Political parties are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, and some of the Founders warned against “factions.” But, as we are all human and thus prone to quarreling, it wasn’t long after George Washington’s terms in office that the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were at one another’s throats.
Modern Democrats and Republicans have traits from both of these factions, and it is safe to say that in 2012 the two major parties have pretty clearly taken sides: Democrats as the party of the State; Republicans as the party of economic liberty.
Democrats want “fairness,” Republicans want “opportunity.” Democrats want equality of outcome; Republicans insist you will be rewarded according to your efforts. You may have other ideas as to what separates the two parties, but the essential point is that Democrats and Republicans are very different in outlook. So, one might expect, each party’s nominees would be chosen only by those who are party members, i.e. those who are in at least general agreement with the party’s principles.
One might so expect; one would be wrong. All of which leads to one of the worst ideas in modern politics: the “open” primary election. “Open” meaning that one need not be registered as a Democrat to vote in a Democratic primary, nor as a Republican to vote in that party’s primary. Michigan, which votes today in the Republican primary contest, is one such state with open primaries.
My state, Virginia, is likewise open when we vote as part of the 10-state “Super Tuesday” next week. So, as a loyal Republican, I’ve got to ask: what business is it to those outside my party who we in the party nominate? You don’t like our nominee? OK, fine. Vote against him this November. Don’t try to dictate who our party nominates.
Allowing those who will likely not vote for our nominee to help us select that nominee only invites trouble: Democrats and independents voting for the candidate they believe is easiest to beat in the general election. Yes, this works both ways, which brings my confession.
I have voted in Democrat primaries in order to select the person most likely to lose in the general election. And that may be wrong, but, since it is allowed, I’d be foolish to not take advantage of it. For the record, I voted for Hilary Clinton in the 2008 primary, thinking she would have been a better president than what we wound up with. Subsequent events have only reinforced my voting choice.
All that being said, I wish I hadn’t had that ability. Let Democrats alone be allowed to pick the Democrat candidate. Let Republicans alone be allowed to pick the Republican nominee. As for so-called independents, if they don’t feel at home philosophically in either party, that is certainly their right. But they can’t have it both ways: being above the fray and being able to have a voice in selecting a party’s candidates.
Remember, if you attempt to always walk in the center of the road, you’re twice as likely to become road kill. Take sides or get out of the fight.