Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

A Fair Game

Posted by Adam Graham on June 5, 2007

Today, as I was waiting for my turn as a guest on Top Story with Kelly Klaas and Scott Martin, a discussion broke out over closed primaries and both confessed that they didn’t get it and were quite concerned by it. A challenge was given to explain why we need closed primaries and what bad had ever occured from having open primaries.

Well, I was on a bit of a tight schedule. The show was focused on Dan Popkey’s adventures in Washington, DC gay bars, and Scott and Kelly were gracious enough to give me a chance to plug my blog. Had I taken their original full invitation, I would have had half an hour, but in 20 minutes (give or take) I didn’t have time to answer the challenge. So, let me go ahead and take a crack at it for my kind hosts

Let’s imagine two baseball teams will meet on opening day. The pitchers and fielders chosen will decide the outcome of the game. Now imagine that a General Manager of one teams gets to choose the players for the other.

Doesn’t quite seem fair. Yet, this is the situation that exists in Idaho with the Open Primary where Democrats can and often do cross over to choose the Republican nominee. Some people have used this to try and support a weak candidate:

Personally, I think Dems ought to vote for Vasquez. Although he has done well raising money so far, immigration has been a hot issue. There is no guarantee that it will stay hot, and his money could trickle off for the general. Being outside the establishment he won’t be able to raise funds as well as an insider. Also, the racist right probably won’t vote for him. And last, in the event that the R beats Larry Grant, I’d rather be stuck with Vasquez than Sali.

Some have used it to try and choose a more liberal candidate

Bill Cope of the Boise Weekly warned the D’s to vote for Sorensen instead of Sali, reminding them that the last time they helped a “weak” Republican candidate in the primary, that Helen Chenoweth-Hage became a three-term incumbent.

When i was in Montana, they also have the open primary season. In the 2002 race for Flathead Valley Commissioner, an incumbent was ousted by the Mayor of Columbia Falls. After the election, word began to sift through the grapevine that the winner’s election had come as a result of Democratic cross-over in the primaries. Eventually, this contributed to the incumbment Commissioner launching a write-in bid that got 12% of the vote. Had the Democrats not nomianted a weaker candidate, Democrats could have been the net beneficiary of this, and in the long term they may have been, as this frayed relations in the GOP.

What happened? A lot of activists came to the conclusion that even though the process of crossover voting was perfectly legal, it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t legitimate, the nomination had been stolen! This made the job harder on the Republican nominee, the Republican Party, and eventually the County. It was a corruption of the political process where in a lightly contested year, Republicans saw Democrats choose their nominee. I should add that the Republican that was chosen did turn out to be a fine commissioner, but had his victory not been tained by Democrat Crossovers, he would have had an easier time. Some might not be satified because this example comes from Montana. Really, Montana’s laws on open primaries are just the same as Idaho’s. Part of wisdom is avoiding other’s mistakes, not insisting they happen here first.

The primary is for members of the party to choose their nominees. Our open primaries are an absurdity that are unfair and discourage political activism. Our political parties are First Amendment Associations that have the right to choose the folks who represent them. Then, everybody (member or not) can choose whether they like the Republicans, the Democrats, or one of the Independent or Third Party Candidates out there. What the advocates of open primaries are saying is that Republicans have no right to pick their nominees as the Democrats can handle that for them. Thus we have the Red Sox getting to choose who plays for the Yankees.

Our current system is not only unfair to party activists, but tempts people to behave dishonestly, by tampering with the other party’s primary. It’s unfair to those who are real Republicans who see their votes cancelled by jokers. Should the farthest left liberal nut in Idaho have as much say as me in who the GOP nominates? I think not. Having seen the uproar open primaries caused in Montana, I will strongly fight to see them end in Idaho.

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