Sunday, March 18, 2007

Party Primaries

In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court (a more political institution than it will admit) struck down California's Proposition 198, which was the effort by Californians to moderate their choice of candidates and wrest control of their elections back from the partisan political class.

Even if one grants the court the benefit of the doubt in its strict reading of choice and party primaries, it still missed a critical point. The court called the selection of party nominees "internal processes."

"[T]he process by which political parties select their nominees," the majority wrote, "are not wholly public affairs that States may regulate freely."

In so ruling, the court neglected the fact that party primaries are the first steps in a larger process by which the electorate chooses its representatives, a process that is a wholly public affair.

Partisans, by simple virtue of having legislated the process, have co-opted arguably the most important segment of that wholly public affair, the segment in which the most choices are presented on the ballot.

Primaries must be abolished. That would be a first step toward making government more representative.

I get a lot of grief from party proponents when I make this analogy, but I believe it clarifies this issue. If the two major parties were the Nazi and Stalinist parties, would you feel comfortable voting for either party's "Chosen One," candidates that came out of each party's "internal processes"?

Primaries have usurped a fundamental piece of the process by which Americans choose their representatives. Does this bother you? Open primaries like the one in Louisiana are the answer ...

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