GOP: Primary or Caucus in 2012?

Jul 8, 2011

If you are a normal person, you probably aren’t thinking a lot right now about how Michigan Republicans should pick their choice for presidential candidate next year.

Actually, you probably don’t even want to think about Labor Day being less than two months away, let alone voting next winter.

But politicians work on a different schedule than ordinary mortals, and in the next few weeks, Republicans in this state are going to decide how to pick their choice for next year’s nominee.

Now, in most states, this isn’t something you have to agonize over. If you live in Iowa, you know that your state will kick things off with a caucus in early January. If you live in New Hampshire, you know you get to vote in the nation’s first primary, a couple of weeks later. But if you live in Michigan.

All you can count on is that the politicians will do something different from last time, and that they will likely screw it up.

Over the last forty years, we’ve lurched back and forth from a primary to a closed caucus to a somewhat more open caucus back to a primary that was sorta kinda closed …

Sometimes our primaries and/or caucuses  have been held in May. Sometimes in March, or April, or February. Last time, both parties outdid themselves in a blaze of stupidity.

They held a primary in January, which violates both parties’ rules. They did this because they wanted Michigan to be a player, to have a major influence over who was nominated.

Boy did we ever have an influence. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary. Mitt Romney won the Republican one, and the name Barack Obama wasn’t even on the ballot.

Plus, the Democrats almost didn’t even get to go to the convention at all because they broke the rules. Yeah, Michigan was really cutting edge. Cutting edge of irrelevance.

Well, this time, the Democrats don’t have to worry about the primary, since they’ve already got their candidate.

Republicans face a dilemma. Michigan law calls for an open, publicly funded primary February 28. They could just go with that.

But there would be the chance that Democrats and independents might show up in Michigan’s GOP primary. That happened in the year two thousand, when they helped John McCain give George W. Bush a whipping.

If you have any kind of primary, stuff like that is pretty hard to prevent, since we have no party registration in Michigan. A Democrat can vote Republican or vice-versa, with no penalty.

The alternative is some kind of closed convention, or caucus, but that limits public participation, which also could hurt the GOP, since primary campaigns help introduce the candidates to the voters.

Anyway, the state committee is supposed to meet August 13 and decide. Generally speaking, I think primaries are better and more small-d democratic.

Nor do open primaries bother me.

We have become a nation of ticket-splitters, and I don‘t see why a voter shouldn’t choose in which party’s primary to participate in any given year. But it‘s up to the Republican party policy committee to decide. If you are a Republican, you might want to contact your party‘s officials soon, and let your feelings about this issue be known.