those hoping to gain the Republican and Democratic nominations in their bid for the White House” (paragraph 1).
In the United States, presidential candidates are selected through party delegates from the various states at a national conference, where those delegates themselves are given a mandate about how to vote by the popular votes within their states. So, if a presidential candidate meets with great success on Super Tuesday, then this is generally seen as boding very well for his odds of actually winning his party’s presidential nomination.
Nothing special about the actual date
In principle, the suggestion could be made that the concept of Super Tuesday is a relatively arbitrary one. That is, there is nothing intrinsically special about that specific day; it simply happens to be the day that many states within the United States, in accordance with their own local laws, all hold their primary elections for presidential candidates.
In a way, this is just something of a loosely planned coincidence. Some states, for example, hold their primary elections before Super Tuesday (with Iowa and New Hampshire being the most notable ones since they are the first ones); and many states have their primary elections scheduled for after Super Tuesday.
However, now that Super Tuesday does in fact exist, it is generally considered to be a kind of tipping point within the context of American presidential politics. If a presidential candidate comes out as the clear frontrunner after Super Tuesday, then due to both that candidate’s delegate count and his sheer momentum, commentators generally take it as a sign that he will eventually succeed at capturing the presidential nomination of his own party (Barabak).
The 2016 Super Tuesday results
The 2016 Super Tuesday results indicate big wins for Donald Trump’s Republican presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. According to the New York Times:
- Trump received most of the Republican votes in 7 out of the 11 states
- Clinton also received most of the Democrat votes in 7 out of the 11 states
Of the 1,237 total delegates needed for a Republican to win the presidential nomination, this means that Trump now has 316, compared to runner-up Ted Cruz’s 226; and on the Democratic side, Clinton has 577 of the 2,383 needed for her to win, compared to runner-up Bernie Sanders’ 386. When one counts the influence of superdelegates within the Democratic nomination process, this means that Clinton is decisively in the lead here and is perhaps likely to pull farther away from her rival over the next several weeks of the current presidential election cycle.
On the Democratic side, one can see that the winner of the primary elections in each state also achieved a simple majority of the popular vote; this is for the simple reason that there are now only two candidates vying for votes within the current primary process. On the Republican side, on the other hand, it can be seen that Trump did not achieve a simple majority in any of the 11 states that voted; and this is because there are still five different candidates competing for the votes.
In particular, this race would now seem to be a three-way contest between the 2016 Republican candidates: Trump, Cruz, and Marco Rubio; the other two candidates becoming increasingly irrelevant within the context of the contours of the current race. And on the Democratic side, while Sanders has outperformed most previous expectations, it would seem that the American public, in general, is tilting toward the pragmatism represented by Clinton as opposed to the idealism represented by him.
Implications for the election
The most important implication of the results of the current Super Tuesday primary elections is probably that Trump has now surely emerged as the undisputable frontrunner for the Republican nomination for the presidency, and that there would no longer be any use in Republicans in particular or the American public continuing to have fantasies about how there is no possible way that he could be the next president of the United States.
Political pundits have been declaring for almost a full year now, over and over again, that the people want Trump and his campaign has reached its peak and could not possibly make it any further within the context of the presidential race. Cohn, for example, declared as much back in July 2015. What is clear by now, however, is that Trump’s success in neither a media invention nor a transient phenomenon; that his support is, in fact, durable and has, in fact, made it highly plausible, if not by now inevitable, that he will be the Republican presidential nominee.
This raises difficult questions, however, about how the Republican Party itself will react to this emerging situation. Lizza, for example, has described Trump as having enacted a:
“hostile takeover of the Republican Party; and crucially, many of the established powers within the Republican Party itself are quite likely to agree with this assessment. With the momentum that Trump has now gained coming out of Super Tuesday, these powers within the Party may well begin to perceive that this could be their very last chance to work toward stopping him.”
As Ball has pointed out:
“Over the past week, the Trump resistance began in earnest, an anguished outpouring of fed-up conservatives who swore they’d had enough and would block him at all costs. A Trump nomination, they said, would be the end of everything they had worked for and believed in” (paragraph 12).
This means that many conservatives within the Republican Party could break rank and actually end up opposing their party’s own presidential nominee, on the simple grounds that it would be better to have an enemy like Hillary Clinton from the actual enemy party rather than freely electing an enemy from one’s own house.
The people’s interest in Super Tuesday and elections in general
The editors of the prominent conservative journal National Review, for example, put together the NR Symposium a little while ago: a collection of several conservative voices arguing that at the level of actual principle, Trump is not really a conservative at all and that his actual agenda and general ethos are completely at odds with what the Republican Party itself really stands for.
If the results of Super Tuesday are to be taken seriously, however, the only conclusion that could be drawn is that a very large number of Americans have lost all interest in such debates of principles. Whatever Trump is, it is clear that a lot of people like him, and that he is more than capable of parlaying that support into actual electoral victories.
The role of the media in elections
Turning back to the significance of Super Tuesday now, it is perhaps worth reflecting for a moment in the role that the media plays in actually cultivating the very significant that they often claim to be merely reporting. This is related to the broader question of the impact of media hype on the general electoral process. As Taibbi has somewhat humorously put the matter:
“What we Americans go through to pick a president is not only crazy but genuinely abusive. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in a craven, cynical effort to stir up hatred and anger on both sides. A decision that in reality takes one or two days of careful research to make is somehow stretched out into a process that involves two years of relentless, suffocating mind-warfare” (paragraph 2).
The media’s role in the presidential campaign is significantly responsible for this state of affairs in general, as they also are for the kind of dramatic hype that surrounds an otherwise quite mundane event such as Super Tuesday. Indeed, in this context, it is probably worth observing that a certain disdain for the media, in general, has been one of the crucial drivers of Trump’s own electoral success.
In summary, the present essay has discussed the significance of Super Tuesday and the specific results of the current Super Tuesday. The main point that has emerged here is that Clinton is maintaining her natural advantage in her race against Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination and that Trump has clearly emerged as the no longer disputable frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. These results will likely make for a quite interesting general election once the primary process has been finished. It is perhaps also important, however, to refrain from falling for media hype and focusing on the real problems of actual life.
Ball, Molly. “The Trump Tipping Point.” The Atlantic. 2 Mar. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-trump-tipping-point/471840/.
Barabak, Mark Z. “Why Super Tuesday Is So Important to the Presidential Candidates in Both Parties.” Los Angeles Times. 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-super-tuesday-20160229-1-story.html.
Cohn, Nate. “The Trump Campaign’s Turning Point.” New York Times. 18 Jul. 2015. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/upshot/the-trump-campaigns-turning-point.html?_r=0.
Eleftheriou-Smith, Loulla-Mae. “What Is Super Tuesday and Why Is It So Important?” Independent. 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016.
Friedersdorf, Conor. “Will U.S. Conservatives Mount a Third-Party Challenge if Trump Is the Nominee?” The Atlantic. 24 Feb. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/will-conservatives-mount-a-third-party-challenge-if-trump-is-the-nominee/470499/.
Lizza, Ryan. “Donald Trump’s Hostile Takeover of the G.O.P.” New Yorker. 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trumps-hostile-takeover-of-the-g-o-p.
New York Times. “Super Tuesday Results.” Author, 2 Mar. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results.
NR Symposium. “Conservatives Against Trump.” National Review. 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/430126/donald-trump-conservatives-oppose-nomination.
Taibbi, Matt. “How the Hype Became Bigger than the Presidential Election.” Rolling Stone. 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-hype-became-bigger-than-the-presidential-election-20121009.