The Democratic primary campaigns of 1972 were expensive and exhausting and to say the least -- or the most -- inconclusive on issues. They were a significant force in choosing the Democratic nominee, Senator George McGovern. They also showed that the Democratic party was greatly divided, if not confused, and that it would have difficulty in uniting behind the nominee.
The 1972 primaries did little to clarify the issues. In Florida and Michigan the race was principally for the school board (busing issue), and in Wisconsin for county or city assessor (property tax). Only in California was there a clear confrontation on the militaryspending issue. The problem of welfare reform was not adequately debated in any of the primaries.
This is not to fault the primary system itself. If there had been no primaries in 1972 and if instead there had been precinct caucuses followed by county and state conventions in all the states, the picture might have been just as clouded.
Yet it is difficult to demonstrate that Democratic presidential primaries over the last twenty-five years have had many positive results either in determination of issues or in selection of candidates.
One exception was 1960, the year in which Senator John Kennedy established himself as a candidate through victories over Senator Hubert Humphrey in the Wisconsin and the West Virginia primaries and then went on to win the nomination and the November election. There is no solid reason, however, to believe that the primaries apart from the person determined the political events of that year or to believe that Senator Humphrey, had he won the same early primaries, would have been nominated.
In 1952 Senator Estes Kefauver challenged President Harry Truman in early primaries. Shortly after Kefauver won the New Hamp