Will Republicans Pick the Next Presidential Nominee of the Democratic Party?

The day before the Texas and Ohio presidential primaries were held on March 4, Rush Limbaugh was saying, on an O’Reilly Factor interview for Fox News, that he was “urging his Republican friends” in these states to vote in the Democratic primary and to vote for Hillary Clinton. Since Limbaugh marches close to the head of an endless parade of Hillary-haters, this might seem incongruous. Not so, however, if you consider his logic in making the recommendation. He says he wants “his” party (the Republican) to win in November, and that keeping Clinton “in the race” by winning these two states would prolong the internecine struggle among the Democrats and increase the chance of “his” party to win the general election after the Democratic contenders had knocked themselves out….not that he was necessarily wanting the other party to select his “weakest” candidate. Probably were Obama on the verge of elimination, he would have urged his friends to vote for him.

In an earlier article, I wrote of the “games” that Democrats play, referring to their agonies over superdelegates and the seating of delegates from Florida and Michigan. Limbaugh may be highlighting for us a Republican form of gamesmanship in the current election season: creating havoc in the opposition party ranks in order to enhance their own November prospects. There’s a connection with the Democrats’ own games, at least in the case of the debacle of the still-suppressed Florida delegation to the convention, as it was a Republican-dominated legislature and governor who spearheaded advancing of the date of both parties’ primaries to January 29, supposedly to increase the influence of the state on the national parties’ nominating processes, only to put that influence on the sideline as some Floridians now wish they had arrived fashionably late rather than annoyingly early at their party’s party; at least the Democrats, who were far more severely sanctioned by the DNC than were their Republican neighbors by the RNC. Democrats now cry foul play by the legislature, though Democratic legislators were for the most part complicit in their own screwing.

To return to the specific instance of Republican encouragement of voting in the Democrats’ primary with such mischief-making purposes, it should be noted that Limbaugh’s Republican friends in Ohio and Texas must not have been registered as Republicans but as “independents” because, in the “semi-open” primaries of both states, only such independent voters could choose the party slate on which they wanted to vote; so maybe the influence of such cross-voting on these elections was relatively insignificant (though in a really close race like Texas any small difference can be significant). However, in states with fully “open” primaries in which one can choose to vote in the primary of a party with which he or she is not affiliated, cross-voting could have far more influence on election outcomes. Some of Obama’s strong showing in open primary states like Missouri and Wisconsin could have been helped by heavy cross-voting by Republicans, whose motives at this earlier stage may have been to promote the winning of a perceived “weakest” candidate rather to prolong a rival party’s primary contest.

The main control against such “mischievous” cross-voting from one party to another is the situation in which both parties have an undetermined outcome in the contests in their own party. Limbaugh said, for example, that his Texas and Ohio friends’ voting for Clinton would not hurt John McCain who had (for practical purposes) already been assured of the Republican nomination. Therein lies one of my motives in bringing out this situation at this point in the campaign. With McCain already assured of nomination, we can now anticipate much more involvement of Republicans in the remaining primaries of the Democratic party, the primaries that will determine the Democrats’ nominee (or will result in the outcome being determined by superdelegate and any other “uncommitted” delegate votes). Between April 22 and May 6, three populous states with a total of 345 delegates will hold primaries. While all three of these states have “closed” primaries (one must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary), there is time yet for Republicans to change their registrations to Democrat in order to be able to vote in the Democratic primary: by March 23 for Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary, by April 9 for the May 6 primary in Indiana, and by April 6 for North Carolina’s primary, also on May 6. Since there is little likelihood that the Obama/Clinton race will be decided before May 6, we can anticipate every incentive for Republican voters, lacking a contest for their own nominee, to change their party affiliations in order to vote to prolong the contest in the Democratic Party by voting for whichever candidate seems to be “on the ropes” at that time. After May 6, and after a possible but seemingly unlikely re-do of the Florida and Michigan votes (in which Michigan would have an “open” primary if it re-does at it originally did), one would think that, if the race is still “undecided.” the Republicans would finally allow the Democrats to vote their own preference; or return to an earlier policy of voting for whatever Democrat they perceive as the “weakest.”

