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Washington state: Primary or Caucus


A brief post and call to action, and a down-payment on a longer more substantive post.

I’ve noticed elite-level LGM commenter murc making the case for the value, importance, and democratic legitimacy of intraparty democracy in comments lately. At least of the comments I’ve read, I mostly endorse his position, which is seems to be somewhat controversial among the commentariat here (as well as among my fellow political scientists). I’ll make my case for value of intraparty democracy, and for the particular need for it in polities where Duverger’s Law still applies, in another post in the near future. One quirk of my own views on the subject (that I believe would represent a parting of ways with murc) is a “theory of the second best” kind of thing; my lexical ranking of candidate selection mechanisms is:

1) Primary–open selection process to all voter who avow support for the party in question
2) Party elites select candidates
3) Some quasi-democratic process that suppresses participation with some hurdle that results in an unrepresentative sample of the party’s voters.

(3) may in some sense seem closer to (1) than (2) but in practice has the some of the worst elements of (1) and (2) while lacking most of the virtues of either. The UK Labour party’s leadership selection process is a pretty clear example of (3), and so too are the nearly 1/3 of states still using the caucuses that stink up American political party’s presidential candidate selection process. (That the hurdle that creates the unrepresentative voter pool is a modest membership fee in the first case and a large chunk of time/willingness to interact with your annoying neighbors in the second doesn’t seem terribly important to me in the final evaluation; what matters is the distorted electorate they produce.)

But more on that later. My purpose here is to alert the subset of our readers who are registered Washington State voters (and, presumably, Democrats) that the party is going to revisit the caucus or primary question at a meeting in early April, and public comments are open. Please consider clicking through and going on the record for a proper binding primary in 2020. I anticipate they’ll receive considerable feedback from people who believe caucuses should be retained because they’ll benefit a particular candidate, and of course there are those who are fans of caucuses on the merits, so there’s no knowing which way these comments will go. So, dear Washington voters, please comment on behalf of a primary and encourage others to do the same.

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