The Press Democrat Editorial Board this morning explains how open primaries could lead to a more responsive and effective state government. You can read the editorial here.
To obtain a Republican’s vote for last week’s budget overhaul, Democrats agreed to a statewide vote on open primaries. Perhaps it was an unlikely way to seal the deal, but it’s worth noting that the serial budget fiascoes in Sacramento in recent years are products of the state’s closed primary system.
For the average voter, open primaries may seem like one of those issues that only matters to political junkies – but open primaries have the potential to transform government and make voters believe that their opinions matter.
That’s why political insiders in both parties will spend a ton of money to defeat the measure when it appears on the ballot in 2010.
People on the left and the right love closed primaries. Within their own parties, they can deliver enough cash and energy to win their party’s nomination – and if moderate voters don’t like the candidate of either party, well, they’re out of luck.
Consider what happens in the safely Democratic precincts of the North Bay where Democratic incumbents win as a matter of course.
At the moment the incumbent is termed out of office, candidates-in-waiting jump into the fray. But the advantage almost always belongs to the candidate who is favored by the party’s liberal factions, especially public employees unions.
A similar scenario unfolds in Republican districts, except the advantage goes to the candidate supported by the most conservative groups.
Result: A state Legislature often paralyzed by folks on the left and the right who can’t find their way to the middle ground where agreements are possible.
With open primaries, more moderate candidates could reach out to voters in both parties. In the North Bay, for example, a run-off election in November might involve two Democrats. Which is why the special interests which now dominate state politics will do everything in their power to defeat the ballot measure.
The Sacramento Bee today quotes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “When it comes to the open primaries, I can tell you, that is something that both parties hate. It’s not good for politics. But remember, what is not good for politics is good for the people. That’s the bottom line here.”
The Bee story – here – recounts how the moderate governor will campaign for open primaries as part of his reform legacy.
Schwarzenegger was elected in a 2003 recall election. It was probably the only way he could have become governor. He would have had a tough time winning a Republican primary dominated by conservatives.
Schwarzenegger isn’t popular among Republican or Democratic insiders. He’s only popular among mainstream voters.