The Case for Reforming Primaries

Source: Conservative Review | June 2, 2016 | Daniel Horowitz

Ever since the Democrat Party has succeeded in promoting cultural and economic Marxism over the past half-century, the Republican Party, with rare exceptions, has failed to serve as a counter-balance. Over the past few years, this dichotomy has reached critical mass, in which Democrats are now able to win 50-year culture war battles without even firing a shot. We conservatives are left without a party that fights for conservatism on any level, even among the state and federal officials in the reddest states, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Republican primary voters agree with conservatives on the issues. There are only a handful of Republicans that are willing to fight for anything, but they are too marginalized to affect any change. It is incontrovertibly clear that we need a new party.

The age old question is how do we start a new party out of nothing? The short answer is that we begin by operating as a third party within the Republican Party by defeating incumbent Republicans and replacing them with conservatives who will remain loyal to the Constitution.

The reason conservatives have failed at replacing incumbents is because the ability of the grassroots to knock off incumbents in primaries has been such a dismal failure. I’m here to warn everyone that this cycle of failure will continue unless we succeed in returning the nomination process, at least for congressional elections, to representative forms of state conventions instead of media-driven popular primary contests. That is the only way to place everyone on an equal playing field and elect enough committed conservatives in a short enough time period to either take over the Republican Party nationally or have a large enough platform from which to launch a new party.


Knocking off incumbents in House races in nearly impossible and doing so in a Senate race is virtually impossible. And for a variety of factors, it has become even harder in recent years. Waiting to change the party quickly enough through primary challenges under the existing rigged system would work as well as trying to drink a big gulp with a fork.


Thus, we’ve come full circle whereby the popular vote process put into place last century by the progressives in order to weaken the party establishment and “empower the people” has actually ensured that the party hacks always win and the true will of the people always loses. This is exactly what our Founders feared in a pure democracy over a representative republic.


It is even harder for conservatives to win primaries nowadays for a number of reasons:

1. While in the old days a lot of people were uninformed, now millions of people are misinformed by the mass weapon of dis-information that has become ubiquitous in mass media. Election results in presidential and Senate primaries are directly related to media coverage and name recognition…..

2. Everyone wants to know why your ‘ordinary Joe-six pack’ can’t win an election. The answer is simple. With the growth of the country, even a single House district covers over 700,000 people and a Senate seat almost always represents millions. Again, elections are not about ideas, but money and name recognition. ….

3. Unlike during the few successful primary challenges in the past, incumbent RINOs no longer run as Rockefeller Republicans. They all run as conservatives and have more money to get their message out when they run as self-described conservatives. Indeed, they often paint the challengers as less than conservative. ….

4. Even open seats are hard for conservatives to win. Given that almost all Republicans run as conservatives, the one with the most money usually wins the open House seat and the one with the most money and favorable media coverage wins the Senate seat. That almost never works in the favor of a constitutional conservative candidate.


Until 1912, most states still used the convention method during presidential elections, but that changed with the emergence of Teddy Roosevelt as the progressive leader. As Professor Sidney Milkis, a noted scholar on the progressive era, observed, Roosevelt’s “crusade made universal use of the direct primary, a cause célèbre.” Roosevelt went on to win most of the primaries, but conservative Howard Taft won the states that still had conventions and therefore won the party’s nomination at the national convention. However, Roosevelt’s views lived on through the election of Woodrow Wilson. It’s no coincidence that progressives succeeded at changing the nominating process precisely as the “newly emergent mass media” became dominant in our political culture, as Milkis puts it.


Progressive proponents of direct popular vote primaries complain that conventions allow the party hacks to choose the nominees behind the doors of “smoke filled rooms” without the input of the people. And undoubtedly in some states in the 1800s that is exactly what happened. But the convention model we are speaking of – “the Utah style convention” – achieves the perfect middle ground between the tyranny at both ends of the spectrum from oligarchy to pure democracy.

In Utah, every neighborhood holds a caucus meeting where people who are familiar with each other debate and discuss the races at hand. They select a delegate to represent the precinct at the convention. In the Beehive State, there are 4,000 delegates – all selected by the people in a process that tends to attract high information voters. This is true representative democracy our Founders envisioned, one which would foster an informed patriotism.


While our Founders obviously prescribed no rules and conditions on party nominations, given that party politics has replaced the original system of governance, shouldn’t we at least replicate their ideal of representative democracy at the party level? Changing back to conventions in states where Republicans reliably win the general election will serve as a back door avenue to repealing the 17th Amendment without going through the nearly-impossible process.

In the long run we must work towards restoring our original republican form of government, but in order to implement those ideas we must first secure our men and women on the field and win over the current party system. Representative conventions are the only achievable means of restoring that system and serving as a force multiplier for more enduring reforms in the future.

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  • Consistent #6651

    Consistent #6653

    slhancock1948 #6655

    This will NOT happen. I’ve been praying for this for my whole life. The party rules will not allow change from within. PERIOD! I’ve heard these pleas for decades now and they have NOT worked. The RNC is farther and farther left every year. Besides, Trump knows that he can overthrow Preibus easy enough and his army of dupes will force everybody to kowtow. Trump is the most liberal candidate that I can recall on the republican side. He will not let go of the strings once he has control, the RNC will slide even farther left. Remember the definition of insanity? It was brought up constantly in 2012, but we were told let’s do this just one more time. How many times do we have to try to reform it from within? Well, to you younger people, still with bright eyes and idealistic tendencies, it is not going to happen in THIS republican party.

    The ONLY way to have a conservative is to start with only conservatives. That means we need a conservative party. I am not going to put any more money into the RNC to try to reform it. It is throwing my money down the drain. I don’t have that kind of money to waste.

    Pray for righteousness to be restored and for the peace of Jerusalem

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