Changes to the Presidential Primary Election Process

I’ve been looking into our political system because I think it’s partially broken. I didn’t think I would get so involved but I’ve just expounded on a solution for fixing the partisan stagnation that we experience because of the two-party system that we have in the US (I’m jumping off from ideas that my friend, Thomas Pudewell, first proposed to me during a conversation).

The two-party political system is flawed and misrepresents a large portion of the population. The parties have become more extreme in their views so they can be seen as holding to the values of their party. Many people are extreme liberals or extreme conservatives who find representation in the Democratic or Republican parties. That’s great but what about the people who fall somewhere in the middle? A democracy is about letting the people make decisions. If a large portion of the population isn’t being represented than something is broken. The following is my proposal for starting the change toward a more fair system.

Let’s create a federal law that expressly regulates the primary election process to create open primaries and allow every candidate with at least 25% of the popular vote to proceed to the general election. Each party would be allowed two, three or maybe four candidates whom they could submit into the primary election (we can decide how many candidates each party can send at a later time). This of itself will not fix the problem because the issue is the massive size of the Democratic and Republican political media machines and their current momentum. Though, this law would be a start.

The writers of the constitution deliberately avoided regulating political parties (in hopes they would not form). The parties today exist as a special type of organization and are run internally by their own management structure. I could make a proposal for regulation that would make demands on parties to structure themselves a specific way. Or you could make an argument for changing the underlying foundation of the legal organizational structure but that change would never happen and it would be unnecessary.

As mentioned, the real issue is the two media machines. We could write the law allowing all candidates with 25% or more popular support to proceed to the general election but that assumes two things. First, another one or more parties will surface or be created that have a government operation paradigm that resonates with at least a quarter of the population (my initial argument is that there is space for a third party because so many people aren’t being represented). Two, that the parties would still perform some type of internal vetting. If the primary election process was regulated by law than the parties would use caucuses or other means to internally find and vet their candidates before sending them to the primaries. This would keep the basic structure of the parties intact without changing so much as to make the law unpassable. Yes, many parties in specific states don’t use the caucus method and instead rely solely on the primaries to choose their top person. Those states without caucuses would have to develop them but it’s a much easier transition than many other options to regulate the presidential election process (I’m, truly, all ears if you have another recommendation).

The first assumption is the more interesting of the two because the parties would quickly find a type of solution for picking candidates to send to the primaries. However, a third party of that size (at least 25%) would have to fall between Democrats and Republicans on the generalized scale of liberal to conservative. The real question is what would it take to build that party and would the law mentioned above even be necessary if such a ‘moderate’ party existed?

I think such a party could, with brute-force, grassroots action, get a candidate to the primary. However, there is an underlying disunity about how each state presents the votes for their candidate; whether through an open or closed primary voting process or through an unregulated caucus. I would like to see this law pass because it would standardize the methods through which we choose our general election candidates for President of the United States instead of leaving it up to large partisan organizations (the Democratic and Republican parties).

The party system is definitely flawed. Though, I think they have merit for existing. It would be nice if they existed for two basic reasons only. To hold different viewpoints on how to operate the government and to better vet and narrow the field of candidates who also hold the same viewpoints. They should be frameworks to help us identify with like-minded people instead of media and propaganda machines. I hope a law such as this would influence the parties through organic means to adjust their methods without resorting to over-regulation.

The realities of such a law being ratified are very slim. For such a law to pass we would either have to convince the two existing parties to create a framework by which they would loose power or build a third party from the ground up and once it had rested more equal power from the other two parties propose these changes after the fact. Either way, it’s a complicated and formidable task.

What would it take to build a third party? That’s the fun question because it has less to do with hitting the streets and knocking on doors and more about ‘inception’. We would take our ideas and ideals that embody a moderate party and circulate them to intellectuals through forums and letters to elected officials and through other means. We wouldn’t try to build a party, rather we would build a framework for our ideals and let the party be created organically as the ideas reach critical mass with more people who have become disenfranchised by the extremes of the existing parties.