Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Open Primaries and Other Extreme Remedies for Extreme Ills of American Democracy


Drastic times call for drastic measures." This phrase comes to mind for me when I read pleas for political "moderation." (This phrase goes back to the Latin 'extremis malis extrema remedia' - 'extreme remedies for extreme ills.') Speaking of which, see  The Debt Crisis: Systemic and Uncontrolled Disease of Partisanship Dr. Jessie Fields tells us ‘I’m not an expert on the economy, I’m a 25 year physician and I recognize disease when it’s systemic and uncontrolled, and the two parties are strangling our democracy. We as a nation need to turn our attention to reforming the political process. As independents we support comprehensive nonpartisan restructuring of the political process; we think that’s at the heart of this crisis."

I am also reminded of a Talk Talk (a weekly commentary from an independent point of view on the Sunday talk shows that Fred Newman and Jackie Salit did) back in February of 2009, which in part went like this?
Newman: Yes, I think he’s saying, There’s a way that we’ve conducted business for hundreds of years – all kinds of business, political business, social business, economic business. And, if you just look (don’t analyze, look), what it’s led to is something resembling what could reasonably be called the collapse of the United States of America as a coherent working social system. So, says Obama, who knows how to look, we probably should do something different.

Salit: Right.

Newman: And a lot of people say, No. Remarkably enough, some people say, I don’t care if the American system has been destroyed by the old ways. Let’s keep doing the same thing. That’s the unstated debate that’s taking place in the country. Obama has played a major role in creating that debate, which is wonderful. That’s what he’s doing.

Salit:  OK.

Newman: That’s often how history works. Something fails for so long that the patient is not only dead, but the corpse starts to rot. Then someone comes along and says, I think this medical procedure has not worked out.
Still, regardless of differences in strategy, I am heartened by the growing legions of voters and politicians who are calling for open primaries and the inclusion of independent voters as full participants in our political process.  Hats off to the tens and hundreds of thousands of independents across the country who have been calling for open primaries as one of those 'extreme remedies,' and to the political leaders who are attempting to follow the "doctors of democracy" in our country -- ordinary Americans.

OPEN PRIMARIES
  • How closed primaries further polarize our politics (By Mark A. Siegel, executive director of the Democratic National Committee from 1974 to 1977. Washington Post/Opinions) The hybrid model used in New Hampshire allows registered independents, who often determine general election outcomes, to participate in the Democratic or Republican primary while protecting each major party from crossover by the other. If expanded to all states, such a system could moderate American politics...
  • Politics and the prisoners' dilemma (By Jonathan Sallet, O'Melveny and Myers LLP, The Hill/Congress Blog) Attempt to address hyper-partisanship: Under the new law, in full effect for the 2012 elections, members of Congress will run in an "open" primary, all parties together, and the top two winners, regardless of party, run in the general election. The hope is that the process makes the votes of independents as important as those of registered Democrats and Republicans (who traditionally have chosen the candidates in the general election).
  • Closed primaries and “radicalization” (by Jazz Shaw, Hot Air) Hard core partisans are likely to scoff at the question, seeing as much differentiation as possible as a good thing. But is there a down side to keeping independent (or the dreaded word… “moderate”) voters out of the primary process? The two chief arguments against this are easy to find. First, how small of a “tent” do you want and how damaging is it to have a variety of opinions and ideologies represented in the primary? Second, and perhaps more of a pragmatic notion, is the issue of electability – a subject which seems to have become a dirty word of late. After the base from each party selects the nominees, the center picks the winner every four years. At what point does purity cross the line to the Pyrrhic?

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