Friday, May 04, 2007

Tom Kopko on the problems with Primaries

A recent flap in the Prince William Republican committee regarding conventions vs primaries, which has spilled over into two Manassas Journal-Messenger stories and a Washington Post hit piece provoked Chair Tom Kopko to write an e-mail explaining the facts that the Washington Post neglected to give to its readers.

I may or may not post about that later, others in the blogosphere are discussing it for no good end.

But Tom included a succinct rebuttal of the claims for primaries, which I repeat here from his e-mail:

Top 5 Myths About Primary Elections
  1. The public should decide.” - Absolutely not. Republicans, only, should choose their nominees. This is a bald argument in favor of Democrats and Independents choosing our nominees. Unacceptable.
  2. Primaries get maximum participation.” - This is a sneaky half-truth. With Virginia’s open primaries it’s like inviting us all to go sky-diving but not mentioning that we invited extra people so now there aren’t enough parachutes for everyone. D’s and I’s take away Republicans’ parachutes/votes when they vote in our primaries. In other words, a suicidal notion.
  3. Primaries are convenient.” - Convenient for incumbents, that is. In primaries they have name recognition and existing campaign funds, and even franking privileges, to conduct expensive campaigns to the general public rather than to the Republican base.
  4. Conventions favor conservatives.” - False. Conventions favor those who care enough to vote. While it is true that conservatives tend to be the most consistent voters within the Republican base, the playing field is absolutely level.
  5. If a candidate can’t win a primary they can’t win the general election.” - False. This not only recognizes the openness of Virginia primaries, it argues that D’s and I’s are necessary to select the most electable Republican nominee. Worse it argues that Republicans alone are unable to select their own best nominee. This argument is backwards and self-defeating. "

Tom also discussed closed primaries. We have been pushing for a closed primary system, but for now it has been blocked by the courts. A closed primary would still favor incumbents, but would alleviate a lot of the other concerns of an open primary, primarily of course being the folly of letting the other party choose your nominee.

BTW, it may actually be true that an open primary makes it easier for a republican to win the general election, just as it might help if republicans had voted in the democrat primary. But that is simply because the open primary is kind of like a "pre-election", and an open primary is invariably going to pick a candidate that is more "acceptable" to independents and democrats. So long as the candidate picked is not entirely unacceptable to the rank-and-file republicans, a "moderate" will win more votes than a conservative for example.

But the goal of a party in an election is not to win the most possible votes, it is to elect the best candidate. Since we believe in "republican" principles, the "best" candidate is the one who most closely adheres to those principles. In order to get the best candidate elected, the job is NOT to find the least principled candidate and run them, but rather to SELL the conservative position to the electorate so the BEST candidate will be chosen by them.

An open primary circumvents that process by preventing the republican party from choosing the candidate who best represents the republican philosophy, instead forcing the choice of the best "compromise" candidate.

1 comment:

Citizen Tom said...

I thought that was the best part of Kopko's letter. Glad you posted and discussed it.