Political scientist Raymond J. La Raja and Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution recommend a recalibration. They do not favor what political realities would not permit — abandoning primaries (La Raja and Rauch prefer them to caucuses, which are more susceptible to capture by the elderly and those “for whom politics is a passion”). Rather, they recommend leavening mass participation with vetting by professionals — “political careerists with skin in the game” serving as gatekeepers or quality-control evaluators of candidates before the primaries begin. “In 2018, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee worked aggressively to weed out weak and extreme candidates in swing districts.”
Doing something similar in presidential politics is difficult. The 2016 process illustrated the difficulty of aggregating voters’ preferences when there are many candidates: A demagogic charlatan won without winning a majority of primary votes until after the nomination was effectively settled. Sanders’ success so far this year demonstrates La Raja and Rauch’s warning that in a congested field of candidates, many will shun coalition-building in favor of wooing purists.
La Raja and Rauch suggest various “filters” by political professionals to mitigate the “democracy fundamentalism” of today’s nomination process: e.g., more political professionals as “superdelegates” eligible to vote on conventions’ first ballots; pre-primary votes of confidence in candidates by members of Congress and governors; “abolishing or dramatically increasing” contribution limits to the parties. B
Limiting and influencing voters’ choices by involving professional politicians early in the nomination process would require risk-averse political professionals to go against today’s populist sensibility. But if this November the choice is between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the professionals might consider letting go of the wolf’s ears.
Writes for The Washington Post