Winnowing and Endorsing: Separating the Two Distinct Functions of Party Primaries
25 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2020 Last revised: 11 Dec 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2020
This chapter of an edited volume on presidential primaries focuses on the relationship of the primaries to the general election. It does not suffice that the rules are sound for each stage of the overall electoral system considered separately. Instead, the relationship of the two stages must also be sound for the overall system to be coherent. The chapter analyzes this relationship by examining the possibility of a “bolt” from a brokered convention, as occurred in 1912 when ex-president Theodore Roosevelt launched his separate Progressive Party (“Bull Moose”) candidacy after losing his bid for the GOP nomination. The chapter considers the hypothetical possibility that something similar might occur in the context of the 2020 Democratic Party primary, where deep ideological divisions between two wings of the party have become evident. If Democrats are internally torn between progressives and moderates, what is the relationship between this internal party split and the general presidential election that inevitably must follow? The chapter considers whether the use of Ranked Choice Voting in the general election and eliminating so-called “sore loser” laws, to permit the losing candidate of a divisive primary election to run in the general election as an independent candidate, would provide a more coherent relationship between the two stages of the overall process than what currently exists.
Keywords: primaries, general election, Ranked Choice Voting, Democratic Party, political parties, presidential elections, party nominations
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