'Political Science talks Politics' and explains process of the presidency
Political science Professor David Green delivered a lecture enlightening students on “The Process of Choosing the President” in the Leo A. Guthart Cultural Center Theater on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Green’s lecture was the first in a three-lecture series entitled “Political Science Talks Politics,” in which Hofstra political science professors give lectures in the Cultural Center Theater – which is open to the public – with the intention of educating people on how politics work in the United States.
Green discussed the general election process and described what he sees as the four “stages” of that process: the “money primary,” primaries and caucuses, the general election and the electoral college.
The “money primary” – which Green also referred to as the “invisible primary” – is the first step in weeding out presidential candidates before the actual primaries even begin.
“What we mean by either of these terms is that you basically cannot hope to be president of the United States unless you have money from some source – it’s more or less impossible.”
“I use the word ‘primary’ here as a kind of metaphor – this is like a primary but it’s not an actual thing,” Green said.
The second stage of the election process is primaries and caucuses. A primary is “essentially an election where people in a given state who belong to a given [political] party get to participate in the national choice of their party’s nominee,” Green said.
Green explained that primaries and caucuses are executed differently but serve the same function.
“Typically, what happens in a caucus is people will come together in their locality – maybe Democrats will come together ... in the high school gymnasium and maybe all the Republicans are in the social hall of the church – [and] spend about three or four hours dialoging [with] each other, talking about who amongst them should be their party’s nominee.”
Green then explained that once this happens in each locality, “each state with a caucus will have a mathematical formula by which it sort of weighs the winners and runners-up, and then you aggregate that at the state level.”
The third stage in the election process is the general election itself, when voters choose between each party’s nominees for president. The fourth and final stage is the electoral college – in other words, the people who are actually casting the votes for president. Green explained that the two names a person likely sees on the ballot are not who they’re voting for.
“What you’re electing is a group of people called electors – those electors, then, coming from each state, are the ones who will actually determine the outcome of the election.”
“You need that as a foundation to understand a lot of the other material, so I thought maybe that would also be true for the lecture series,” he elaborated.
According to Green, the idea for this series was originally proposed by Professor Richard Himelfarb, who is giving the second lecture, entitled “The State of the Union,” on Thursday, Oct. 17. The third lecture, “Polling 101,” will be given by Professor Craig Burnett on Thursday, Nov. 14.
“That gets you through October and November but ... I was at a [political science] faculty meeting and we were talking about plans for next semester and the semester after that, so hopefully we’ll continue this into the future,” Green said.
Freshman sports management major Fen Dougharty said that although he was required to come to the lecture for one of his political science classes, he would have wanted to come anyway.
“I just find elections and especially the process of selecting the president interesting, so I thought it was nice that for a required event, it was this,” Dougharty said.
While Green’s lecture was informative for some, it may have seemed repetitive to those who already have a fundamental knowledge of American politics.
“I’m very knowledgeable about political science so I really didn’t learn a ton, but it was nice to refresh my knowledge on the topic,” said sophomore journalism major Averee Dovsek.
“As a political science major, I always find the history of the presidency and the election process very fascinating,” said freshman Bryan Perez.
“As someone who wants to run for political office in the future, I thought this [lecture] brought a lot of insight,” he added.
Like Dovsek, Perez said he had also done his fair share of “readings on the primaries and ... general elections,” but still managed to learn something new from Green’s lecture.
“I didn’t really know how the electoral college worked. I’ve heard of it, I’ve learned about it, but I had difficulty understanding how it truly worked,” Perez said. “[Green] explained it really well, so I got it – it’s a lot more complex than you would think and he made it ... less complex for me to understand.”