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Primaries Suck

A primary election is probably the single worst way to choose candidates for office.

A small and colorful calendar iconPosted on:June 17, 2023

I think we should get rid of primaries.

The first thing to realize is something that might not have actually occurred to you: Political parties are private entities. They are not government entities. There is no law that establishes them. As with all private entities, they have the right to run things internal to their organization as the membership sees fit, including who gets to be a member. You don’t get to tell the Knights of Columbus who its membership is, nor do you get to tell a political party. In addition, they get to choose who their leadership is and who represents and speaks for the organization.

Next, realize that very (most?) often, the people voting in primaries aren’t actually members of the party Sometimes people of opposing parties get to vote in a primary. Some states eve have open primaries, where literally anyone can vote in any primary. Sorry, but that is nuts.

Third, literally anyone can run publicly in a primary. In most cases, all you have to do is gather a few signatures and pay a filing fee. The party usually can’t even stop you from running. And then they can’t stop you from winning.

Only the excessively motivated and partisan people generally vote in primaries. Thus, they tend to elect people on the extremes. Trump and Bernie come to mind, though the Democrats had the good sense to not let Bernie win. We get absolute nutjobs like Kari Lake, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Gaetz as a result of a small group of non-representative voters picking the candidates. I know more people should vote, but they don’t. The ones who do vote cast their votes for the Marjorie Taylor Greene’s of the world. This is how “primary” became a verb, as in “Kneel before Trump or we’ll primary you!”

Primaries gave us Trump. Of all the votes cast in the 2016 Republican primaries, something like 80% of them were not for Trump. That is a lot of people not wanting the candidate to be the candidate. This is insane. Yet somehow Trump ends up as the nominee.

And does it make any sense that primaries in a few states that schedule their elections as early as possible should make or break who gets the nomination. Iowa shouldn’t be such a determining factor in who gets picked.

And finally, I’ll point out that primaries are divisive, and pit people against each other despite their common goal of getting a member of their party elected.

I know, I know — people think that we are a democracy. Of course we use democracy to choose our candidates! That’s great for the general election. But as a private organization, a political party is not a democratic organization, and it really shouldn’t be run like one. Everyone seems to have disdain for the “smoke-filled room,” but the fact is that is just a euphemism for, you know, the actual members of the party getting together and choosing the candidate that they think best represents them and has the best chance of winning.

Primaries have to go.

I’ve argued this pretty inartfully. Here’s a site that has better data: The Primary Problem