Saturday, December 8, 2018

Open primaries have been good for the TN GOP. Why change what works?

Last week the Republican Party state executive committee passed a resolution calling for a change in the law to close party primaries.  As it stand now, when you go to vote you can, at the moment you walk into the voting location, decide if you want to vote in the Republican primary or the Democrat primary. In Tennessee there is no such thing as a "registered Republican" or a  "registered Democrat."

Currently there are 23 states with "open primaries" such as Tennessee has and the others are "closed." The closed primary states vary in how difficult and how soon before an election you may change your party affiliation.

The argument Republicans make for closing the primaries is that Democrats should not be allowed to help pick the Republican nominee. Some argue that Democrats vote in Republican primaries and vote for the weakest Republican so the Democrat can run against a weak Republican. Others, don't make that argument but say that when the Democrat Party has no candidate of stature running or no serious challenger to an incumbent and the enthusiasm is in the Republican Party, Democrats will vote in the Republican Party and vote for the candidate they like best.  However, this, critics claim, results in the Republican candidate being more moderate than he would be if only Republicans voted in the Republican primary. This gives us candidates who are Republican in name only- the dreaded "RINO."

I am not in favor of closing primaries in Tennessee. Tennessee has done extremely well with open primaries. We have a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and seven of our nine U. S congressmen are Republicans and we have a super majority in the State legislature in the House and the Senate. You can't do much better than that. I don't see why we would want to change a system that is working to our benefit.

Over the years, more and more Tennesseans have identified as Republican and have voted for Republican candidates. Would this have happened without open primaries? I doubt it.  I don't think many people change party affiliation all at once. If Independents or even Democrats vote in Republican primaries a few times, then I suspect, after a while, they will began thinking of themselves as Republicans. Why would we want to freeze them out from making that transition.

Also, I think our system has produced good rational, sensible people such as Corker, Alexander, and Haslam, and Fred Thompson. These people are considered too moderate by some Republicans, however,  and they want to nominate "more conservative" candidates. If we nominate people too far to the right, or nut-job Republicans like Joe Carr, I fear we are likely to lose our political dominance.

Here is an argument made made in a Facebook post by former State House Representative Debra Maggart.

Debra Maggart: Now that we have a super majority, why do we want to put a roadblock in front of Independents (who we desperately need ) and other Converts to our way of thinking?
I carried this bill long ago and I can debate it both ways. But I thought it was a good idea when we were in the minority. However, I don’t  think this anymore because we have a very different landscape now.
The Democrats have never organized their people to vote in our primaries - that’s never been proved - heck, they can’t even organize themselves to vote for their own, much less our people. That’s an old wives tale- if they voted in droves in our primaries you could look it up - but they don’t. You couldn’t get me to vote in their primary for a million bucks. So, who are these mysterious Democrats voting in our primaries??
If they tried to organize, we would know it. We’d get their mailers or phone bank calls, GOTV texts, emails, etc.
The better play is to get more Republicans and R-leaning Independents who only vote in November to also vote in August and grow the party that way. Our focus and funds should be on that idea.
I think we are limiting our numbers of voters by closing the primaries.
Having open primaries has worked pretty good so far- why change now?
We already know our numbers of voters who actually vote is shrinking anyway.
I’m sure I’ll be called a RINO for asking these questions, but I’ve served on both the SEC, the TGA, and I can’t count the campaign’s I’ve been involved in. I was the Whip when we picked up the 14-seat Majority in charge of protecting our incumbents and Caucus Chair when we expanded our numbers further.
I really want to understand why a party purity test is a good idea when we should be in the business of changing hearts and minds over to our side.
I think she is exactly right. It is a myth that Democrats organize to vote in Republican primaries. The lone Democrat may do so, but there is no evidence that it happens in large number or that there is an organized effort to do so. Instead of freezing people out, we should be enticing them to join us
Here is a Facebook comment from by friend Tim Skow , organizer of the First Tuesday group and a political activist.
Tim Skow: To our ''Closed primary supporter friends'' -- Lets ask you HONESTLY to evaluate this -- '' Had ALL states primaries been ''Closed'' in 2016 ... Can we AGREE... that 1] Donald Trump [supported significantly in primaries by Independents, first time voters and even some supposed ''Dems'' mad a Obama''] would NOT have won the Republican Primary for President without them? 2] ThatTed Cruz likely would have been nominated? AND... 3] that Hillary would be President today after beating Cruz LIKE A DRUM?!!!! .... IF...Anyone cannot honestly recognize this ... are a blind novice, political fraud ... or simply BSC !
Think about it. Tim is right. Donald Trump got the nomination because he was able to attract people who do not normally vote in Republican primaries to do so. Well, I am not going to think about that too hard because I did not want Trump to be the party's nominee. However, the process resulted in a Republican win which if Democrats and Independents had not been able to vote in Republican primaries, we would most likely would not have had and we would now have Hillary Clinton as president.

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