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“A Very Different Level Of Self-Confidence”: Democrats Consider Opening, While GOP Closing, Primaries To Independents

If you have been following the very public discussions of the Sandernistas about what to demand at and after the Democratic National Convention in exchange for enthusiastic support of the party nominee, you’ve probably noticed that “open primaries” are on most lists. In some respects that’s just a contemporaneous impulse based on Sanders’s unquestioned appeal to Democratic-leaning independents in this year’s primaries. To the magical thinker, some sort of party gesture in favor of banning closed primaries retroactively shows Bernie should have won after all. But the discussion also reflects a long-standing argument — which, ironically, party “centrists” used to regularly make — that encouraging independents to participate in Democratic primaries is a good way to grow the party base and to prepare Democratic candidates for general elections.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the talk at both the grassroots and elite levels about primary rules is very different:

Conservatives, still reeling over the looming nomination of Donald Trump, are pushing new Republican primary rules that might have prevented the mogul’s victory in the first place: shutting out independents and Democrats from helping to pick the GOP nominee

The advocates are finding a sympathetic ear at the very top of the party. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has long supported closed primaries, but has never had a constituency to back him on it.

Now you could say these opposite impulses have in common a “sore loser” motive. Still, they represent a very different level of self-confidence about the appeal of the two parties’ core ideologies: the Democratic Left, which used to call itself the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” thinks a broader party base would be more progressive, while the Republican Right wants as small a tent as possible.

Having said all that, it’s unlikely either party will immediately change the system. For one thing, primary access rules are generally set by state governments and (when allowed by state laws) state parties; only some cumbersome and politically perilous carrot-and-stick process is available to the national parties to influence these rules. It will be particularly troublesome for state governments to set up primaries that comply with both parties’ rules if they are tugging in opposite directions. Additionally, implementing a uniform closed-primary system like so many Republicans want would be problematic in states that do not and have never had party registration. Beyond that, there are other ways to skin the cat and make it easier or harder for independents to participate in primaries, such as manipulating re-registration deadlines (opportunities to easily change party affiliation at the polls or caucus-site make the open-closed distinction largely irrelevant).

But without question, if either or both parties want to send a big bold signal to independents by passing some sort of resolution or hortatory rules change at their conventions, they can do so. Among Democrats, more than enough Clinton Democrats from open-primary states would likely join Sanders delegates to create a comfortable majority for some “open the primaries” gesture in Philadelphia. And among Republicans, a close-the-primaries gesture is precisely the sort of measure that could provide an outlet for frustrated delegates bound to Donald Trump on the first ballot but free to disrespect the mogul on rules and platform votes. But Republicans should beware: All else being equal, closing doors is far less popular than opening them.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 13, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Democratic National Convention, Primaries, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What Is Bernie’s End Game?”: Hillary Not Likely To Adopt Agenda Of The Guy Who Is Losing

For a while now, Greg Sargent has been speculating about Bernie Sanders’ end game in this presidential primary. The candidate himself has said that it will be up to Clinton to win over his supporters. And at times, he has even suggested that she will need to adopt some of his campaign promises in order to do so – like advocating for single payer and free public college tuition. It’s hard to know if he is really serious about that. But at any rate, it is not going to happen. Clinton ran on her own platform and is winning the primary. She’s not likely to adopt the agenda of the guy who is losing.

Yesterday, Sanders seemed to indicate a push for the Democratic Party to adopt some changes to their election rules and strategy. Specifically, he called for three things:

  1. Automatic voter registration
  2. Same-day registration and open primaries
  3. A 50-state strategy

To the extent that Sanders intends to push to have these issues included in the Democratic platform during the convention this summer, that would be an interesting discussion. If adopted, they would set these up as goals for the Party to work towards. But the national party can’t simply make them happen. The first two involve state parties and legislatures – who establish these rules. This is something that Sanders often fails to articulate – like when he promised that at the end of his first term as president, the U.S. would not have the highest incarceration rate in the world. He failed to mention that reaching that goal would primarily be up to states.

But the 50-state strategy is an interesting one on a different level. As Howard Dean demonstrated, it is certainly a priority that is set by the DNC. But if anyone remembers the argument over that one, it had to do with how the national party distributes funding. Those who opposed a 50-state strategy wanted the DNC to target its limited resources to races where they had determined it could actually make a difference. Dean wanted the funding to be distributed to state party leaders and let them decide.

