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As well as being Super Tuesday, today is Saint David's Day. The day celebrating Wales' patron saint. But who was he?
St David’s status as a modern national icon is a good example of how easily myth can trump historical evidence (or rather the lack of it). He lived and died fifteen hundred years ago, during a period of Welsh history often referred to as ‘the Age of the Saints’. The fifth and sixth centuries saw an intense bout of religious activity in Wales as holy men like David preached the word of God, founded churches and, if the monkish historians of the Middle Ages are to be believed, performed all manner of miracles.
For a slightly less sceptical take on the life of the Saint, we can dig back into Albarn Butler's Lives Of The Saints, published in the 18th Century. David was pretty hardcore:
By his rule he obliged all his monks to assiduous manual labour in the spirit of penance: he allowed them the use of no cattle to ease them at their work in tilling the ground. They were never suffered to speak but on occasions of absolute necessity, and they never ceased to pray, at least mentally, during their labour. They returned late in the day to the monastery, to read, write, and pray. Their food was only bread and vegetables, with a little salt, and they never drank anything better than a little milk mingled with water.
After their repast they spent three hours in prayer and adoration; then took a little rest, rose at cock-crowing, and continued in prayer till they went out to work. Their habit was of the skins of beasts. When any one petitioned to be admitted, he waited ten days at the door, during which time he was tried by harsh words, repeated refusals, and painful labours, that he might learn to die to himself. When he was admitted, he left all his worldly substance behind him, for the monastery never received anything on the score of admission. All the monks discovered their most secret thoughts and temptations to their abbot.
This week, we're exploring things that have been dubbed "super". Yesterday we started with the concept of the superman. Today, on the Tuesday of the week we're marking with a Super Week because of Super Tuesday, what else could we do but look at Super Tuesday?
What is Super Tuesday? It's simply a day in the long US Presedential Campaign when a number of states hold their primaries - the poll where a party attempts to choose a candidate for President. (At the primaries, voters are actually choosing people to go to the Conventions to vote for the candidates.)
Like superheroes, the origins of Super Tuesday are complicated. Wikipedia claims the first Super Tuesday was in 1984; How Stuff Works pegs it to 1988; and NPR says that it started in 1980. Perhaps it's appropriate that there are many candidates fighting for acceptance.
Whichever of the 1980s contests you decide is the original start - 1980 saw just three states take part; in 1984 there were no less than three Super Tuesdays; in 1988 it was limited to Southern States - the thinking behind the cramming together of these votes was the same.
States which held their primaries early had been - ran the thinking - getting an unfair voice in national politics. Iowa and New Hampshire - which still vote earlier than Super Tuesday - find their results resonate and can give the impression that one candidate or other is actually doing better than they might have been nationally. (Think, for example, of how New Hampshire implied that Bernie Sanders was overhauling Hillary Clinton.)
In addition, those states which were going it alone - because of their ability to 'bounce' candidates - received a lot of extra attention and visits from the would-be Presidents. Super Tuesdays would, it was expected, smooth out these perceived flaws in the system.
The holding of votes all across the nation isn't without its own problems, of course. In 1984, Gary Hart was challenging Walter Mondale for the right to be humiliated by Ronald Reagan and on one of that year's Super Tuesdays split campaigning duties with his wife. She went to the West Coast; he took the East. Hart told voters in New Jersey that it was good news for his wife that she got to campaign in California. It was like telling your maternal Grandma that you'd rather be at the other, better Grandma's house; Hart managed to turn a 15 point lead in the polls into a defeat. It wasn't the most damaging thing Hart would say in public - that he held back for the next election cycle - but it wounded his campaign.
In 2008, CNN tried to get the idea of Super Dooper Tuesday to fly, but mercifully the idea didn't stick.
So to this year's Super Tuesday. Here's a quick guide to the things to watch for:
As we write, at 8am GMT, Super Tuesday 2016 has already had its first results - Americans who support the Democrats, living in Wellington, New Zealand have already voted. Bernie Sanders has taken the expat vote there.
To wind up our quick clatter through Super Tuesday, though, we end by paying tribute to the band The Shazam, who took on the unenviable task of attempting to use a day of Political horsetrading as the heart of a metaphor for a failing love affair.