No Susan, “top two” primary is a flawed centerist dream, not a panacea

Susan Bigelow’s Op-Ed at CTNewsJunkie: Lesson from Levy’s Win: Open Up the Primaries <read> Argues for opening up primary voting to all voters, easier ballot access, and for “top two” primaries.

Closed primaries get criticized for enabling extremism, a criticism that seems absolutely valid in the aftermath of Levy’s win. Who reliably turns out for primaries in the dead of August? The most activist, the most partisan, and often the most extremist voters, that’s who. And if turnout is low enough, this small minority of voters can swing an election.

The parties need to open up their primaries to everyone, though that alone won’t really fix the situation. There may be some moderating influence from unaffiliated voters, but the problem of primaries being inherently partisan remains. It’s also notoriously difficult to get on the primary ballot at all for anyone who doesn’t have enough support at a party convention.

What I’d like to see is a system employed in other states and countries: a two-round election. The first round is open to all candidates, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the final round. This takes the party out of the primary process altogether, which is healthier for democracy. It also guarantees that the eventual winner is elected by an actual majority of voters.


First, we agree its all two difficult to get on the primary or election ballots for all but party endorsed candidates, or those like Levy and Lumaj.

The other two suggestions remind one of the Great Centerist dream, that there is a large number of voters not aligned with each party, they are all for business taxes being low and corporate welfare being being high, against the polls that show overwhelming support for climate action, medicare for all etc. They are alleged to align with the corporate lobbyists and interests that control legislative bodies and party leaders. Yet somehow that always fail as Andrew Wang’s latest new party is.

We are fine with trying open primaries, we have not heard of any problems there. Not so sure they actually support the centerist dream in reality.

However, the top-two has not worked out so well as we detailed in a previous post, reviewing its application in California: NY: don’t follow CA in making “Top Two” error <read>, as we summarized back then:

This all goes to show why it is called a Jungle Primary. We prefer to call it a Crap Shoot, because, like many reforms, its intention is to correct a perceived past problem, but just replaces one imperfect system with another – fighting the last war.

(And who said that centrism is a worthy goal – its usually defined only in the vision of a particular pundit or politician, completely in agreement with that pundit’s own views)



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