The Fulcrum has a piece on “opening” New York State primaries. It makes a familiar argument:
Primary elections are crucial to our electoral outcomes because they determine which representatives have a better standing in the general election.
There is nothing stopping independent voters from running a candidate in a general election — except maybe their inability to agree on that candidate.
And getting people to agree on one candidate (or technically a number that can win) is a major reason why “parties” emerge.
I put “parties” in quotation marks for two reasons. One is that many hear it as an anti-reform cudgel. The other is that “parties” may not track the two-party divide. I am thinking here of quasi-party organizations like Cincinnati’s Charter Committee or the Murkowski organization in Alaska.
Numerous public officials have won office as independents. Names that come to mind include Bloomberg, Lieberman, Ventura, and Weicker. Each of them did so on their own ballot line in a general election.
It’s time to retire the claim that nominating primaries equal disenfranchisement.
Yesterday, I received an email from the Open Primaries organization. It included the following words. What’s interesting is the suggestion that proportional representation (PR) be designed to cater to independents. Independent-politics reformers typically oppose PR, and PR supporters typically have party proportionality in mind.
There is an accelerating conversation about electoral reform happening. Proportional representation, ranked choice voting, nonpartisan and open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting (and more) are all hot topics.
We’re particularly interested in conversations, campaigns and activities that bridge the gap between structural reform and rising independence. For reform to be maximally effective it needs to be grounded completely in where the American people are and where they are headed.
And they are going independent!
Chapter 3 of More Parties or No Parties documents a similar fusion at the height of the Progressive Era. It didn’t end well!
Three things strike me now about American national politics. One is the importance of the Senate for blocking policy change. Another is the Senate’s narrow partisan division. Then there are Missouri and Nevada, where the ranked-choice movement now heads.
This post suggests that one way to save the Republic — by which I mean create a Senate that can block policy change, should the next few elections not go very well — is to get Democratic voters to help elect anti-populist Republicans in key states.
In turn, that could require state Democratic parties to stand down in the respective elections — basically what we have seen in Alaska.
I am not saying that this strategy is good or bad. Nor am I commenting on long-term implications for democratic practice. It may be that there is no other choice.