From the perspective of Sanders and his supporters, this raises a couple of interesting questions. The most obvious is that the resources that are under discussion are the very ones he has criticized Clinton for helping to raise. Remember how the Sanders campaign reacted to the fundraiser hosted by George Clooney? It was all about raising money for the DNC and state parties. In other words, the money that would enable a 50-state strategy.

But the other issue is that Howard Dean’s success with the 50-state strategy resulted in the election of what we often call “Blue Dog Democrats” – especially in the South. They are also the ones who lost in 2010 and 2014. Many of the Sanders supporters I know were pretty happy to see them go.

I would suggest that these are all questions that would be good for Democrats to discuss. But as we’ve seen very often with Bernie Sanders, they lead to much more complicated questions and answers than he has articulated.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2016

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iowa’s $200-Per-Vote Caucuses Reward Negatives, Nastiness, Narrow Thinking

The Republicans who would be president, the super PACs and the surrogates had already spent more than $12 millionon television ads—almost half of them negative—before the final weekend leading up to Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses.

That doesn’t count the thousands of radio ads, mailings, lighted billboards in Des Moines and costs for staff.

Add it all up and there is a good chance that, when all is said and done Tuesday night, the candidates will have spent $200 a vote to influence the roughly 110,000 Iowans who are expected to participate in the GOP caucuses.

And the really unsettling thing is that the caucuses are just for show.

While the results may so damage some candidates that their runs for the presidency will be finished, they will not actually produce any delegates to the Republican National Convention.

That’s because, as the Des Moines Register notes, “Iowa delegates are not bound to vote for a specific candidate at the national convention, and no percentage of delegates is given to any one candidate (on caucus night).” Iowa Republican Party Executive Director Chad Olsen told the paper that the GOP caucus acts more as a “temperature gauge” of how Iowans feel about the candidates, and convention delegates use the results to inform their decision.

Seriously? All this for an glorified straw poll?

That’s the problem with the caucus system, which operates on an only slightly better model on the Democratic side.

Huge amounts of money are spent to influence a very small percentage of the electorate—less than 20 percent of Iowans who are likely to vote Republican in November will participate in Tuesday’s caucuses, and most of them will leave after the balloting finishes. An even smaller number of Iowans will begin the process of choosing representatives to county conventions, who in turn elect delegates to district and state conventions at which Iowa’s national delegates are actually selected.

Ultimately, party insiders are all but certain to form the delegation and choose how to vote at the national convention.

I don’t begrudge Iowa a place at the start of the calendar. In fact, I prefer that Midwesterners start things. But the caucuses are not the right way to begin.

The progressive movement of a century ago fought for open primaries, where all voters could easily participate and where the power of political bosses—and, ideally, outside money—could be overwhelmed by popular democracy.

There are good arguments to be made that primaries no longer hold out such promise, and I am not suggesting that open primaries will in and of themselves cure all that ails our politics. But the Iowa campaign of 2012 confirms that the caucuses are more prone to being warped by money and by rules that favor party bosses.

Iowa maintains a caucus system not because it is the best way to choose a nominee but because its first-in-the-nation status depends on a longstanding arrangement with New Hampshire, which claims the right to hold the first primary. Under the deal, Iowa can go first, so long as it does not hold a primary. Unfortunately, that means Iowa must hold caucuses. And the caucuses are a dysfunctional way to begin the process.

The parties have lacked the courage to demand a reform of this arrangement. But they should do so before the 2016 race begins because the presidential nominating process should not be defined by caucuses—in Iowa or anywhere else.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, January 1, 2012

January 3, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohio, Wisconsin Reach For Progressive Era Tools To Fight Modern Robber Barons

On the same day that Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee law takes effect in Wisconsin, public workers in Ohio can celebrate a victory in the battle for democracy.

We Are Ohio, the group leading the effort to repeal Ohio Senate Bill 5, the anti-collective bargaining bill, delivered a record number of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State today, backed by a “Million Signature March” parade of more than 6,000 people, retired fire trucks, motorcycles, a drum line and bagpipes.

“This is the people’s parade,” said We Are Ohio spokesperson Melissa Fazekas in a news conference after the parade. “You are truly one in a million.”

Ohio’s Veto Referendum

Both Ohio and Wisconsin have had union-busting legislation forced on them by Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker in the name of fiscal austerity, and both states saw massive protests in response to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services. The electoral methods of recourse, however, differ between the states.

Ohio is one of 21 states that allow for veto referendums. A veto referendum is a unique mechanism that allows a new law to be placed on a ballot for voters to either ratify or reject if enough signatures are collected within the statutory timeframe.

