The problem with primaries is similar to holding a general plebiscite. You and I want our elected officials to rationally debate and deliberate important issues on the basis of facts, not emotion. That’s why the Founders studiously avoided any process that could be rushed or accelerated to satisfy a passing public fancy.
Let’s talk about primaries. There are obviously different types of primaries. The very worst ones are like those held in Washington State where anyone of either party can vote in either primary, selectively by office. In other words, they can vote in the Republican Primary for US Senate nominee, and then vote in the Democratic primary for gubernatorial nominee. What commonly happens in such primaries is that there are a large number of crossover voters when there is an incumbent assured of re-nomination. For example, if an incumbent Democratic Senator has no opposition, why not vote in the Republican Senatorial primary for the weakest candidate? It makes sense and that’s what happens regularly in the awful Washington State primary system.
But frankly, straight Republican and Democratic primaries are not much better than the outlandish Washington State primary. In nearly every Presidential election, those supporting the incumbent President (who is often assured of re-nomination) will go out of their way to vote in the other party’s primary, to pick the candidate who is least distasteful to them. John McCain was the beneficiary of huge numbers of Democratic votes in primaries. These renegade Democrats may well have provided the margin he needed to win the Republican nomination.
Some folks, who don’t contribute to candidates or canvass voters on behalf of a particular party, insist that they should have the right to pick the nominee of that party. Why? What right does a nonparticipant in either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party have to select the nominee of that party for any office? Frankly, the most informed individuals on candidates and the issues reside inside those parties. They have expended their time, their talent and their money to advance that party’s goals. Why should they not be the ones who choose who will carry their party’s banner in November? Remember, both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are private organizations. They are not obligated to let non participants in their internal processes to participate in the selection of nominees for public office.
Those who are much less informed on the issues and the principles of a party generally pick bad candidates for public office. It’s the same reason that democracies always govern much more unwisely than do republics like the United States of America. The rank and file political activist, Democrat or Republican, gives up hundreds of hours of time and contributes vast sums of money to advance a cause just because they believe in it. More than 99% of all donors and volunteers get nothing directly for all their effort and work. They are involved to advance their cause, not for political gain.
If you choose to be uninvolved in the affairs of your political party of choice, please do not whine about the fact that your party choose to select their nominees via political convention. Contrary to the way political conventions are often portrayed in history text books, as being manipulated by political bosses, they have distinct advantages over the primary process. The more we rely on primaries to select candidates, the more money rules, and the less impact principles and ideas have.
Obviously, there are no perfect processes for selecting political candidates, but in my view, the convention process is vastly superior to the primary process. After all, the Founders held Constitutional Conventions, not Constitutional Primaries. They intentionally sought a deliberative process whereby reasonable and thoughtful men could deliberate and debate to come up with the best solutions to the problems at hand. I cannot imagine that any sort of plebiscite could have arrived at conclusions and established a framework more beneficial to freedom and justice than the United States Constitution.
Only individuals who are informed on the issues and knowledgeable of the US Constitution and the views of the Founders are truly qualified to serve in public office or even to choose those who will run for public office. This disqualifies a huge number of Americans and a very large number of individuals who bestir themselves every two years or so to vote in political primary elections.
This is not to say that the two major political parties are perfect, or even ideal. The fact is, at times they have conspired together, with success, to use the government to make it difficult for third parties to gain access to the political process. Big corporations and very large nonprofit organizations have often manipulated government (though the enactment of certifications, licenses, fees, registrations and other legal artifices) s to make it difficult for competition to enter the marketplace. The leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties have done exactly the same thing. Working hand in hand, the two major political parties have created laws that make it difficult for third parties to compete effectively with them. In fact, the Republican and Democratic parties colluded to create federal election laws that give powerful advantage to the incumbent Congressman or Senator over challengers. This government intervention weakens the fabric of our republic.
Today an electorate uninformed on the issues and the candidates, and with little or no knowledge of the Founder’s principles of limited government is eroding the foundation of our free society. Thomas Jefferson noted…
"If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."
Considering the far greater knowledge of convention delegates on the issues and on the Founders principles (at least in the Republican Party), I trust the candidate choices of the convention process over a primary. You should too.