If all this sounds like a lament for poor embattled Democrats, I don’t mean for it to be this. I voted in the “suppressed” January 29 Florida primary, not for either Obama or Clinton, nor would I vote for either of them (or McCain) in November. Rather, I want the bottom line of this analysis is to be my urging three reforms of our primary electoral system that would reduce the likelihood of this “mess” from happening again.

(1) Eliminate “open” primaries which sound like fine democratic exercises in freedom for voters, but in fact bring in voters whose motives are not the best interests are not those of the party in whose primaries they are voting.

(2) Lengthen the time interval between a primary election and the date at which a voter may switch his/her registration between parties; the model here might be Kentucky, which now enforces a December 31, 2007 deadline for such party switches for its May 20 primary.

(3) Establish a single day for primaries in all states, so that one party can no longer “game” the voting process by waiting until a contest in their own party is already determined and then creating mischief in the other party.

I know that the media which depend on revenues from their reporting and commentating on half-year or more election seasons, with even an equivalent of the Academy Awards or World Series in a “super Tuesday,” would have to be hog-tied to support such a reform. But whose media is it, anyway, if the public interest requires changes that will protect the integrity of our electoral system, why should Fox News, CNN and the New York Times stand in our way?

Jerry D. Rose is a retired professor of sociology from State University of New York at Fredonia, now living in Gainesville Florida. He may be contacted at: jerrydrose11@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Jerry, or visit Jerry's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. D.R. Munro said on March 11th, 2008 at 6:07am #

    Why should the media stand in our way?

    Because people like Rupert Murdoch are allowed to create massive newspaper and media empires.

    You know that old quote from Citizen Kane?

    “Print the truth, Charlie.”
    “The truth is whatever I tell them it is!”

    Replace ‘Charlie’ with Rupert or Ted and you’ve got the right idea.

  2. Jerry D. Rose said on March 11th, 2008 at 6:54am #

    One thing I like about these comments is that they give an author a chance to have some “second thoughts” about what she or he has written. Considering my three “reform” proposals to prevent “mischievous” intrusions of one party in another party’s primaries, I think I would put a lot more emphasis on the 3rd of these: the holding of all primaries on a single day in all the states. As I said, gamesmanship of the type that’s happening this year would be less likely to occur in those situations, since partisans of each party would almost surely prefer to vote in their “own” party’s elections and wouldn’t mess with trying to game the other one. “Open” primaries could still be a problem, however, as even the “semi-open” ones allow independents to choose to vote in a primary of their “choice” and many could have followed Limbaugh’s advice as he gave it for Ohio and Texas. The problem with #1 and 2 is that they go against the right of each state to determine things like open, closed or semi-open and deadlines for registrations; so getting things changed across the political spectrum would be politically difficult. In the case of a national primary day, I don’t know, not being a constitutional lawyer, what would be involved in doing this; but I do feel that you could get a groundswell of public support from both parties on grounds of their right to conduct their nominations from among their own members, and people of all parties and all registration statuses that are “sick and tired” of the extended exposure to vapid “campaigning” that is the unfortunate hallmark of our elections. Bottom line: the “how to do it” is very unclear, but I still feel pretty clearly that these reforms are needed and that now is the time to begin to institute them: not because they can be effective for this primary season, but because the freshness of the pain of confusion and injustice that we are now feeling may be a fertile ground to motivate changes on a “never again will we allow these travesties to come to pass.”

  3. Mike McNiven said on March 16th, 2008 at 10:51pm #

    a view from abroad:


  4. Dissident Voice : Watergate II: The Republican Plan to Retain the White House said on May 3rd, 2008 at 4:59am #

    […] to prolong the Democratic primary race to allow Obama and Clinton to clobber one another to help do the party’s dirty work for it. Of course the “dirty” Clinton campaign obliged and Republican bottom-suckers aided the […]