How to Fix Our Primary System…. And the Republican Party.
The solution is to create more Republican voters, by promoting optimistic conservative principles.
“The solution is to be more conservative!” is the cry of the tea party movement in this country. “No the solution is to moderate and expand our tent!” shout the establishment. The truth is neither of these “solutions” to our electoral woes (we have lost the popular vote the last 5/6 Presidential elections) is really a solution. The problem is we are surrendering big states, and strategizing around winning 270 electoral votes instead of strategizing to win 538.
Consider our approach to states like New York or Massachusetts, “we can never win those” is a common admission from many Republicans, even those in these states. In my home state of California, I attended a young Republicans meeting where the guest speaker who at the time was working on behalf of senate candidate Chuck DeVore (who has since proudly left California for Texas), essentially called California a lost cause. Do Democrats speak the same way about Texas? There are countless articles about the hopes of Democrats turning The Lone Star state purple and eventually blue. Democrats haven’t admitted defeat, and they certainly aren’t surrendering.
We lose for one reason and one reason alone: we are too focused on winning elections. For all of their brain dead ideas, at least the Democrats have something to rally around. The Republicans don’t really stand for anything right now. The moderates are either spineless or they actually like big government and just want to run it, giving them little distinction from The Democrats. Conservatives, on the other hand have great principles, but don’t really have a cohesive agenda that allows candidates to effectively communicate aside from opposing President Obama (again, very election focused). We need to stop worrying about winning elections and start worrying about putting our country on the right course, we need to start worrying about how Americans are going to see conservative principles. We need to be hopeful, optimistic, and bright about the future of this country and we need to create more Republican voters to come on the journey with us.
Luckily for us, our founding fathers had an idea for policy that works just as well for winning elections: our states are laboratories for policies that other states can use or if it makes sense constitutionally, nationally. We just need to give it teeth. We need to encourage the state Republican Parties to create more Republican votes on the ground where they live.
Yesterday, the Republican national committee announced plans to delay primaries outside of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, have fewer debates, better moderators, and hold our convention in June. All of these (except for holding the primary in June, I’m missing the wisdom in that) are great baby steps, but the truth is, we need a radical transformation of our primary system. We live in the era of TV of the internet and social media, in the old days, there were reasons we did caucuses and primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire first. But those days are gone. Everything is national these days.
So here is my proposal:
Let’s create a point system in the mid term elections and score each state based on their results. We would need to make it relative, so there might be some states who don’t have gubernatorial elections in the mid terms, so we take their previous gubernatorial results from the presidential election or maybe they have off year elections like in New Jersey and Louisiana, we would use those results. The state Republican Party would get points based on: turnout, the percentage of increase in Republicans in state legislature seats, local election results, the gubernatorial race, etc. The better the GOP does, the more points the state gets.
We would split the states in half by population and have a group of small states and large states and rank them according to the results of their election.
The first primary would be held in the middle of March and the top small state and the top large state would be first. So for example, if the California pulled out all the stops and managed to have the highest increase in Republicans in the state legislature, and elected a Republican governor and happened to draw a large Republican turn out and ranked number 1 among large states, and let’s say Montana did the same amongst small states, California and Montana would be the first to do their primaries in mid March. The next six states (3 large, 3 small) would do their primaries a month later in April, the next ten (5 large, 5 small) in May, with the remaining 32 (16 large, 16 small) states holding a “mega super Tuesday” race in the middle of June.
The RNC should offer to pay for their own presidential primaries, so as not to disturb the states own primary schedule. I believe that conservatism, presented smartly just as Ronald Reagan did, just as the Republicans in 1994 did, will always win elections. The flimsy moderatism of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and yes, even George W Bush (who technically lost the popular vote in 2000 and we were in the middle of a war in 2004) always fails.
This system would ensure that states are doing what wins: creating conservative voters with a message that says America has a bright future with a smaller, smarter government.