Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Open Or Closed Primaries?

It's fashionable to have an opinion about open-versus-closed primaries today, but I'm going to share mine anyway. I'm okay with open primaries, but I prefer a closed primary system.

Open primaries give the party a wider pool of potential members. If a lot of non-members see hope for your party, but are only willing to join on condition that a particular candidate becomes the representative, then your party has an opportunity to attract a lot of new members by letting those non-members participate. That's good for the party.

The drawback, of course, is that non-members are not invested in the party and are not as likely to look out for its best interests. If you have a club at school, say--an official club, sponsored by the school--you're not going to want the whole school to participate in the club's election process. It's your club, and there could be people in other clubs who would actually benefit from messing with your club. So it makes sense to only let members vote for who represents the club.

Voting for a party representative is not the same as voting for President. You are not electing a public official. You are electing a club representative. So when non-members complain that they are being "disenfranchised," they are insulting people who actually are disenfranchised. The right to vote is not the right to vote for somebody else's party's representative in an election.

If you think Bernie would have won New York had it been an open primary, you should check your assumptions. True, Bernie could draw more independents. I would bet he would have done *better* had it been an open primary. But I would not bet he would have won. The fact is, Clinton has won 11 of the 18 open primaries so far. She wins more open primaries than closed ones.

For one thing, I imagine she does attract a lot of independents. She may also be attracting a lot of Republicans. You don't need to be a registered Democrat to believe that Hillary is the best candidate out there.

I'm all for people voicing their complaints about how the system works. It would be great if issues raised during the present campaign lead to systemic improvements and greater participation and turnout in future elections. I just hope the criticism of the system is as constructive as possible, and not irrational anti-establishment sentiment.

For example, Sanders supporters and surrogates include the superdelegates in their list of problems with the current Democratic Party primary system. And yet, many of them also argues that Bernie's supporters should hold out hope that the superdelegates might hand Bernie the nomination even if he loses in the voting process. It is impossible to take criticism of the system seriously if you claim we should happy if it works in your candidate's favor.

If you don't like how the system works, fine. If you only like how the system works when you win, then you might want to reconsider your argument. I have a problem with "anything goes, so long as we win."