| The traditional media is fixated on framing the Maldonado Primary as an "open primary" - but that is misleading. Truly "open" primaries, where anyone can vote in a party primary, have been banned since California Democratic Party v. Jones and its offspring. Parties themselves can throw their primaries open to some or all voters not registered with them - as Dems have done with DTS voters in their primaries - but that is up to the parties themselves and cannot be mandated by the state.
CDP v Jones nuked ALL
open "blanket" primary laws in the country, including that of Washington State, which had been in place since 1935. After several efforts to maintain the system, which all failed to meet the SCOTUS's muster, Washington in 2006 adopted the Louisiana "top two" primary - the first full use was last summer - and it is that system which Maldonado has now forced onto the June 2010 ballot.
So what is this "jungle primary" and how might it affect us? Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight.com takes a look today and suggests the outcome will be to turn California into the "Land of a Thousand Liebermans". Silver argues that under the current primary system, the conservativeization of the GOP has produced a "death spiral" from which they are not likely to recover.
Silver then argues that the "jungle primary" would produce a very different outcome and his analysis is worth quoting at some length:
But now suppose instead that the state holds a jungle primary...The distribution of winners using that process looks more like this:
This is not quite a bell curve -- it's more like a bell curve with a buzzcut -- but the salient feature is that it's now all about the candidates in the middle of the political spectrum, the very candidates who were having trouble winning their partisan primaries before. If every state had a jungle primary, we'd have a Senate full of Susan Collinses -- and Joe Liebermans. (Or think of all the weird candidates that tend to come out of Louisiana -- very conservative Democrats like Mary Landrieu and very moderate Republicans like Joseph Cao).
This jungle primary also turns out not to be quite as favorable of an outcome to the majority party; a Democratic candidate won about 70 percent of the simulations using the jungle primary versus 75 percent under the traditional system. Moreover, the Democrats who did win tended on average to be more conservative (although the Republican winners were likewise more moderate). It's not a surprise, then, that the legislator who was pushing this proposal in California was Abel Maldonado, a Republican.
And there you see why both Maldonado and Arnold Schwarzenegger want the jungle primary - it might well push the Democrats and therefore California as a whole to the right, which has been the persistent goal of so-called "centrists" all along.
The jungle primary also does NOT benefit the voter. Voter turnout dropped in WA in their August 2008 primary as opposed to the August 2004 primary. Voters felt confused by the system and also felt - correctly in some cases - that it was meaningless in LDs where one party or the other were dominant.
N in Seattle explained some of the other negative impacts of the jungle primary on Washington State:
The principal outcomes were:
* Large expenditures on the general election, money that might otherwise have gone to statewide and/or national races
* Bitter divisions within the LD's Democratic organization, which will have longterm deleterious effects on the party
To go into more detail, the "large expenditures on the general election" refers to the effect in many Legislative Districts of the top two candidates being from the same party. The result was that the primary battles were pushed into the general election at great financial and organizational cost. Had it not been for the Obama effect, which helped focus energies, the jungle primary might have been even more destructive for progressive and Democratic politics in Washington.
And that's the system that Maldonado wants to bring to California - a system that will set Democrats at war with themselves, that might empower "centrists" in the mold of Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu, and cost us a ton of money in the process. You'd almost think it was intended that way...
...David Dayen makes some good criticisms of Silver's methods, and I agree that Silver should look at actual data. Washington State is a goldmine for this, as its politics are very similar to California's.