We Should Use The Louisiana Model … and Be Rid of (Some) Bad Candidates

“Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress” – Napoleon Bonaparte

I dislike the “two-party” system in the United States. The political oligarchy has left us constantly with a choice of “the lesser of two evils” and no real options for leadership.

The system also has difficulties in managing “primaries” – the pre-election to determine which candidates will represent each party. The difficulty arises mainly from the ability to control who does and doesn’t vote in a given primary. On the one hand, the Republicans and Democrats would like to say “only we can vote in our primary” … but how does one define who is or isn’t a Republican or Democrat in a free society? Yes, we can register as one party or another. But I would hope, again in a free society, that we can change our party affiliation at any time we choose without giving cause. So registrations are effectively meaningless as a means of keeping “them” out of the election. Besides, a lot of states use open voting in the primaries, allowing any person to vote in any primary (realizing that the registration bit is simply a convenience barrier).

Why is this a problem? It’s quite simple. When one party has their candidate all but settled before the primary (for instance, if they have the incumbent), then their party is better served by voting in the opposition primary and picking the absolute worst candidate possible. They can often sway the primary, and thereby sway the outcome of the general election in the process. (It is effectively a means of double voting.)

This happened recently in Missouri, where wing-nut candidate Todd Akin won the Republican primary (out of three major candidates) by garnering heaving support from Democrat crossover votes. The Democrats had no need to caste ballots in their primary, as Claire McCaskill was unopposed.

Akin blew up (politically speaking) a few days ago when defending his pro-life stance, even in cases of rape. Akin said, in response to a question about women who are impregnated through forcible rape, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” OK, we’ll overlook for a second the bad choice of “legitimate” in front of rape (there’s nothing legitimate about it). I think the second part is the most destructive, quite frankly: “don’t worry about it, if you are raped [having your life upended and engendering emotional/psychological scars that will remain for a long time … perhaps forever] your body will go into super-woman mode and make sure that you  don’t get pregnant on top of it all.” Yeah, no worries.

Akin should have dropped out of the race yesterday. He didn’t. His continuance all but guarantees a McCaskill win, and further supports the very policies Akin claims to oppose. Perhaps if the outcomes mattered more to Todd Akin than his personal success and glory he might have dropped out.

My point is that it never comes to this if we follow the Louisiana model. Louisiana has an “open primary” (often also called a “jungle primary”) in which all candidates run in one race. If somebody gets 50% they win, if not the top two have a run-off. This fixes the problem. In this system, Democrats have no room or reason to vote for Todd Akin – they would vote for Claire McCaskill. She’d likely finish in the top two, as would one of the Republican candidates – the one who garnered the most votes from the population of voters that do not prefer Claire McCaskill.

In this case it is the Republicans who took it on the chin, but in many other cases it’s the Democrats. I think we need to get rid of this problem in all the cases and use an open primary. In fact, I’d like to see something like this for presidential campaigns as well (though the whole Electoral College requirement makes it a bit more difficult).

For now, we muddle through with a system designed to give us lesser candidates and prop up the political establishment.

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