A bill introduced in Carson City today would change the way the state’s two major political parties nominate presidential candidates — from the current caucus system to a primary in which voters in each party simply cast ballots, rather than have to listen to boring speeches and actually talk to other party members.
Assembly Bill 126 is sponsored by Assemblyman Jason Frierson and Assemblywomen Teresa Benitez-Thompson and Brittney Miller. The bill calls for the primaries to be held on the Tuesday immediately preceding the last Tuesday in January of each presidential election year, which would make Nevada the first nominating state. The bill also would allow same-day voter registration, which could lead to shenanigans such as “Operation Chaos,” suggested by Rush Limbaugh in 2008, calling for Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton in Democratic primaries to keep her in the race and divide the Democrat Party.
“This legislation is yet another reason the Silver State deserves to be the first presidential nominating state in 2024,” Nevada State Democrat Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement posted by KOLO-TV in Reno. “We are a majority-minority state with a strong union population and the power structure of the country is moving West. I want to thank Speaker Frierson, who has devoted his career in the Assembly to make our voting process more expansive and equitable, for his help in securing Nevada’s spot on the national stage.”
Frankly, the state has no business telling state Republican and Democratic parties how to choose their nominees, nor should the taxpayers, many of whom are members of other parties or are independents, pay the millions of dollars it will take for the state and counties to conduct these primaries.
Columbia School of Law professor and election law expert Nathaniel Persily observed in 2008, “The move toward primaries has transferred power away from political parties to the media, who are then in a position to describe someone as having momentum.”
As I have said before, primaries turn serious political contests with serious consequences into beauty pageants and/or reality TV competition with ill-informed dullards from the lowest common denominator sitting on their couches and voting for the best quips and the worst gaffes occurring during their short attention spans.
Bring back the smoke-filled backrooms and let serious people with studied philosophies put forth the best candidates for each party. But if a party wants to conduct a primary, they should pay for it themselves and run it themselves and pay the consequences of getting pretty candidates with pretty slogans and an utter lack of competence and capability — witness the presidential candidates put forth by both major parties in 2020.
When this topic was broached in 2015, I noted, “No one, but no one has stepped back and asked the one vital question: What business is it of the Democrat-dominated state Legislature as to how or when any political party nominates its candidates?”
Not only is the Constitution silent on political parties, our Founders were actually disdainful of political parties.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
Earlier, in 1780 John Adams wrote, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
In his farewell address in 1796 George Washington said:
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
Sounds downright prescient, doesn’t it?
Yes, a caucuses can be a drudge.
As I noted after the 2012 caucuses, the Republican presidential caucus wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. There were long delays, breakdowns in communication, misfires and miscues. In fact, 20 minutes into it I sent out a tweet or twit or whatever saying: “GOP organization — an oxymoron.”
As sure as worms after a rainstorm and just as there was in 2008 a bunch of people are wringing their hands and bemoaning the unseemliness and the rough-hewn nature of it all — people actually talking to each other about politics, poor turnout, delayed vote count results, etc., endless freaking out. They are saying, again, the raucous caucus should be replaced with a nice aseptic primary in which state paid bureaucrats and septuagenarian volunteers man the polls for 12 hours and the voters hide behind curtains to choose their party standard bearer.
In 2008 then-Democratic state Sen. Dina Titus promised to introduce a bill to conduct presidential primaries in Nevada. “This notion of neighbors getting together with neighbors to talk about politics, that’s just not Nevada,” she said. “What I found in my caucus is that the meeting didn’t lead to collaboration, cooperation and a good discussion. It led to hostility. It’s too complicated.” And she was a professor of political science — an oxymoron.
Bring back smoke-filled backrooms and let those willing and able to roll up their sleeves and scuffle with their neighbors to see whose principles and ideas come out victorious.
Here is my comment back in 2012: