Vice Chairman Jon Fleischman recently tabled the proposal to restrict Republican Primaries to Republican voters. Jon stated that misinformation about the changes and its effects were causing fractures in the party. Both sides do have legitimate arguments about the fight on deciding who could vote for the Republican Party’s nominees. Understanding why and how the Republican Party is suffering at the ballot box could help the party in the long run.
On the proponent’s side Jon argues that "The reality is that as long as someone can registered Decline To State and elect to vote in either major party’s primary, we will continue to see the percentage of DTS voters steadily increase at the expense of party registration. Both political parties are going to eventually have to confront this issue head on." There is no incentive for people to register as a Republican or a Democratic Party voter when we give DTS voters the chance to join in our primaries.
Maybe the true reason why Jon tabled the proposal is that the party’s leading donor Larry Dodge holds a three million dollar loan where he wants a more inclusive political platform and signs that the Republicans would better manage the party and begin to register new voters and things that parties should do.
I could understand voters registering as Decline to State because they want to influence the politics of the majority party, such as Republicans living in the bay area, or Democrats living in northern San Diego County. However conservatives feel that the party’s brand becomes diluted with these non-party members participating in the primary. Conservative activists do not want another Olympia Snowe or Charlie Crist diluting the message of the party which makes it harder for the party to stand for principle when we have to count on these individuals to vote with the party.
For the opponents of keeping the primaries closed, there is a good example in why we need to reach out to the decline to state voter in Congressional District 47. The Orange Juice Blog explains how reaching out to the DTS voter would pay dividends in that congressional district. 33% of the voters are Republicans, 23% are third party and DTS and 44% are Democratic. If the right mainstream Republican candidate was nominated, perhaps the Republican Party will finally win against Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Looking at past years nominees a nominee such as 2004 nominee Alexandra Coronado would fare better than 2008 nominee Rosie Avila.
Instead of locking down the primaries, we should focus on better candidate recruitment for the competitive districts. Expecting that Burbank or San Jose is conservative like Utah or Mississippi is suicidal too. I am not saying that conservatives and traditionalists should be thrown off the plank, but we should have diversity of ideology where conservatives and centrists run together so we can form a majority in the state legislature. Democrats nominate social conservative, economic liberals in Indiana and North Carolina; it would not hurt if we had socially inclusive, economic conservatives as our representatives in constituencies that would not normally elect Republicans.
Closed primaries naturally do produce candidates usually that are friendly to the base, but we have to recognize that California is not just Bakersfield or Corona, but it’s also Pasadena and Redwood City. As Republicans we need to be the party of solutions and not the party of saying no. State Senator Maldonado’s solution for top two primaries would also be a wrong choice as well. Non-Partisan Open Primaries would shut down third parties from having a voice in the general election or will Kern County Democrats and San Francisco Republicans will as well. If we want to put democracy before party dogma, we should consider other options.