I start my mornings tuned into Michael Smerconish.
On Sunday he announced in the paper he was morphing from a Republican to an Independent.
Wearing my Democratic hat would tell me – yeeaahh – a conservative talker has left the fold – he has seen the light. He may get others to follow him because he uses solid logic and reasoning when makes his cases on the air. People nod their heads in agreement with this guy.
He will make the GOP weaker and that is always a good thing.
Or is it?
You left because the extremists have taken over the party.
15 years ago I stood where you stand now, but I approached from the left side of the stage. Having seen how the far left extreme took over the Local Democrats, I took their disinvitement invitation and left, becoming a Non-Partisan. I stood there for 2 or 3 years and realized a few things.
First, here are some other tidbits to put in the mix…
- Pennsylvania is a Closed Primary state. That means that only members of a party may vote in a primary election.
- A side effect of a Closed Primary States is the only people on the General Election ballot are those that can appeal to the most strident bases of the parties.
- There are different versions of Open Primaries and run-offs across the country. We will call anything that lets anyone vote in a primary and Open Primary.
- Primaries generally get about 15% of voter turnout, if they are lucky.
- For sake of argument we will assume 50% General election turnout.
- We need to make a differentiation between Independent in Pennsylvania, (it is actually a party like Democrat, Republican, Green, Socialist, etc.) and Non-Partisan (not affiliated at all).
I called on Monday morning and asked you to take one of two paths, join one of the major parties and work within their structure, even if you need to wear a gas mask to do it; or work to create an open Primary system in Pennsylvania. You stated clearly there is no third party leadership. If you commit to work for an Open Primary in Pennsylvania, I will leave the Democratic Party, effective the day after the Pennsylvania Primary, and join you in the middle.
I was on the local, Philly only, segment of the show. I know I hit a nerve (it already made my day). Callers on-hold were referencing my call 15 minutes later on the national segment of your program. It is rare a caller ever references back to a previous caller even once, I got several references.
As I said I realized a few things while eating grasshoppers in the political wilderness. People have said some of these things already in different ways.
When you leave the 2-Party System unless you are willing to really commit to creating a vehicle for the non-affiliated to participate in the primary, you have left the political building. Your absence makes it easier for the extremists to get their way. You may have only been a traffic bump on their road, but they still had to navigate your presence as a GOP member.
Primaries are where the General Elections are set. With 15% turnout, the winner of a two way primary can go to the General with only 7.5% of the vote. Let’s make it even worse – an evenly contested 3-way primary can win with a hair over 5% of the vote. A 4-way primary winner can walk away with only 3.75001 of the vote. The other side is working with the same set of numbers. So the General sets up with an Extreme Right vs. Extreme Left legitimately representing about 7.5% of the electorate. That means the other 92.5% of those who did not, or worse, cannot vote are at the will of these folks. Do you still want to call us some kind of democratic republic?
Now, look at this another way; how much more force do my votes in the Primary and General Elections have over your solitary General Election vote? If in the General Election we get a 50% turnout of everyone – those who vote have a 2 times more powerful vote than those who have opted out (2 * 50% = 100%).
I am one of the 15% who will remain in a party structure as I hold my nose. That means I have 6.666 times the power of someone who does not or cannot cast their ballot (6.666 * 15% = 100%). What is more, my 6.666 times power edge over you allows me to set just what your binary choice will be. I can eliminate your guy without you even being able to say BOO.
You opting out of the GOP, as much as I am loathe to say it, is hurting the country as a whole. You are giving these people (and me) more power than they deserve to have. You cannot act as a check and balance from the outside. I walked this path. I rejoined the Democrats. I pick my spots where I think I can do the most good.
If you want to go after the path of most resistance (being a political salmon, I tend to do this a lot) you are better equipped than most of us, being a connected lawyer. You can enunciate or help find those who can enunciate a legal path to breakdown the wall that prevents all of us from voting in a primary.
Keep in mind that the closed primary system is using tax dollars to provide a nominating process for 2 semi-private organizations. I am surprised that some sharp lawyer has not made the equal protection argument that a closed primary system is unconstitutional. Once the tax dollars are used to staff the polls and run the elections, everybody needs to have a say.
Once you get everybody having a say, the extremists will get washed out because the Independents or the Moderates or the Rastafarians can then flood the system when it is most important, when selecting people for the General Election. That binary menu choice becomes more centered instead of extreme.
As you leave the GOP, you are also moving into unchartered territory in the talk radio world. You are pushing the envelope towards the center. Do you want to go it alone, or do you want to start cloning yourself? Can you begin to convince other talkers to move with you to the center? When will you start to develop your own stable of talkers? You are staking out a large swath of territory, how long can you cover it yourself? As Rush started out in the 80’s developing the Right Wing Radio, you have the opportunity to develop the Raging Moderates of the Reasonable Center.
Your pulpit will become exponentially larger if you move down this path. You are at a crossroads. You have been griping for a while about the state of things. A lot of us are listening. You are now a leader, I hope you are thinking where this is going.