Is It Time To Go To Non-Partisan Primaries To Address Growing Polarization?

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A segment on MSNBC’s 11th Hour w/ Stephanie Ruhle(06/22/22) delved into the very interesting discussion as to whether, given the staggering levels of polarization in the country, we should change adopt a non-partisan primary voting system. Ruhle’s guest Nick Troiano, Executive Director of Unite America, says this change, which is already in place in several states, notably Alaska, would incentivize candidates to look for support beyond their party affiliation thus making them more likely to seek bipartisan solutions to problems. Unite America is a national organization trying to bridge the growing partisan divide by supporting political reforms and candidates who put people over party.

Troiano told 11th Hour host Ruhle(video at 1:22):“I think we spend a lot of time focused on who we elect, not enough time focusing on how we elect, because it’s the systems of our elections that are really pushing our parties further and further apart, and I think our politicians, as a result, are much more polarized than we the people. We’re not seeing the types of solutions and bipartisan policy making in Congress as the American people want and deserve, and the core reason of that is because of our system of partisan primaries. In the last election, it was only 10% of Americans who elected 83% of Congress, because the vast majority of our elections are decided not in the general election in November, but in the primary election, and that problem is getting even worse this election cycle after the latest round of redistricting. We’re going to have the least competitive elections of our lifetime. It’s going to lead to the least accountable Congress of our lifetime. So if we want different outcomes out of Congress, we have to change the process, and fortunately, there’s a growing movement to do that at the state level all across the country.”

Below are some of United America‘s suggested reforms

Troiano singled out the primary system in Alaska as the “best example” of what should be emulated nationwide, if we are going to address the growing polarization problem. He said: “Senator[Lisa]Murkowski was one of the 14 Republicans who voted to advance the bipartisan gun legislation. She’s the only Republican up for election this year, and what’s notable is that this is the first time where the Senator doesn’t face a partisan primary. She’s standing for election in front of all Alaskan voters because in 2020, Alaskans adopted a ballot measure that replaced both parties primaries with a single non-partisan primary. So all the candidates compete in one election, all the voters get to participate on that ballot, the top four finishers go to the general election and through an instant runoff, whomever wins the majority of support gets elected, and so it gives voters more voice and choice in elections, and it incentivizes candidates and leaders to campaign and be responsive to the whole constituency, not just the 10% who may vote in a partisan primary. Now imagine if additional states were to adopt this reform, we can have dozens of our elected leaders in Congress finally being able to be responsive to the majority of Americans and not the political extremes.”

Troiano also said non-partisan primaries would encourage more people to throw their hats into the political ring without fear of being labeled “spoilers”, something he acknowledged, keeps a lot of otherwise good candidates from both parties, on the sidelines.

Bottom line folks, non-partisan primaries is a very interesting suggestion indeed, which Yours Truly hopes, will be given serious consideration given the crippling levels of polarization in our politics today. Simply put, when the likes of Boebert(CO) and MTG(GA) start showing up in Congress, then reasonable people will agree, that the selection system is surely broken!!

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