President Donald Trump came under massive criticism by Democrats and media pundits when, at a rally in New Hampshire, he encouraged fellow Republicans to vote for “the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats” in that state’s presidential primary.
Critics expressed shock that such mischief would be promoted in a primary. But where have they been? This has been going on since the open primary process was established in 34 states in the union.
The problem is not with those who are acting within their legal authority to vote for whomever they choose, even if it’s for Machiavellian reasons; the problem lies with those misguided legislators who promoted open primaries in the first place.
There is a reason someone registers in a particular party, and that is to help shape the future of the party’s leadership, platform and standard bearers. When we join a party, we commit to an alliance with like-minded people. So why in the world would we allow the political opposition to weigh in on whom we would designate to lead our party? And that goes for both Democrats and Republicans.
Editorialists over the years have touted open primaries as being a reform that expands the democratic process to millions, when in fact the opposite is true. They actually dilute the vote of those who take the time to register in a particular party.
In 2018, the Philadelphia Inquirer promoted an open primary on the grounds that “more than 1 million voters in Pennsylvania are registered as independents, not affiliated, or with some minor parties, leaving about one and seven voters out of the primary process.”
But it’s not as though these individuals are being denied access to the ballot because of a poll tax. They have every right in the world to simply register with a particular party. If they don’t, that’s their choice, but they have no right to tell those committed to a party that they, the non-affiliated, must be allowed influence in a party that they refuse to join.
The Inquirer further suggested that “closed primaries tend to produce more for extreme partisan candidates.” But if there are more extreme candidates being elected, it is far more likely to stem from the partisan manner in which gerrymandering creates more homogenous legislative districts.
Late last year, the Oregonian stated: “If the state truly values voter access, it shouldn’t leave the decision of whether to open up taxpayer-funded primary races to party committees, whose interests are partisan and narrow by definition. Oregonians need greater say in deciding who advances to the general election.”
To the contrary, by definition a party is partisan. Why should an ideological debate within the party be non-partisan? It defeats the entire rationale for creating a party in the first instance. If an Oregonian wants a say in who advances to the general election, he or she should simply check off the box for a particular party when registering to vote.
The Sun Sentinel in Florida stated that closed primary advocates “…seek to simply hinder the participation of independents, (and) claim they deserve the freedom to associate only with their party faithful. No, that’s not freedom. That’s discrimination against those who don’t want to be beholden to one party or publicly declare a party preference… What they don’t admit is that party crossing is easy now, too. Simply register in the opposite party and do as you wish.”
The editorial gets it wrong. Voters indeed have the freedom to register in whichever party they so choose. To say it’s discriminatory for Democrats to ban Republicans from their party, or vice versa, is simply astonishing. I guess it’s discriminatory to prevent a defender in a football game to huddle with the offense as they’re calling their plays.
And as to the idea that it’s easy to just switch parties for the primary and then quickly switch back again, that is not the case in the states that get it right. In New York, one must be registered almost a year in advance to be eligible to vote in the following year’s primary. Now that may be an excessively long period of time, but some type of realistic gap must exist to ensure that party switching is not made into a game.
The do-gooder rhetoric associated with open primaries was further on exhibit in the Sun editorial when it cited the following testimony from a Miami hearing: “You can choose to guide Florida to the next step or to hold us hostage to a misguided nostalgia and extreme political views … The people of Florida have made it clear — they want to see an openness in government and that starts with elections.”
These are probably the same nostalgia-phobic folks who despise our inexpensive, hack-free, proven lever voting machines, and called for their replacement with “new and improved” electronic apps and machines. The same type that created havoc in the Iowa primary.
The Sun concedes that with open primaries “schemers will always be present …” Well, if you already know that scheming will be part of the open primary process, you must drop your sanctimonious, feigned shock when such potential mischief actually does occur, as it did when President Trump dropped his bomb at the New Hampshire rally.
Originally published 2/14/20 on Newsmax