“Political Parties Belong to Their Members”

Roger Pilon on laws forcing open primaries on political parties [Cato Institute]

13 Comments

  • If the parties want the government out of their nomination process, the government should be reimbursed for the cost of the nomination elections. From what I can tell it’s not an insignificant amount of money state and local governments are spending on these “private” parties.

    • Or they could go back to a pure caucus / state convention system where the party foots the whole bill for the process.

    • I agree. The parties can hold their primary elections in any way they want to, but why do the taxpayers have to foot the bill?

      And IF taxpayers are going to pay, then why shouldn’t all primaries be open to all registered voters? Independents get frozen out of the process entirely in closed-primary states – and they are 43% of the electorate (as of January 2015).

      I’m all for closed primaries as long as the government isn’t involved in running them.

    • This is the way I’ve always looked at it. Why am I paying for something I have no chance to participate in. The parties should pay for their own primary/caucuses, not the taxpayer.

  • What is the govt’s rationale, sincere or otherwise, for mandating open primaries?

    • The government is merely the party in charge at the moment. So the question is what do the see as the advantage of open primaries. Depends on the election result they want as to who to allow to vote.
      See ballotpedia for primary results by open/closed. (https://ballotpedia.org/Closed_primary)

      Cruz seems to do better with a closed primary, while Trump excels at open. Trump fans likely differ as a group from traditional registered republicans, including crossover from otherwise democrat leaning voters. Likewise difference with Sanders/Clinton each benefiting from opposing systems.

  • This was the argument used by the Democratic Party in the south prior to World War II when they would limit primary voters to whites only.

  • Thx for the link, gasman.

    The arguments for an open primary seem weak, on review, esp in the age of flash mobs and internet communication. My own guess is that the parties themselves see it as a prime opportunity to recruit new members regardless of the crossover risk, albeit that risk is growing.

    But I’m a Canadian and so lack any firsthand familiarity with the process.

  • I prefer a single open primary as in California, enhanced by party conventions to decide which candidates have the right to put that party’s label (Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, etc) next to their name on the ballot. In one-party districts, the general election run-off would likely have two candidates with the same party label, but at least one of them is likely to have some interest in moderate and libertarian voters.

  • If a vague memory serves me right, open primaries were originally a civil rights measure. Suppose you have a situation like that in the post-Reconstruction South where only one party, the Democratic Party, has a chance of winning an election, so everything depends on who that party nominates. If the primary is closed, the party can restrict its membership to white people and so keep black people from being elected. If the primary is open, if there are enough black voters, they can nominate black candidates, or white candidates sympathetic to black people.

    • If that’s the rational behind open primaries, and given the fact that open primaries are the only reason Trump is the Republican front runner, I think we can say that open primaries have been an abject failure.

    • “If the primary is closed, the party can restrict its membership to white people and so keep black people from being elected.”

      If there are enough people in opposition to this no-blacks policy that they could have a hope of winning the primary of the very party that has the no-blacks policy, perhaps they should form their own party, because they clearly have a large amount of clout.

      If the majority of the voters are racist, the black candidate isn’t going to win the primary – or the general election, if they somehow do win the primary – anyway.

      And you can always run as an independent. If the voters don’t want to vote for you because you don’t have a D by your name, that’s their choice. You have the right to tell them they’re stupid for voting that way, but you don’t have the right to force the Democrats to give you that D.

      The main problem with open primaries is: Imagine Hillary Clinton runs as a Republican. All the Democrats vote for her, and the Republicans split their vote among several candidates, so she wins. Now she gets to spend Republican money on her general election campaign, get input on the party platform, and claim Republican endorsement? Shouldn’t the Republican Party itself get to decide who they actually want to run?

    • Of more interest then what drove the move from closed to open primaries, is what drove the move away from caucuses and/or state conventions to government run primaries.