Mike Kueber's Blog

August 2, 2012

Crying out for a Top Two, unified primary

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:12 am
Tags: ,

The latest primary runoff, especially the victory of Ted Cruz over David Dewhurst for a Senate seat in Texas, reveals a fundamental flaw with the American electoral process – i.e., its tendency to give voters a choice in November between two relatively extreme candidates.  Who, pray tell, believes that is a good thing?

As blogger Jonathan Bernstein posted in the WashingtonPost.com just prior to Cruz’s victory: 

  • “The reason this primary matters, however, is that it will be yet another step in the increasing confidence within the Republican Party that there is no such thing as too radical. The truth is that Republicans have, in fact, paid a price for nominating Tea Party favorites; indeed, they might well control the Senate right now if they had nominated more moderate candidates in a few states, and in others they were able to win with radical candidates who still underperformed Republican potential. But in primaries, a reputation for being a Tea Partier certainly appears to be a big plus, and winners are (of course) easier to remember than losers. So if the results turn out to be as expected, it’s going to wind up as another example of how moderates are doomed in the GOP.  And that kind of reputation tends to build on itself. If you’re looking to support Republicans in 2014, you’ll think twice before backing anyone who reminds you of Dewhurst, because you’ll believe you are just wasting your time or money.  The other big point: As far as anyone can tell, there are no actual policy positions in which Cruz is more conservative than Dewhurst. The entire Cruz campaign has been about attitude and unwillingness to ever compromise.  So not only are new Republican members of Congress more likely than ever to be lock-step supporters of whatever currently counts as conservative, but they’re going to be more and more dedicated to fighting, whatever the cost, instead of compromising.  This isn’t likely to end well for anyone.”

The best way to reverse the trend to polarization in American politics is to minimize the influence of centralized political parties.  American voters by nature are practical and pragmatic, not doctrinaire ideologues.  Their political philosophy on a spectrum would resemble a Bell Curve, not Twin Peaks. 

But when you segregate the voters by party affiliation in the primaries, you tend to attract the most extreme voters because of they have an opportunity for oversized influence.  Instead of encouraging these people, as the separate-primary system does, we moderates needs to discourage them by drowning out their votes in a Top Two unified primary.

In a Top Two primary, all candidates would be listed and all voters could pick any one of the candidates.  The two candidates with the most votes would advance to the November election.  Such a primary would attract moderate voters and moderate candidates, and who, pray tell, thinks that would be a bad thing?

California is experimenting with Top Two primaries.  Let’s hope it succeeds there and moves east.

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