19 Feb 2011

Another Example Debunking Lies About Choke Point Primaries Helping Moderates

Supporters of Choke Point Primary rules, often called “Top Two” because they only let two people through to the general election, use several lies to promote the rule. They try to hide them behind the banner of open primaries, like a good piece of legislation with hidden earmarks attached, and by using the idea that Top Two is supposed to make it so incumbants don’t get elected as much, which has been proven to not be the case by looking at years of results.

The most recent example of a debunked talking point is the example of Jean Berkey, a moderate democrat who was ousted in her primary by a lefty democrat. Top Two talking points would tell you that these Choke Point Primary rules are supposed to help moderates win out, but that hasn’t been shown either. Repeating it over and over doesn’t make it so, yet they continue.

From Ballot Access News:

Harper’s supporters exploited the Washington state “top-two” system to defeat Berkey. The trial lawyers association, the state labor council, and the Washington State Federation of State Employees, all contributed heavily to the primary campaign of Republican Rod Rieger. These groups did not support Rieger; they were gaming the system, and it worked. The primary results were: incumbent Berkey 6,591 votes; Harper 7,193 votes; Rieger 6,713 votes. Because Berkey did not place first or second, she was eliminated from the general election. At the general election, Harper easily defeated Rieger, 22,089 to 14,892.

California newspapers, most of whom supported the top-two ballot question in June 2010, repeatedly asserted that a top-two system eliminates “extremists” and empowers “centrists.” But, in this Washington state example, the opposite happened.

It is unusual for the talking points for a particular bit of legislation to be entirely devoid of any reasoning with logic to it. Usually politicians find at least a couple supporting ideas that make sense, and I’m sure there are some that supporters of Top Two could use… but the ones used by groups like CAIVN and IndependentVoting.org are utter garbage. Top Two “Choke Point” Primary rules need to be stopped from spreading, and overturned in California, Washington and Louisiana, before it continues make it even easier for incumbents and major party candidates to keep independents and moderates from having the representation we deserve as much as they do.

This is just one more example where they have zero evidence for their talking point, and growing evidence that its a complete fabrication.

Author Details
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
×
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

22 thoughts on “Another Example Debunking Lies About Choke Point Primaries Helping Moderates”

  1. Solomon, I’m not sure if this is on topic.  I agree with you regarding “top two,” and really do want to get people into power that will represent the majority of the people.
    That said, one of my pet peeves however is when an elected official talks as a representative of their originally sponsoring political party.  I understand why they all do it.  I just don’t like it.  As a lifetime Republican, I still believe that President Obama is my President as well as my Democrat brother’s.
    I believe  when a person is elected to office their primary responsibility is to represent ALL of their constituents.  When a moderate party person finds themselves representing a group that is comprised of the other party simply because the opposition’s party base failed to recognize their “zealot” was not electable for 60 plus percent of the represented district (it happens a lot here in Kansas), it is incumbent on the newly elected official to represent the district, not the party from which their originally ran!
    I was recently asked by a local party official to consider running for… they went on to say that once elected they would be happy that I was there doing THEIR bidding.  Really not how I work.
    The issue is how do candidates metamorphose into representatives?  Might I suggest that once elected, EVERY political office holder be automatically placed on the next election cycle ballot as “the incumbent.”   It would remove from the elected official’s concerns a next cycle threat from their base.
    President Carter would not have had to track left to negate Ted Kennedy before he took on the GOP nominee.
    President Obama wouldn’t have to be concerned about a primary threat from Representative Kucinich.  Heck, don’t worry about the threat of a primary challenge, what if the base fails to renominate a popular representative….Utah, Alaska, what will happen in Massachusetts. The President would be truly free to represent ALL of America FIRST.
    It will probably never happen as party leaders with all their money will cry that it would be unconstitutional.  I don’t know, but even the Constitution can be changed.
    Finally, this solution would never preclude either party from abandoning their candidate who is now in office.  It would however, require that abandoning party to own the problem of a “split vote” within thier party.

