Argument: Open primaries favor moderate/pragmatic candidates

Issue Report: Open primaries


Jim Boren. “Why open primary is good.” Merced Sun Star. June 15th, 2010: “Here’s the real reason the major parties in California don’t like open primaries: They will lose power if politics become more moderate in the Golden State. They fear that lawmakers in the political middle will find compromises to our most difficult problems. That would mean that the political extremists on the left and the right will not be able to control the debate. Party opposition to open primaries goes back to money. The Republicans raise money by telling people on their mailing list that they need to send $100 to the party or the Democrats will push through tax increases. The Democrats raise money by telling its members to send money or the Republicans will close the public schools. How are they going to raise money if all they have to report to party members is the budget crisis has been solved with a bipartisan agreement to make cuts and raise revenue?”

Why open primaries? “Open primaries encourage candidates with a broad appeal, who favor pragmatic rather than partisan solutions. They allow for the development of new coalitions of voters and candidates.”

“EDITORIAL: Open primary sure worth a try.” Waco Tribunal. June 10, 2010: “We’ll let professional political pundits dissect the array of primary election outcomes Tuesday, the largest single day of elections in the land aside from the general elections this fall. However, we admit being intrigued by one development: the passage of Proposition 14 in California, allowing for wide-open primaries in that sprawling state.

It would hardly be the first such primary in the nation — Washington state and Louisiana have variations of it, as well. But one reason we’ll be watching it in the future is because it focuses, and in a big way, more on the candidates and public policy, less on party loyalty and partisanship.

The thinking is an open primary will finally force candidates to cater less to the fringe and extremist elements, which currently dominate political parties, and shape their campaigns more to the Great American Middle, where polls repeatedly suggest most of us prefer to roam.

[…] We’ll withhold judgment on its usefulness in Texas, but we do like its intent — making our candidates more accountable to the mainstream and marginalizing those prone to rabid rantings rooted in divisive ideology. We only hope it works as envisioned.”

Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California: “An open primary doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to have a more moderate Legislature, but it’s more likely.”[1]

“Power: Open primaries empower the middle.” Lansing Noise. June 27th, 2010: “the real contest is in the August primary. Primary elections produce much smaller turnouts than general elections – sometimes only 10 percent or 15 percent of eligible voters wind up voting. And those who vote in Democratic primaries tend to come from the party’s base of left-leaning liberal activists. […] The result: Winners of primary elections in safe Democratic districts tend to be on the liberal-left end of the political scale. […] The opposite pattern pertains in safe Republican districts. Voters in their primary elections tend to be farther to the right than the average voter. The predictable result: GOP primary winners tend to be on the conservative end of the political scale. […] So our election system skews the results of both primary and general elections toward the extremes. Most independents I talk with are frustrated at being dealt out of a politics that systematically marginalizes moderate folks.”