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Daniel Gulley

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Increasing voter turnout in primaries would dramatically improve the American system and result in more candidates with moderate positions.

It occurred to me that if I placed a bell curve over this simple linear model of politics I could show the distribution of American political attitudes.

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Reactionary/Conservative/Moderate/Liberal/Radical

I divided the moderates such that conservative moderates are located from center to 1 standard deviation(SD) to the right of the mean and liberal moderates are from center to 1 SD to the left of the mean.

What this shows is that the majority of Americans are in the middle of the political spectrum.

This is where I may coin a term "the 68%". The 68% are the majority of Americans. They are working class Americans, students, teachers, parents, grandparents and veterans. They are by definition moderate being somewhere to the right and left of center and everywhere in between.

The two parties usually employ sensitive issues to fire up the base and to divide and distract those people in the middle of the political spectrum, the 68%. They agree on virtually all accounts except for abortion, and maybe gay marriage. Regardless these two issues are deployed every election cycle to divide and distract, and after every cycle the status quo, the state of affairs on abortion and same-sex marriage, remains the same.

But if most Americans are somewhere in the middle, why do our candidates come from the left and right of center?

Voter turnout in the primaries is very low compared to during the general election, and sometimes it is as low as 1% or lower (it averages probably around 10-15% but can get as high as 25-30%).

The result is the simple truth that while those in the middle of the political spectrum, the moderate majority decides who will be our president, it is those people on the far left and right (the fringes) that decide who the two candidates will be. In essence the 68% do choose who will be President but it is the 1% and the 10% that decide who will run.

Primaries are just as important as general elections!!!

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  • Dec 29 2012: It's relatively easy to conceive of several changes that could bring about fairer contests with better choices and greater voter participation. For example, we could (in theory) replace the gerrymandering by state legislatures with bipartisan commissions that would follow geographical rather than political logic when they adjust district boundaries. We could (in theory) replace party primaries with a single open primary followed by a general election that pitted the top three candidates from the primary against one another. We could (in theory) offer a small tax credit or a discount on car registration or driver's license fees to anyone who votes in any election.

    None of these things is going to happen, at least not over the short term, because the people who would need to make these changes are the same people who have already benefited from the gerrymandered big-money two-parties-only low-participation system we currently have in place. There are a very few worthwhile experiments going on around the country at the state level (Wisconsin set up a bipartisan redistricting commission, Vermont seems to be moving into a post-party model at the state & national level), but these have been swamped by the recent efforts of Republicans to shrink the size of the voting public & protect the careers of incumbents.

    I know that primaries were originally intended to be an improvement over the smoke-filled room, but they've become a new version of the problem they were intended to solve. We'd be much better off without them--but I have no idea how to make that happen.

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