    1. Hi All!  I just discovered this fine blog.  So I thought I would jump in with a friendly response to James’s comment.  I think his statement that he has been “a lifetime Republican,” creates a self-contradiction with his stated desire “to get people into power that will represent the majority of the people.”  ISTM that if officials are to be elected in a system of party competition, then they must necessarily maintain their party loyalty.
       
      By identifying himself as a member of a party, James is validating the system of party competition.  He therefore undermines the realization of the ideals he states.  IMHO to reach the goal he states, and which I fully endorse, then one step required is to form a nonpartisan political system.  That starts with abandoning one’s identification with party labels. (Thinking outside the box — ugh, hate that phrase!)   
      I agree that “when a person is elected to office their primary responsibility is to represent ALL of their constituents.”  But I don’t think this can be done within a system of party competition.  The problem here isn’t to hope for heroic folks who can use a party to get in office, and then rise above their party’s interests, nor to create a “morally pure” party that can elect such heroes, but to remove the corruption of parties from the political system.
       
      William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
      Internetvoting@gmail.com
       https://www.opednews.com/author/author36599.html?sid=36599
       

      1. There are plenty of popular governors around the country that polling shows the public thinks are doing just fine. You don’t need to be an independent to listen to the people, but it certainly does make it more difficult at times, with the pressures that come from ideologues in the parties.

        I’m an independent, but if there was a centrist party, that was well run and set up better than the two majors, I’d probably join. People should be who they are. The label isn’t a problem unless you let it define you to such a degree that anyone who doesn’t fit it becomes an enemy.

      2. Doctor Kelleher, thanks for the input.  I hadn’t thought about my comments within your context and sometimes I’m not very articulate.  I believe within the “arriving at the candidates,” portion of an election cycle, party affiliations are useful.  They allow the voting public the ability to quickly identify with a broad policy–less government, more personal responsibility, –more government, less person responsibility.
        As I lifetime member of the GOP, who has previously represented a couple of thousand voters, I will tell you I have NEVER voted a party ticket.  The “top two” discussion in my mind, is really more about finding a NEW representatives.  My concern is encouraging the incumbents to represent all their constituents.  It’s the twitter discussion  Solomon had with the ID Dem, they represent ALL their constituents not just the party bosses.  Someone else rightfully commented that the 70 – 80% center doesn’t get excited or educated about the ballot until the day before they vote.  That is what every base is counting on.
        I want to be able to vote FOR candidates, not vote AGAINST the least objectionable one.  Oh and what does “ISTM” mean?

  2. I actually like a system like Japan’s, where there are multiple candidates elected from the same ballot.  This tends to give minor parties a better chance at representation and you don’t get those people who win on 51% of the vote with 49% unrepresented.  It has flaws, like any system, but I think it might be a better one.
     
     

  3. The point for me is not whether a top-two system is not flawed (it is) or the best alternative (it isn’t).  The question is, is it better than the current system. 
    In CA, Grey Davis funded the defeat of a moderate Republican that might have beaten him to get a more “hard core” conservative candidate that was an easier win in liberal CA.  Both systems still can divide the moderate vote and be “gamed”.
    So if you want to drop top-two systems in favor of ranked voting (or something like that) sure, I’m all in.  But if you want to simply prevent the use of such systems (leaving our current system unchanged) then you have to show that it is more flawed than the current system.  IMO, you haven’t done this.
    I will note that even something like ranked voting is going to have possible flaws, if any flaw in a new system is a reason to not change, then we will get no change to our system.
    [BTW, I would suggest that, on a moderate blog, we go easier on the term “lies”.  Calling stuff you don’t agree with a “lie” is the tactic of the partisans who are unwilling to accept that people sincerely disagree with what they thinks is right.]

    1. They could have pushed any number of other actual open primary like primary rules, but chose Top Two, and in the places that have had Top Two in place, stats show incumbants lose even less. Not better at all in outcome, and with the fact of how much it limits access to the general election ballot, I think it is much worse.

