Saturday, October 19, 2013

IF WE'D HAD JUNGLE PRIMARIES IN 2010 AND 2012: LESS-CRAZY REPUBLICAN SENATORS BUT MORE OF THEM?

A number of journalists -- Reid Wilson at The Washington Post, Adam Nagourney at The New York Times -- have concluded that we could reduce government dysfunction if the U.S. and the states adopted California's system of non-partisan or "jungle" primaries, in which all candidates run against one another regardless of party, and the top two candidates advance to a runoff, even if they're in the same party. Political scientists -- John Sides, Seth Masket -- don't buy this. Masket has written:
Allow me to link here to the paper I did with Nolan McCarty, Eric McGhee, Steve Rogers, and Boris Shor ... showing that variations in the openness of primaries seem to have no relationship to the moderation or extremism of a state's elected officials.... The people that show up in primaries still tend to be very partisan voters, and parties are pretty skilled at advantaging the candidates they like even in difficult circumstances....

In theory, the openness of the top-two system encourages the entry of moderate candidates. But ideologically extreme ones can end up doing quite well, for the simple fact that voters have a very hard time distinguishing between ideologically extreme and moderate candidates....

All of this has produced a situation in which California's legislators are no more moderate, relative to their districts, under the top-two regime than they were before. Indeed, they may even be a bit more polarized.
I'm no expert, so I'll limit myself to a bit of speculation about recent Senate elections.

Yes, I think it's possible that we might have been spared Ted Cruz in the 2012 Texas Senate race if Texas had had a jungle primary -- but it's not at all certain. Both Cruz and David Dewhurst received more votes (in both their primary and the subsequent GOP runoff) than Democratic primary winner Paul Sadler received in his party's primary -- so it seems possible that Dewhurst and Cruz would have advanced to the general election if there'd been a jungle primary. Cruz beat Dewhurst handily (57%-43%) in the GOP runoff. Would Dewhurst have picked up enough Democratic and independent votes to beat Cruz if they'd faced each other in a general election? Hard to say. And when I see that Dewhurst is now running for reelection as lieutenant governor by calling for President Obama's impeachment, I think there'd have been a high level of crazy no matter which of these guys won.

It's possible that Charlie Crist, who lost a three-way race to Marco Rubio in 2010 while running as an independent, could have beaten Rubio in a two-man race -- if there'd been a jungle primary, the two of them certainly would have advanced to the general election, beating Democrat Kendrick Meek. I'm amusing that Crist could have beaten Rubio one on one because if you add the vote totals of Meek and Crist, they exceed Rubio's by a tiny amount. But in a jungle primary system, Crist wouldn't have had to leave the GOP to run against Rubio; if he'd won, he'd have won as a member of the GOP, and he'd be serving as a Republican today.

Harry Reid won reelection in 2010 because he faced crazy Sharron Angle. Maybe, if she'd had to run in a primary that involved all the candidates, she'd have lost and the top two would have been Reid and less-crazy Republican Sue Lowden. Polls suggest that Lowden might have won that contest.

The same goes for Claire McCaskill in Missouri in 2012 -- if there'd been a jungle primary, the moderating influence of Republican and independent voters might have put her in a general election fight with John Brunner rather than the now-notorious Todd Akin. Polls suggest that he would have lost that contest.

And we can pretty much assume that a jungle primary in Delaware in 2010 would have picked moderate Republican Mike Castle for one of the final slots, rather than crazy Christine O'Donnell. If Democrat Chris Coons had been running against Castle, polls show that the Republican would have won handily.

So my guess is that jungle primaries would give us somewhat fewer crazy Republican senators -- but possibly more Republican senators.

7 comments:

Examinator said...

To paraphrase a former Prez
"it's marketing dummy!"

Firstly it's defining the market.

Then getting the most TARGETED attention primary demographic ('rusted on' party members/clients.)
Get the low hanging fruit.

Then widening the audience by establishing the product's Marketing definition
My product is the biggest best does the most things for the consumer.
i.e. when was the last time you saw an ad that claimed its product was the same as others?

Then adding the “ingredient x” the Unique Selling Properties (Product differentiation) the features the others don't have.
e.g there are few differences between the ingredients in Washing powders and they are non functioning and trivial.
Many are actually bought in from suppliers and things like fillers, perfumes and fluorescences are added by the alleged 'manufacturer' then packages the product and markets it.
You can often buy the unadulterated soap powder functionally the same in slightly larger quantities for about a third of the price. Marketing is the most costly input in both washing powders and political campaigns.
It should be no surprise that politicians use business psychological mechanisms. Hiding these realities from the consumer is the stock and trade of advertisers/ marketing.

Victor said...

I always vote in Democratic primaries.
And I've been very disappointed over the years, since too many times, the more Liberal/Progressive candidate doesn't win.*

But, I don't think that's what most Democrats do.
Or, at least, not to the extent that Republicans vote in primaries.

In the last few decades, it seems to me that Conservatives show up in droves at primaries, to make sure that the most rabid Conservative moves onto the general election.

*There was a reason I didn't support Sean Patrick Maloney in the Democratic primary for our Congressional district.

And the asshole proved me right by being one of the 7 Democratic House members who voted WITH the Republicans, in the government shutdown.
And you can be sure, I e-mailed and called his office, to voice my displeasure.
My best guess is, he did it for show, for the Conservatives in his counties.

The problem here in my neck of Upstate NY, is if you primary a right-center Democrat like him, then in the general, the people up here will vote for someone like our former Congresswoman, Nan Hayworth(less).

I'm willing to take that chance.

Next year, I'll be making pre-primary phone calls for someone more progressive than Maloney.

Sadly, if s/he loses, I'll go back to making pre-election calls for him.

Anybody, but a Republican!

I've voted for some before.
I very much doubt that I'll ever vote for one again.
I'm 55, and I don't expect sanity to return to the Republican Party, 'til long after I'm gone.

aimai said...

I have a different question to ask. I'm wondering whether instant run offs at the primary level--which in any event is entirely under the control of the parties and can't be changed at the whim of the state--might moderate the extremism of the kind of person who shows up to vote at the primary because its not so all or nothing. You can vote your first choice but kind of signal your willingness to stay in the game with your second and let the majority rule.

I'm just curious about whether people have studied what effect this has on the candidates, the selection of candidates, and the satisfaction of the voter in primaries? Because I can see it going either way but I personally think that it would tend to ameliorate the tension between the true believers/hard core and the squishes because both can turn the results over to the god of process and yet also mantain their purity of position.

Bruce.desertrat said...

All jungle primaries do is enforce machine politics.

skeptonomist habilis said...

Predictions about changing the election system are very unreliable because the whole party structure would be changed. It might even produce new parties - according to which big-money interests are backing candidates.

Steve M. said...

I have a different question to ask. I'm wondering whether instant run offs at the primary level--which in any event is entirely under the control of the parties and can't be changed at the whim of the state--might moderate the extremism of the kind of person who shows up to vote at the primary because its not so all or nothing. You can vote your first choice but kind of signal your willingness to stay in the game with your second and let the majority rule.

My hunch is that, in the current GOP environment, that wouldn't help -- teabaggers would refuse to even designate hated RINOs as second (or third or fourth or fifth) choices.

They don't think we should "let the majority rule." They think we should them rule, period.

Examinator said...

Steve
Amen