Argument: Open primaries allow nominations inconsistent with party views

Issue Report: Open primaries


James Paterson. “Open Primaries threaten Liberal values.” Menzies House. April 20th, 2010: “widening the group of people who have preselection voting rights will undoubtedly result in less ideological candidates being preselected to represent the Liberal Party. Liberal Party members, as active committed Liberals, are likely to be signifcantly more ideological than an average Liberal voter who may register to vote in a preselection. They are more likely to place weight on philosophical sophistication and on the importance to adhering to Liberal values than general Liberal voters. Indeed, the major reason the Liberal Party Federally reversed its position on the Emissions Trading Scheme was that Liberal Party members bombarded their MPs about their strong views on the scheme. If those Party members did not have the threat of recrimination at a future preselection, they would lose all ability to influence their MPs.”

“Why open primaries are a really bad idea.” Next Left. May 26th, 2009: “Political parties are also communities of shared belief. I am not a member of the Labour party because I prefer the colour red to the colours yellow, blue or green, but because I have certain values and I judge the Labour party to be the best (if highly imperfect) vehicle for bringing these values to bear on the political system. In choosing candidates for an election, party members choose someone to stand up for these values, make the case for policies that reflect these values to the wider public, and act on them if elected.

Under an open primary system, however, party members would lose the ability to choose candidates who reflect the distinctive values of the party to which they belong. If an open primary system works, it means that candidates are chosen who reflect the values of the public at large. The political party thus loses the ability to stand candidates who offer ideas to the public who express its distinctive values and beliefs. What, one might say, is then the point of having political parties? The open primary effectively undermines political parties as communities of shared belief. As such, it is also a fundamental blow to freedom of association.

That’s why the open primaries proposal is illiberal. But why is it also undemocratic?”