      1. Yes, they pushed a top two system.  Whatever the reason, they went with what you think is the wrong way.  Myself, I’m uncertain about that since I think things like ranked voting will take time to get through and I willing to support more limited reform in the meantime.  And whether I agree or not, I am willing to accept that if someone gets top two voting on the ballot, they were doing what they thought was right and I need to decide whether to support it or prefer that nothing gets done.  So it come down the question of not whether it is perfect, but whether it is better than traditional primaries.
        Similarly, if you want to do away with top two systems, the question is not whether it is perfect, but what is the alternative.  If there was, a move to replace them with ranked voting, I would be on board.  If there was a move to replace them with tradional closed primaries, I’m probably not.
        As to top two voting electing more incumbents.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the data.  Absent of that, I have to be skeptical about how large a sample set was involved, how much time there was for the new system to take hold, hether it was the “same” incumbents, etc.

        1. Open Primaries has nothing to do with Top Two. You can push for one of several variations of Open Primaries without the controversial Top Two part.

          I’m for actual Open Primaries, without limiting how many people can make it to the general election to two. THAT is the alternative.

          I’m fine with IRV type stuff too, but you’re right that it’ll take a long time for the issue to bubble up.

          The sample is Louisiana, who has had Top Two for a long time, along with Washington, who has had it for a few years.

          1. Top two and IRV are both complex subjects.  But I can’t resist two quick comments.  One is that if you want an official to be elected by a majority of voters, then top two is the only way to guarantee that outcome.  Secondly, with IRV you can end up with an official whom no one wanted as their first choice.  How much moral support are people likely to give the guy whom everyone sees as only “second best”?
             
            William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
            Internetvoting@gmail.com
            https://www.opednews.com/author/author36599.html?sid=36599

            1. Have you really bought into that Top Two garbage about it being the only way to ensure a majority winner?

              Thats what run off elections are all about. They aren’t new, have been around for ages all over the country, and solve that problem without closing general elections so much. If people want to put that 50% rule in, which I’m fine with, this is the best way in my opinion.

              Limiting how many people can make it into the general is terribly undemocratic… for a whole slew of reasons… among them the vast majority of people don’t pay attention to elections until right near the end. They should be given MORE choice, not less.

              I’d also be fine with IRV, or any other way of doing it really. I’ll let you argue about the differences. Don’t really care, and no… don’t have a problem if my second ranked guy won. If you didn’t want them to get your vote, don’t put them down.

            2. I wholeheartedly disagree that Top Two is at all complicated.

              ALL it does it limit how many people can go to the general to two people.

              If you can count to two, and understand what elections are, this isn’t complicated at all.

              1. I will give some thought to your 2:21pm arguement.

                But your 2:23pm point seems a naive over-simplification.  What is complicated is the process by which the final two got to that point. They don’t just appear out of no where.  I live in Los Angeles.  Prop 14 was a major reform in my view.  It created a three stage process.  The critics have focused on the 3d stage, the top two, w/o seeing the Great Liberation of the first stage.  Check out my essays on Prop 14 at https://www.opednews.com/author/author36599.html?sid=36599

                1. Top Two doesn’t have anything to do with these other stages. Prop 14 is not the same as Top Two, Prop 14 has several aspects, of which Top Two is but one. I don’t have a problem with most of the stuff in Prop 14, I just think the downsides of Top Two outweigh the rest, and we should push for Open Primaries, without the choke point tacked on.

  4. Solomon Kleinsmith says:
    FEBRUARY 22, 2011 AT 2:21 PM

    “Limiting how many people can make it into the general is terribly undemocratic… for a whole slew of reasons… among them the vast majority of people don’t pay attention to elections until right near the end. They should be given MORE choice, not less.”

    And, at AT 2:52 PM “… we should push for Open Primaries, without the choke point tacked on.”

