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20.8.07

LA GOP closing of primaries politically astute move

The Louisiana Republican Party made the right call in closing its federal-office primaries to improve its electoral fortunes, and in doing so have put Democrats into a quandary.

The GOP’s Central Committee voted overwhelmingly to bar independent (‘no-party,” technically) registrants from being able to participate in its party primaries to make for a true closed primary system. The new state law allowing parties to do this had an option to allow for open primaries such as in Texas where any voter can participate in just one party’s primary, but that was left up to the parties.

While some argued that not allowing non-party registrants the possibility of voting in GOP primaries for federal office (and there are almost as many of them in the state as there are Republicans) was exclusionary, others noted that the most important decision a party can make is who its nominee will be and that should be a privilege only of those wishing to officially affiliate with it, and not something to be decided at least partially by non-members.

It’s also the smart thing politically. There may be some registrants who have voted regularly Republican that now could find themselves unable to do so in a primary – but they still can in the general election. Further, if they find it so important to vote for Republicans in all elections, all they have to do is change their registration. Research shows that the surest way to build party loyalty, including straight-ticket voting for its candidates, is for them to adopt the party label through registration; the effect will be weakened if made optional even if they vote often for GOP candidates. This contradicted opponents’ arguments that somehow votes would be sacrificed by closing the primaries.

Opponents also foolishly argued that somehow it would make the GOP be seen as “exclusionary” to be exploited as a campaign issue by Democrats if they did not close theirs. Needless to say, that argument from an intuitive, commonsensical standpoint holds little water, to think Democrats actually would make an issue of it with so many other more important ones out there, or that it would actually sway anybody.

Realize that the true source of the objection was that some feared social conservative elements would be too influential in party nominations. This was made overt when a motion came to change apportionment rules on the Central Committee. It would have reduced the rural representation on the Committee where presumably such voters are overweighed. The Committee makes decisions such as primary participation and any official endorsements of candidates. This also was defeated.

(Consider the sources of the objections: John Treen, the only man ever to lose an election to David Duke, and Peppi Bruneau, who couldn’t even get his son elected to his state House seat even by resigning early. These aren’t exactly the kind of guys who know how to win elections. Consider also that the Republican winner of the last Senate race, Sen. David Vitter, is identified with the socially-conservative wing of the party, but that the Republican loser of the previous Senate contest, former Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell, was not.)

But when the Democrats’ Central Committee meets in the near future, expect them not to close their primaries. They should realize that their activist elements, who would be represented disproportionately in a closed primary, are far too liberal to win statewide elections, or even anything outside of the present Second Congressional District. If they are smart, they will allow in more moderate independents that will produce more moderate nominees.

Yet if this comes about, the GOP catches another break. This would allow Republican-minded independents to go in and “raid” Democrat primaries – knowing they can’t vote in the GOP one but preferring any Republican candidate, these people will vote for the most unelectable Democrat in that party’s primary to increase Republican chances of wining the general election.

So in this pre-emptive way, the GOP closing of primaries also is a politically astute move, putting state Democrats in the position to risk the effects of raiding, or in order to avoid it to put the party more firmly in the hands of those who will drag it to defeat. The state Republicans often have not done smart things, but this decision surely is clever.

2 comments:

Charles said...

"Raiding" the enemy primary is risky business. My wife voted for Blanco. She wanted Jindal to win and figured Blanco was such a weak candidate and so dearth of ideas that she would surely lose against Bobby.

brian said...

Why would any great american encouraging others to participate in raiding other parties primaries? Have we lost our way? Is it elect republicans at any cost?