Tag Archives: primaries

The Speakership Saga and the Need for Nonpartisan Primaries

For those of us concerned about the capacity of Congress to function on behalf of the American people, we should be glad that the House of Representatives finally has a new Speaker three weeks (and a day) after Kevin McCarthy was removed from the speakership by an unprecedented motion to vacate. But for those of us concerned about the extent to which the composition of Congress is genuinely representative of the voters who elect its members, the removal of McCarthy and his eventual replacement by Mike Johnson is confirmation that the nation’s electoral system urgently needs fundamental reform.

Specifically, the ordeal of the last few weeks demonstrates that the existing system of partisan primaries under current conditions of asymmetrical polarization–where Republicans have moved further to the right to the point that MAGA extremism is the dominant faction within the party–causes extreme Republicans to win their party’s primary against a more moderate Republican alternative and then, in a Republican-leaning district, defeat the Democrat in the general election. But a majority of all the district’s voters in the general election–Republicans, Democrats, and independents–would have preferred the more moderate Republican candidate defeated in the primary over the MAGA extremist sent to Congress to represent the district.

Arizona’s second congressional district illustrates this problem and how it affects the House’s current deficiencies. In last year’s midterm elections, a Trump-endorsed MAGA extremist—Eli Crane—won the Republican primary with only 36% of the vote in a race with seven candidates. The runner-up with 24%, Water Blackman, was a more traditional Republican serving in the state’s legislature who, unlike Crane, repudiated Trump’s election denialism

In the general election, Crane beat the Democrat, 54% to 46%. Had Blackman been the Republican nominee, he almost certainly would have done even better, pulling some more moderate voters away from the Democrat. In any event, it’s clear that a majority of all the district’s voters—Democrats, independents, and Republicans—would have preferred Blackman to be their representative in Congress rather than Crane. 

Yet Mr. Crane went to Washington, where he became one of the eight Republicans who voted to vacate Kevin McCarthy from the speakership and thus precipitated the governance crisis in the House. If Blackman had been the one sent to Congress to represent the district, there is no reason to think that he would have participated in this obstructionist stunt.

Continue reading The Speakership Saga and the Need for Nonpartisan Primaries
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“Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose fires press secretary over tweets criticizing Trump”

Meet the Press Blog.

“LaRose also has been a Trump critic in the past and has voiced concerns about how the former president has raised baseless claims of election fraud to explain his loss in the 2020 election. But LaRose also accepted Trump’s endorsement last year when he was seeking re-election as secretary of state, recently endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid and has made clear he’d like Senate race backing in return. 

“Asked last week by NBC News’ Chuck Todd if Pence was right to ignore Trump’s pressure to block certification of the 2020 election results. LaRose tiptoed around the question, saying he believed that Pence ‘made the best decision he could with the information in front of him.’

“A source close to Trump later said Trump had seen video of the interview and indicated that any expectation that Trump would remain neutral in the Ohio Senate race — despite praising Moreno, he has not officially backed a candidate — was misguided. A LaRose strategist, meanwhile, sought to clarify the Pence comments as neither agreement or praise. And on Tuesday the LaRose campaign tweeted an old photo of the secretary of state standing alongside Trump, claiming that ‘Democrats are afraid of a Trump/LaRose ticket.’ …

“’Dumping a hardworking, popular guy to chase an endorsement you’ll never get from someone whose values don’t align with who you are historically,’ the former colleague added, ‘is going to have a chilling effect on your team and hurt you in the long run.’”

LaRose is the lamentable poster child of the “primary problem” affecting US election law right now: candidates abdicating their principles in an effort to secure Trump’s endorsement so that they can win a MAGA-dominated Republican primary. The 2022 midterms in Ohio confirmed that the general election voter prefers a non-MAGA Republican (like Governor Mike DeWine, who won with 62%) to a MAGA Republican (like Senator J.D. Vance, who won with 53%). But unless a candidate has the kind of incumbency advantage that DeWine had, in the primary a candidate needs to veer hard-right to win the nomination. We can criticize LaRose (and others like him, including J.D. Vance) for abandoning their principles, but we must recognize that this is a structural problem, which we won’t solve without structural reform so that non-MAGA Republicans can compete for the support of general election voters without having first to prevail in a MAGA-dominated primary.

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