By Bill Maher
Georgia held its Republican senate primary this summer and frequent Real Time guest Jack Kingston lost to a self-financed business cipher named I Forget Who Cares. Actually, he lost to David Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, which is basically the 99 Cent Store, where you go for The Brands That Remind You of the Names You Know and Trust™… Poopsie Cola. Frosted Corn Fakes. Smellman’s Mayonnaise.
Another friend of the show, Chuck Schumer – that’s right, I know people – wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about how the primary system is all screwed up. He says it gets gamed by extremists and rich dopes. And he says the rest of the country should do what California does, and go to a “top two” “open primary” where you don’t have to be in the party to vote, and you might not end up with a Republican and a Democrat on the ballot. He says that means we’ll get more moderate candidates, as opposed to the system now, where the kooks on both sides elect the Nutcracker to fight the Mouse King.
“The partisan primary system, which favors more ideologically pure candidates, has contributed to the election of more extreme officeholders and increased political polarization. It has become a menace to governing… the vast majority of Americans don’t typically vote in primaries. Instead, it is the “third of the third” most to the right or most to the left who come out to vote — the 10 percent at each of the two extremes of the political spectrum… We need a national movement to adopt the “top-two” primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.”
I suppose he’s probably right, but it would make politics a lot less fun to watch. What could be duller than a “government” that “functions”? As opposed to what we do now: put bugs in a jar and shake it.
He’s certainly right that the people who vote in primaries are the ones who actually care, but I’m not sure it’s fair to punish them for that. History is made by the people who give a damn and show up.
But I’ll admit it’s too bad for the rest of us, who have to watch what we have now: a Republican Congress that’s so afraid of being primaried by the Nazi version of the Wu-Tang Clan that they can’t agree with the President about the White House Easter egg roll.
Do nuts ruin primaries? Yes. Nuts ruin everything. On the other hand, it is fun when someone knocks off Eric Cantor.
If we opened the primaries it might make the candidates more moderate, but would that make more people vote? Isn’t “moderate” another way of saying “boring”?
“Send me to Washington… and I’ll split the difference!” “Because only I have the strength to stand by my convictions 50% of the time!” “Now let’s go out there and compromise!”
I think the Republicans like the primary system just fine. They think voting should be legal but discouraged, like interracial dating. And the result is they get the Tea Party, but then they can’t control them.
I’m not sure open primaries, or “top two” primaries would fix that. For one thing, what if you end up with two candidates from the same party? If your final choice is Two Guys from Party X, I don’t see how that would encourage turnout in the general election from members of Party Y. It’s sort of like trying to still give a damn about soccer after America is eliminated.
But what the hell. Might as well try it. Couldn’t hurt. Like Nat King Cole says, “I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got.”