language, other topics, politics

Open and Closed Cases


Now that the primaries are almost over, I want to say a little about them, and in particular one aspect of them that has been much discussed by one of the Democratic candidates: “open” versus “closed” primaries.


An open primary is one in which there are no constraints on who can vote for a party’s nominees: a Republican or unaffiliated voter can cast a ballot for one of the Democratic candidates, and their votes will have equal weight with those of registered Democrats. (The same of course is true on the Republican side.) In a closed primary, then, only voters registered as members of a party can vote in its primary.


Bernie Sanders and his followers wax irate at the idea of closed Democratic primaries. They argue that they are undemocratic, small “d,” because they keep some voters out of voting their preferences. They don’t mention the fact that at least some of Sanders’s victories came about because Republican voters crossed party lines to vote for him – in many if not most cases, because they believed he would be the weaker candidate in the general election. Continue reading