Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Withering Fear of Being 'Primaried'

Because so many elected Republicans have become witheringly fearful of getting “primaried,” the GOP has developed a problem that is steadily getting worse. In order to stave off such challenges from extreme rightwing candidates, incumbents have been preemptively moving to the right on all sorts of issues.

That crab-walking migration toward the past is making Republicans less appealing in general elections, because John Q. Public usually isn‘t so happy voting for candidates who seem to have lost touch with reality. And, Jane Q. Public isn't getting any happier at all about voting for candidates who appear to be marching to the cadence of a "war on women" strategy.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” said losing senatorial candidate Todd Akin. "I'm not a witch," said losing senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell. That's not the end of the career-crushing quotes, but there's no need to go on.

The point is, if Republicans could get better turnouts, if the turnout in primaries could be larger and more representative of the whole party, there would be less need for Republican incumbents to fear crazy rightwing challengers. And, there would be less need for them to distance themselves from the center of the political spectrum for the entire nation.

Still, for whatever reasons in the last few years, many Republicans have acted like that option hasn't been possible. By that they're saying that most conservatives can't be motivated to participate, so the party has to go on being at the mercy of activists on the far-right.

At this writing, it seems young voters are likely to keep moving that hypothetical center of the spectrum further to the left than it is now. If that's true, the problem for Republicans is going to snowball.

Maybe Republicans should consider doing away with primaries.

When using primaries, instead of conventions, suddenly became much more popular -- 40-some years ago -- the thinking was that primaries would make the nominating process more inclusive. It was seen then as a boon to undiluted democracy, because it would do away with the decisions made behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms.

As far as either party is concerned, how has moving the decision-making to taking place in ad agencies and Super Pacs been a boon to democracy? Truth be told, primaries frequently empower the candidates with deep pockets, because they can throw a lot of money at two elections.

Well, maybe the experiment hasn't really worked so well for either party, but right now -- via primaries -- it's the Republicans who seem to be choking on their own bile.

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