Segments in this Video

Introduction: Are Primary Elections Ruining Democracy? (02:16)


Moderator John Donvan outlines the debate topic and introduces panelists. Brookings Institute Director of the Center for Effective Public Management Elaine Kamarck and Former Democracy International Director Jed Ober state their positions.

Presidential Nominations (06:28)

The U.S. is the only country to use primary elections to nominate leaders exclusively. Kamarck believes primaries eliminate the element of peer review. Ober believes primaries are fundamental to a healthy democracy. The nomination process differs between political parties.

Introduction of Primary Elections (03:46)

Kamarck uses Jack Kennedy's 1960 run as an example of a hybrid election system. She argues that the Democratic and Republican processes are essentially the same; binding primaries begin in 1972.

Superdelegates (03:11)

Ober is not opposed to unpledged delegates. He explains why the Republican and Democratic processes are different.

Donald Trump (08:36)

Panelists discuss the election of Trump in terms of the people choosing rather than the party establishment. Kamarck considers how to place peer review back into the nomination process.

Absence of Primaries (07:12)

Ober considers the election process in other countries and believes we should work to fix the U.S. primaries. Kamarck believes binding primaries makes the U.S. system vulnerable; open parties, rather than primaries, are essential to democracy.

Minority and Marginalized Participation (05:47)

Primaries and parties are covered by law under the First Amendment but are not in the Constitution. Kamarck argues that the old system was not exclusionary. Ober agrees that good politics considers constituency dynamics but excluding primaries will not improve diversity; he considers other electoral systems.

Are Primaries Essential? (08:42)

Ober and Kamarck agree that the U.S. cannot move away from the primary process. Kamarck considers decreasing the tendency of extreme candidates. Panelists reflect on the vulnerability of the electorate.

Closing Statements (03:31)

Kamarck states that primaries make democracy vulnerable to extremes, especially in binding presidential primaries; establish a national primary day. Ober believes primaries should be an important aspect of democracy and are essential to participation.

Intelligence Squared (01:59)

Donvan thanks listeners, encourages continued funding of the program, and cites the names of key individuals. IQ2 works to combat extreme polarization through civil discourse.

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Are Primary Elections Ruining Democracy?: A Debate

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The U.S. Constitution has a lot to say about government and how Americans choose their leaders. But nowhere in the document is there any mention of primary elections, the process by which voters winnow down the field of candidates for president and other offices ahead of a general election. Though primary elections may seem integral to the U.S. political system, they are in fact relatively new, arising in the early 20th century to wrest power from political party bosses and place it in the hands of the people. Of course, much has changed in the last hundred years. While party bosses and political "machines" have practically disappeared, gerrymandering has greatly reduced competitive districts, urban-rural divisions have grown exponentially, and the American electorate—often motivated by social media—has grown increasingly polarized. In recent years, many have accused primary elections of undermining democracy by fueling extremism, boosting fringe candidates, and hindering compromise. Defenders of primary elections disagree, arguing they empower voters and provide an important bulwark against political corruption and a hedge against elitism. Are primary elections ruining democracy? Audio only.

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL284217

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Dealer customers.