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This is not the cure for polarization you’re looking for

This op-ed on how to “free Congress’ mind” seems to be unaware of the fact that one of its proposed solutions is not some theoretical construct.

Because most voters say they want compromise, we could also try to change electoral institutions to gain a greater voice for majorities over intransigent minorities on both sides. Allowing independents to vote in all party primaries could elect candidates with more compromising attitudes. Publicly financed campaigns would lessen the pressures of fund-raising that distract politicians from governing. Even rules that require members to spend more time interacting in Washington instead of rushing home to raise money from like-minded supporters could help.

I can only presume that it would be news to the writers of this op-ed – Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania and a professor of political science, and Dennis F. Thompson, a professor of government at Harvard – that we allow independents to vote in our party primaries here in Texas. Any registered voter can vote in whatever party primary they want. If you see any evidence that this leads to Republican “candidates with more compromising attitudes”, please let me know. Democrats, by and large, are much more open to compromise, but it’s so much more fun to write about “both sides” than to acknowledge such things. Perhaps if you’re really concerned about this sort of thing, the question to ask is what to do about an increasingly radicalized and irrational major political party.

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  1. Jed says:

    Hi Kuff,

    Gutmann and Thompson are very smart folks who have written some great books together. I would assume they know all about the various primary formats in the different states.

    To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they are suggesting open primaries in states that have two parties.


  2. Jed,

    I’m sure they’re smart people and I don’t mean to demean that. My point is simply that if they’re going to suggest open primaries as a way of promoting more compromise-minded candidates, they ought to address the question of how well it’s worked in states that already have such primaries. Maybe I’m wrong to think that Texas is typical – maybe this works pretty well in other states. I’m just saying that there is objective data that can be checked, and should be for something like this.