Letter to the editor: A letter from the Mock Convention Political Chair

After Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, John Harashinski, ’20, explains the difficulty of the 2020 primary election

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Mock Convention Political Chair John Harashinski, ’20, explains the contested convention on February 14, 2020. Photo by Lilah Kimble.

John Harashinski

This letter was originally published on the Mock Convention 2020 website.

Friends, political junkies, and Mock Convention community,

With Senator Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race, former Vice President Joe Biden is the only candidate left in the Democratic field. And barring any unexpected surprises, Biden will become the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States. He will cap off a primary contest unlike any that has ever occurred in American electoral history, in a time unlike any in American history.

To understand the magnitude of the nominating contest this cycle and the hurdles political pundits have faced across the nation, here is a list of just some of the “firsts” that happened in this race for the nomination:

For the first time in the modern primary era (1972-present), the winner of the Iowa Caucuses dropped out and endorsed a fellow candidate before Super Tuesday.

For the first time in the modern primary era, a party’s nominating convention has been postponed from its original, planned date.

For the first time in the modern primary era, a state’s presidential primary has been postponed from its original date.

However, New York City had a mayoral primary scheduled for September 11th, 2001, which was postponed and rescheduled in the aftermath of the attacks. That is still the only prior instance of a scheduled primary being postponed.

For the first time in the modern primary era, the 2020 Democratic Primary had 27 candidates in the field. The 2020 Primary holds the record for the greatest number of candidates who sought the nomination. The greatest number of candidates in the field at once was 24, during the summer of 2019.

For the second time in the modern primary era, the winner of Super Tuesday was not the candidate who won Iowa or New Hampshire (the only other candidate to achieve this was Bill Clinton in 1992, earning him the nickname “The Comeback Kid”).

This is just a small sampling of what made the 2020 Democratic Primary so unique. It seems almost inevitable that a chaotic, turbulent primary that had so many experts scratching their heads would come to an end during the midst of a global crisis. 

The Mock Convention Political Team always knew that the 2020 Democratic primary would be an unconventional race. But what we thought was unconventional was nothing compared to what was to come. We thought unconventional meant having a record-breaking number of candidates try their hand at the nomination. We thought it was a billionaire standing a chance at getting a solid number of delegates despite missing the first four contests. We thought it was the widespread delay in getting the official Iowa Caucus results, which did not come out until four weeks after voting. None of these things have happened in American electoral history. But, as only American politics can, the field delved into uncharted territory and brought the Democratic Party to a united voice they never had before.

While the primary is essentially over, the general election itself may borrow some of its unprecedented and hectic marks. As the country struggles to contain a growing pandemic, the presidential race promises to have the same twists and turns of the Democratic primary. The United States has never had to postpone a general election due to a national emergency–even during the Second World War and the Civil War, the general election proceeded as planned–but in a year filled with so many unprecedented instances, it’s certainly not impossible.

In the end, a prediction is just that: a prediction. When we made ours, things looked extraordinarily different than they do now. However, for Mock Convention, the prediction is not the only defining factor of what makes Mock Convention a nationally significant event. We are an entirely student-run organization which prides itself on student engagement, civic education, and providing young people real-world experience in fundraising and operations, in marketing and development, in research and analysis, and most importantly, in leadership and teamwork. That is what makes Mock Convention a nationally recognized organization, and what will propel Mock Convention to continue as the nation’s most accurate predictive convention for cycles to come.

We hope that you will follow along with our successors and beyond as they continue this wonderful and important Washington and Lee University tradition. Hopefully, their primary cycle will look nothing like ours.

Until then, be well, strap in for an exciting presidential contest, and wash your hands.