A Primer on Primaries 2


Another midterm election cycle completed and the republican party solidified their control over Congress. The media cried, “America has spoken!”

Turnout for the 2014 general election was thirty-six percent. Party primaries reached half that pathetic number. Less than half in some districts. The voters have definitely spoken. They said, “We don’t care.”

I wonder if that is what they were really saying. Perhaps it was more like, “We don’t understand midterm primary elections, Jason, and would like you to introduce us to a different frame of reference.”

It would be my pleasure.

The single defining characteristic of primary elections is gerrymandering. In all 435 congressional districts, a single party is in charge and has been for years. Each of those districts has an incumbent who keeps his or her powder dry until November because their only real work is satisfying their base by slaughtering the opposing party’s sacrificial lamb in the general election.

Nothing ever changes because nothing ever changes. American voters are predictably easy to anticipate and manipulate. Shifting the paradigm couldn’t be more simple, but first We The People have to care about politics as it were life or death. We have to become invested in the outcomes of these races because we are invested in the outcomes of these races.

Show up. Take part.

Rinse and repeat.

Registering as a candidate in your local district and waging a guerrilla war against an comfy incumbent in a primary election is relatively simple and inexpensive given the size of districts and supposed homogeneity of the constituency. In a midterm primary, upwards of 80 or 90 percent of voters won’t participate because no one new is asking. The math is inescapable.

Since both parties can lay claim to a progressive heritage, finding a resonate voice that speaks to the majority of voters in a district is a simple matter of research and planning. Congressional districts come in all sizes, but they are based on population, so the size of the audience doesn’t really change much from state to state and have been neglected for decades.

The lesser of two evils is still evil, so make sure there is a different choice in the general election by getting excited about the primary. What if we renamed the general election the Secondary Election instead? Would that finally provide the right positioning for the relative importance each vote cast?

This strategy allows for taking out the garbage stinking up your state capitols as well. Those ineffectual legislators also enjoy the gift of gerrymandered districts and low turnout.

Show up. Take part.

Rinse and repeat.

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2 thoughts on “A Primer on Primaries

  • Site

    Elected representatives typically rely on political parties in order to gain and retain office. This means they often feel a primary loyalty to the party and will vote contrary to conscience to support a party position. Representatives appointed by sortition do not owe anything to anyone for their position.

    • Jason Everett Miller Post author

      Insurgencies have no such loyalty. The Tea Party proved that in 2010 and 2014 when they drove the republican party hard right. A people-powered movement at the district level during midterm primaries could easily replace incumbents with progressive candidates with the right messaging and timing.