Many people think that the GOP win in the mid term elections was a vote in favor of political conservatism; as this article points out, nothing could be further from the truth.
So, where should the next battle be fought (and won)? At the state level, and the enemy is the political party system itself.
Both the GOP and the Democratic Party, in most states, have “closed primaries”; that means the “candidate” is decided by the party before the primary even occurs.
We had a recent, filthy example of this right here in Pennsylvania (right here in Venango County, in fact) 4 years ago during the Governor primaries. The GOP had endorsed Tom Corbett, which made him the de facto candidate. When the Venango County Republican Party dared to allow another candidate, Sam Rohrer, to speak at the local Republican fund raiser dinner, you’d have thought they invited Bill Clinton to speak. Our local party office was informed by the “party operatives” from Harrisburg that they would never, NEVER step out of line like that again. Furthermore, they were forbidden from having any materials available in the local office for anyone other than Tom Corbett, the party endorsed candidate. Tom Corbett got the money, the publicity, and every other support that the Party machinery could offer – all before he ever “won” the primary. Now we see where THAT tactic got the GOP.
The problem with “open primaries” is that, in order to be relevant, they must be truly open. Often an open primary is only “partially open” which tends to skew results.
In a truly open primary, party affiliation is not considered; all candidates appear on one ballot, and each voter selects the candidate of his/her choice. The three candidates with the most votes in the primary then appear on the ballot in the general election, which becomes, in effect, a run off election. So, conceivably, you could end up with 3 republican candidates and no democratic candidate; or you could end up with a Republican, a Democrat, and a Libertarian on the ballot, or even (God help us) a Socialist on the ballot, since each candidate has, in theory, the same opportunity to woo the electorate, and the same chance of appearing on the ballot.
The “next best thing” to an open primary is a closed primary with NO ENDORSEMENTS. In this scenario, party affiliation is required to vote in the primary, and the voter can only participate in the primary for the party to which they are affiliated. This type of primary preserves the equal opportunity of the candidates, at least within a given party, while ensuring that each party is represented on the general election ballot. In order for this scenario to be effective and acceptable, the party machinery of each party would either have to be constrained to give NO support to a candidate until after the primary, OR they would have to give the SAME level of support to all duly registered candidates of their party and let the party affiliated electorate choose the candidate to appear on the ballot in the general election.
The 2014 mid term elections were not a vote in favor of the GOP; the results were simply an electorate with no other choices. THAT is what has got to change.
It’s time to start systematically dismantling the political status quo, so that we can return to truly free and open elections, with candidates chosen by We, the People. Only then will real change come to our states, and our nation.
–Kent Cornmesser (c) 2014