Leo Linbeck makes the point in his “Why Congress Doesn’t Work” that the entire statist structure of the “centrocracy” (a term we ought to help make part of the political lexicon) sits atop a very thin column: the abysmal turnout numbers for Congressional primaries. In four New York Democratic primaries on Tuesday, including the challenge to Charlie Rangel, voter turnout did not exceed 14 percent. The Times blames the low participation on the date. Linbeck notes that Democratic turnout for Congressional primaries in 2010 only averaged 8 percent (Republicans did slightly better at 12).
As Linbeck notes, “By encouraging people to participate in primaries — voting when the decision as to who represents them is actually made — citizens can restore accountability and bring the centrocracy to heel.” This involves several steps, including well-directed campaigns to increase turnout among regular general election voters, as well as — in open primary states — informing independents and Republican voters of their right to vote in a Democratic primary (and vice versa). It demands the rigor of professional campaign expertise and the money to finance it, but otherwise it is not magic, as the Campaign for Primary Accountability has proven in five races this year.
Alas, as of this morning, CPA-target Charlie Rangel seems to have escaped defeat by the skin of his teeth.
Wick Allison is the president of the American Ideas Institute, which publishes The American Conservative.