Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Open Primaries Discourage 'Extremism': What's Good About That?

An open primary is a primary election “in which voters can take part in either the Democratic or Republican nominating contests regardless of their party affiliation. Currently, at least 20 states feature open primaries.

Are open primaries a good thing? In an editorial, Calling Democrats: Switch parties now, and fight Trump, the New Jersey Star-Ledger thinks they are. Why?

Nearly half the states allow party members to vote in either primary. Hard-core party loyalists tend to dislike that; they feel each party has a right to pick it's [sic] favorite without meddling by the enemy.

But a closed primary encourages extremism. Candidates preach to their own choirs, so Democrats tend to move left and Republicans right.

As the editorial suggests, the Star-Ledger calls on New Jersey Democrats to re-register as Republicans before the deadline of 55 days before the June 7 primary election (NJ has a closed primary system) so as to help prevent Donald Trump from becoming the GOP presidential nominee.

I left these comments, which were singled out as a “featured comment” out of more than 500 posted:

“But a closed primary encourages extremism.”

Translation: “A closed primary encourages ideas.” That would be great.

“Extremism” is a useless smear term that lumps together all candidates who hold a consistent set of principles as a guide to his political platform. They could be good ideas or bad ideas. True, primaries are fought over the party base, and the winners then modify their positions for the general election. But so what? Thanks to party primaries, we get to know the candidates’
actual philosophical leanings. Philosophy is a better indication of how a president will govern than campaign rhetoric. But, according to the Star-Ledger, voters shouldn’t get to enjoy an election that actually gives them a choice between two opposing philosophies.

And this year, thanks to so many open primaries, we probably won’t have that choice. The Democrats have a solid extremist, Bernie Sanders. But where is the Republican extremist? It’s certainly not Trump. I have long suspected that much of Trump’s strength, given his generally statist/authoritarian impulses, is related to Democrat crossover votes. Ironically, if Democrats heed the Star-Ledger’s call to switch to stop Trump, it may backfire and actually strengthen Trump. Be careful what you wish for. With Trump the likely GOP nominee, we’ll have a choice between two Democrats. Where is the pro-individual liberty candidate? The last credibly, albeit not consistently (extreme), pro-liberty Republican presidential candidate was Ronald Reagan, and we had a reasonably solid choice between the Left and Right.

Not that today’s Republican Party is capable of selecting a good pro-liberty alternative to the Democrats. But at least a Cruz or a Rubio lean in that direction, and would give us a decent alternative to the Trump-like Hillary and the openly demagogic national socialist Bernie Sanders. Probably because of open primary voting, we won’t have that choice.

“Extremism” is a cowardly and childish excuse for not wanting to deal with fundamental ideas. We need more extremists. We need more real choices. Bring back closed primaries across the board.

Related Reading:

The Virtue of Extremism

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