The Secret Primary

Jan 11, 2012

Well, we now know who won the New Hampshire primary. Michigan’s Republican primary is going to be held February 28. Democrats will pick their delegates in caucuses four months from now, on May 5. There isn’t any urgency for them; they have only one candidate: President Barack Obama.

So Republicans are using a primary; Democrats a caucus. But there is another primary election you probably don’t know about—and which Michigan Democrats don’t want you to find out about. It is also being held February 28.

And it is called …the Michigan Democratic Presidential primary. There is one name on the ballot: President Obama‘s.

But Democrats don’t want you to know about it, or vote in it.  For one thing, they aren’t willing to lose half their delegates to the Democratic National Convention in September. Both major parties have agreed to punish states that select delegates before March, except a very few approved contests like New Hampshire and Iowa.

Democrats also have been trying to make political points for months by calling on Republicans to join them in rejecting the primary and going to a caucus system to save money. When I asked for a quote, longtime state Democratic chair Mark Brewer said “Our decision to hold a caucus was not based on partisan politics. It was to save the state $10 million” That, indeed, is what the primary will cost, according to the Michigan secretary of state.

Indeed, Democrats are bitter that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson insisted on creating a Democratic primary ballot, and putting President Obama’s name on it. But I don’t think the legislature had any choice. If the lawmakers were going to use taxpayer money to create a primary election, they had to include both major parties.

Secretary Johnson appears to me to not have had any choice either. The bill creating the primary requires her to place on the ballot anyone talked about as a presidential candidate.

The only way such a person could be removed is if they formally said they were not a candidate for president.

President Obama is obviously not going to do that, so he’s on there. Now, here’s the problem. Michigan Democrats say that anyone who votes in the primary is then ineligible to vote in the caucus. In other words, if you support their candidate and go and vote for their candidate in a legally sponsored election, then they won’t let you vote for their candidate again in May. If that’s sounds nuts, it’s because it is.

The primary doesn’t influence delegate selection, and I don’t know why they are so against participating. But will Michigan Democrats really keep primary voters from voting in the caucus? The answer is almost certainly no. The caucuses will be on a Saturday.  City offices will be closed, so how can they check whether Joe Blow from Fenton asked for a  primary ballot in January?

So, here’s what I suggest. If you feel like voting for President Obama in the primary, go do it. Then vote for him again in the caucuses if you want to, and ignore the apparatchiks.

After all, it can’t exactly look good for the President if nobody votes for him, especially if some characters write in Lyndon LaRouche. This is your election, paid for with your taxpayer dollars.

So I say, go vote.