Monday, February 25, 2008

Open Primaries Are Preferable

The Feb. 25th Intelligencer Journal's editorial, "The Party's choice" defends the exclusion of independents from voting in Pennsylvania's Democratic and Republican primaries.

The Intell endorses closed primaries, and asks: "Why should people outside the party decide who the party's nominee should be?"

A week ago, former U. S. Senator and former Chair of the Republican National Committee "Bill" Brock of Tennessee spoke on C-Span and decried the excessive partisanship and divisiveness now characteristic of the U. S. Congress. Where Democrats and Republicans used to play softball games after hours and often would reach across the aisle to achieve bi-partisan support, Brock maintains that today Congress is unduly polarized.

He blamed what has occurred in the House of Representatives largely on the redrawing of congressional district boundaries over the past two decades, whereby the parties were virtually assured that districts would be safe either for Republicans or Democrats. (It is rare for an incumbent Congressman to be defeated in an election.)

Brock said the result of gerrymandering was that legislators did not have to be concerned about winning the general election, but instead had to defend themselves against challenges from single issue ideologues in the primaries.

Brock indicated that only about 17% of those registered vote in primaries, and primaries tend to draw the more extreme segments, be they liberal or conservative. The result is, over time, the contrived districts have selected representatives who neither are receptive to working across party lines or to compromise.

An advantage of "open primaries," whereby independents can vote as Democrats or Republicans in the primaries, would be to dilute the influence of the extreme fringes of the party and to assure that those chosen in primary are more likely to reflect the views of the preponderance of the more moderate party constituency.