About 231,000 valid signatures are required to put the collective bargaining law on the November ballot as a referendum. The 1,298,301 signatures were delivered in 1,502 boxes carried by a 48-foot semi-truck. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office must now sort the signatures by county, count them and distribute them to county boards of elections for validation.

According to the Toledo Blade, “Just the filing of the petitions Wednesday will keep Senate Bill 5 from taking effect on Friday as scheduled. If at least 231,149 of the signatures are determined to be valid, the law will remain on hold until the results of the election are known. If voters reject the law, it will never take effect.”

Wisconsin’s Recall Elections

In Wisconsin, six Republican state senators face recall elections over their vote to abolish public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Three Democratic state senators have also been targeted for recall, in response to their decision to leave the state during the battle that ensued over the controversial legislation. Primary elections for the recalls will take place July 12 for the Republicans and July 19 for the Democrats, with general elections following in August. If the Democrats hold onto their seats and three of the six Republicans are recalled, the state Senate will flip to a Democratic majority, loosening the Republican stronghold on the state.

While papers cannot be filed to recall Walker until January 2012, United Wisconsin, the grassroots organization behind the gubernatorial recall movement in Wisconsin currently lists 189,321 pledges for recall. To prompt a recall election, 540,206 signatures would be required.

“What we saw today in Ohio was a response of millions of people saying ‘no’ to Gov. Kasich’s agenda and standing up for bargaining rights and workers’ rights, because we don’t have the ability to remove him,” said Kris Harsh, spokesperson for Stand Up for Ohio.

Both Mechanisms from the Progressive Era

Ohio does not have a recall provision, thus the referendum drive. But both referendums and recalls are progressive tools that date back to the early 1900s. According to the Ohio Historical Society, “Progressives argued that the referendum made the American political system more democratic.” Referendums were approved as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1912, and the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to allow for the recall of elected officials just one year after Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette’s death, in 1926.

La Follette fought for progressive ideals — such as recalls and open primaries — to empower average people at a time when corporate bosses ruled the political scene. La Follette’s fight was against railroad barons and agricultural monopolies, while Ohio battled the Standard Oil Trust.

The overwhelming outpouring of people standing up for their rights and for their communities in Wisconsin and Ohio today indicate that the progressive tools given to Americans by fighters like La Follette are just as relevant and necessary now as they were more than 100 years ago.

By: Jessica Opoien, Center for Media and Democracy, June 29, 2011

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Key Question For Wisconsin Democrats: To Run “Fake” Candidates, Or Not?

Wisconsin Democrats now face a key decision in the state Senate recalls: AfterRepublicans have declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries — in order to delay the general elections from July to August, and make trouble in the Dem primaries while the GOP incumbents run unopposed — will they respond in kind and plant fake candidates on the Republican side?

Earlier on Friday, the labor-backed progressive group We Are Wisconsin called upon Dems to run some fake Republican candidates, arguing that this was necessary in order to stop the Republicans from sabotaging the Dem primaries. From their statement:

Another potential scenario created by the Republican chicanery in the primary that could severely disadvantage Democratic candidates is that Republican incumbents who do not face primary challengers advance automatically to the general election ballot. This creates a scenario where “legitimate” Democratic challengers are exposed to unlimited spending by outside groups and pro-Republican forces, which could cause the “legitimate” Democrats in the race to lose the sham primary. There would be no check on millions of dollars in shady outside money coming in to relentlessly attack “legitimate” Democrats, and full-scale mobilization of Republican resources to turn out their voters in the Democratic primary and to advocate a message such as “if you support Randy Hopper, vote for fake candidate X.”

Running fake Republicans, the argument goes, would force GOP voters to stick to their own primary and prevent a spoiler from winning on that side, thus defusing any such potential ploy.

TPM sought comment from the state Dems and was told a statement was forthcoming. So at time of writing, the gears appear to still be turning on this question at the Dem headquarters.

The filing deadline for those recalls is this Tuesday, July 13, at 5 p.m. CT. In order to qualify for the ballot, candidates must at that time also file at least 400 signatures collected from the district, with 800 signatures as the maximum allowed in order to have a buffer against disqualifications.

The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. If there were only one Democrat against each one Republican, then the July 12 date would be the general election. But if there were additional Democrats, the July 12 date would then become the primary, giving the incumbents more time to campaign for a general election in August.

Also, thanks to Wisconsin’s open primary system in which anybody can vote in a party primary, it would force the Democrats to spend time, money and resources campaigning for their own nominations.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, June 10, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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