    William J. Kelleher, Ph.D. says:
    ITSM there is a snag, if not a contradiction, in your arguments that:
    A. “Limiting how many people can make it into the general is terribly undemocratic” and
    B. “…we should push for Open Primaries…”

    If you think it is more democratic to give people more choice in the moment when the vast majority is paying attention, then shouldn’t you be opposed to all primaries? For your arguments to be consistent, you should favor a two step system. First, individuals get on the ballot as candidates. Second, the general election – when the vast majority is paying attention.

    But then, what would you do in case of ties, or if there is no majority of votes for any one candidate? If the general election is the final election, you could end up with a mess. Maybe IRV could produce a winner, but it might be everybody’s third choice. That would risk serious legitimacy problems.

    To avoid a legitimacy crises, an election should end with a majority getting the candidate they think best, not a candidate they think third rated.

    1. You need to stop using this ITSM thing… nobody seems to know what it means.

      There are a bunch of decent options of how you can solve the problem of elections ending with the winner of the general not getting 50% of the vote, or ties, AFTER the general election, that don’t require you to limit the choices available to general election voters. I’m not particularly picky… and that is a whole different issue.

      There is no contradiction between A & B. Open Primaries and Top Two are two totally different rules changes.

      All Open Primaries do is allow anyone voting in a primary to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, or lack there of, of the candidate or voter.

      All Top Two does is limit how many people can make it to the general election to two.

      These things have nothing to do with each other. Plenty of states have enacted various types of open primaries, and only three have the choke point for major races.

      “If you think it is more democratic to give people more choice in the moment when the vast majority is paying attention, then shouldn’t you be opposed to all primaries? For your arguments to be consistent, you should favor a two step system. First, individuals get on the ballot as candidates. Second, the general election – when the vast majority is paying attention.”

      One… be very careful on this site of putting words into peoples’ mouths. This is against the rules. If I see a pattern of this, as I warned you about in the email I sent you a minute ago, you will be banned.

      In fact there are several ways you can accomplish this same thing. Just off the top of my head… I’d be fine with no primary. I’d also be fine with something like a two percent rule, where you can’t get onto the general election ballot unless you get 2 percent of the primary vote. Or some other similar standard that would apply to all. Or perhaps a primary where you’d need to get a low minimum number of votes in each region, or some other commonsensical rule like that.

    1. I told you what the rules are. You’re not breaking the rules here, so I have no reason to delete this post.

      I tried to gently pull you back to following the rules, and you continued to play these childish rhetorical games. I don’t allow that here.

      Wait… you’re actually a political scientist?!? (I hadn’t looked you up until now) And you have a problem with someone who had rules against using obvious logical fallacies?

      Is this some kind of weird joke?

      When you’re ready to talk about Top Two, not Open Primaries or any other aspects of Prop 14 that have nothing to do with Top Two, I’m waiting. I’ve been waiting for months for ANYONE who supports Top Two to just give me a straight answer. Even with wingnuts you can usually get an answer of what they think… I’m sure there has to be some kind of logic behind it… I just want to know what it is, and I don’t get why this is so hard for people to do.

    2. I routinely let people not only say things in comments I completely disagree with, I let people post whole blog posts on this site that I disagree with.

      Jeff Vanke is a right leaning moderate who I disagree with on several things… yet I don’t block his posts because he is actually genuine. Jess Chapman is a left leaner that I disagree with regularly on some things, yet I post a handful of things by her each week.

      You should know a lot better than to come on a blog, waving your PhD around, and so lazily use logical fallacies. Bring your A game or go home.

      I’d love to have a grown up debate about Top Two. I’m sure you have some real answers… how about you bring them instead of the crybaby act?

    1. I already told you why, because you keep trying to pull this straw man bullshit, and I can’t restore something that has been deleted.

      This is about TOP TWO.

      NOT Prop 14.

      NOT Open Primaries.

      TOP TWO.

Leave a Reply