Are Open Primaries the Answer?

I know people, good people, sincere people who think opening the primaries to all voters is better than the current system of requiring a voter to be a member of a party to vote. They point to the fact that more and more voters are registering as independents. If we leave the primaries closed, that means less and less voters have a say in the nomination process. Which means fewer people are motivated to vote in the general for a candidate who they did not help select.

While I understand the logic, I think this is treating a symptom as a cause. The reason so many people, especially young people are registering as NPAs is because they have become disgusted with both parties. They rightly see the GOP as the party of the white male and the radically conservative, and they see, with rare exception, the Democratic Party, is ineffective and out of touch with their daily lives. These voters are typically both low information voters and low turnout voters. Opening the primary would only allow people with less interest in promoting the platform of the Democratic Party more influence based often bad information from whatever candidate or dark money PAC managed to feed them.

If we reach out, as a grassroots party, invite these disaffected voters to help us build and maintain a party and a slate of candidates they can support, they will come into the tent, and be the next generation of leaders, instead of occasional and casual bomb throwers from outside. By election day, no matter what kind of primary system we have, it too late. We must restore the Democratic Party to be the vibrant political voice of the poor, the young, the old and the working class (blue and white collar). An open primary does nothing but put a band-aid on a gaping wound.

We don’t need a way to encourage people who are not invested in the party to disrupt the party (think Bernie Sanders), we need people who feel welcome (that’s on us), and people who give a good goddamn (that’s on them). Let us focus on opening the party to new-comers and shed our mostly white ole boy (and ole girl) teams at the local level. If we take the party to the streets, year-round on year and off year, build party activities that mean something to the people we want to be part of the party. Party activists vote in both the primary and the general, and because they were involved through the whole process they are invested in the winner, even if the winner wasn’t their first choice.


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