Editorial: Primary voting

March 2, 2012

On Tuesday, the presidential primary election, which helps nominate political party candidates, finally comes to Massachusetts. We’ll forgive you if you are not very excited.

Most of the Founding Fathers believed that political parties were an evil to avoid. The broken presidential primary system and the two-party straitjacket show why. Early-voting states, most of which none of us care about at any other time, have already set the agenda. Libertarian Ron Paul has to pretend to be Republican just to get small-government ideas on the table. President Obama, despite widespread Democratic dissatisfaction with his rule, will not face a single debate within his own party.

Primary elections were invented as a reform of party machine kingmaking. Massachusetts goes even farther and allows independents—who are the majority of registered voters—to vote on any party’s primary ballot. That still has merit, especially in state-level elections.

But it is hard to argue that our small state’s presidential primary does much more than prop up a party system from which the people are increasingly disaffected.