Crossover Mischief in Michigan

Democrats for Romney Markos Moulitsas Zúniga has issued a call for Democrats to come out in droves to influence the Republican primary in Michigan:

In 1972, Republican voters in Michigan decided to make a little mischief, crossing over to vote in the open Democratic primary and voting for segregationist Democrat George Wallace, seriously embarrassing the state’s Democrats. In fact, a third of the voters (PDF) in the Democratic primary were Republican crossover votes. In 1988, Republican voters again crossed over, helping Jesse Jackson win the Democratic primary, helping rack up big margins for Jackson in Republican precincts. (Michigan Republicans can clearly be counted on to practice the worst of racial politics.) In 1998, Republicans helped Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer — quack Geoffrey Feiger — win his Democratic primary, thus guaranteeing their hold on the governor’s mansion that year.

With a history of meddling in our primaries, why don’t we try and return the favor. Next Tuesday, January 15th, Michigan will hold its primary. Michigan Democrats should vote for Mitt Romney, because if Mitt wins, Democrats win.

Whether the last sentiment is true (and I think it is) it’s an interesting idea to which the blogosphere has responded to Kos’ post with enthusiasm.

Duncan “Atrios” Black is endorsing the plan without reservation.

Steve Benen is on board, although he concedes Romney could wind up being more formidable in the general election than most now think. He’s willing to take his chances, though.

TBogg loves the idea because, “the longer Romney stays in, the more money he’ll throw into those negative “contrast” ads that he is so proud of.”

Matt Yglesias figures Democrats could do this for non-cynical reasons, noting, “I’d take President Romney over President McCain or President Huckabee.”

Bob Owensthinks Kos is taking liberties with history, arguing Wallace would have taken Michigan without Republican crossovers; that’s probably true.

Ron Beasley cries Foul, arguing that Democrats would lose the moral high ground they now hold if they resorted to such chicanery. (Of course, Democrats have done quite a bit of cross-over voting before — most recently for McCain in 2000 — but for non-nefarious purposes.)

Sister Toldja believes the very idea of this plan “shows you the depth of the far left’s depravity this campaign season, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win the election.”

Ann Althouse thinks Romney would be a very competitive nominee and, moreover, a prolonged Republican primary would be to the party’s benefit.

Ed Morrissey is nonplussed by the plan, figuring the influence of the netroots will pale against that of the party GOTV efforts and believes “almost all of the crossover votes will get cast earnestly.” I tend to think so as well; not that many people are going to go to all the trouble of making mischief and, really, there would be better ways to do that than voting Romney. (Libby Spencer suggests a Ron Paul vote as a more effective strategy.)

Regardless, though, primaries are where the political parties select their tickets. They should, therefore, be closed to registered members of the parties.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Len says:

    I actually disagree with Kos. Kind of. Sure, the Democrats win if Flipper Mitt wins, but let’s face it, the Democrats win no matter which of this crop of Republican candidates wins.

    Personally, I’m rooting for Pastor Mike Huckabee. With him, at least, we could have a little fun. If Thompson wins, we all might as well go to sleep for nine months. If Giuliani takes it, we’ll all be on the edge of our seats waiting for his teeth to fall out. McCain? Hell, we’ll just be hoping he makes it to November.

    Regardless, though, primaries are where the political parties select their tickets. They should, therefore, be closed to registered members of the parties.

    You mean like New Hampshire?

  2. Tlaloc says:

    Regardless, though, primaries are where the political parties select their tickets. They should, therefore, be closed to registered members of the parties.

    I agree. Mainly because forcing independents and third party voters to have no say in who becomes president means that that many more people are willing to do away with our wretched two party system.

  3. Michael says:

    I actually disagree with Kos.

    So do a lot of the commentators on that post. There looks to be as many people opposed to doing this as there are in support of it. There is also a very long thread urging those who do not want to vote for Hillary to vote “Uncommitted” instead.

  4. Michael says:

    I agree. Mainly because forcing independents and third party voters to have no say in who becomes president means that that many more people are willing to do away with our wretched two party system.

    I don’t follow, if you get no say in who becomes POTUS unless you register with one of the two parties, wouldn’t that encourage continued party affiliation instead of discouraging it?

  5. David Wooten says:

    A Ron Paul vote would not only be a better strategy, it would also make a statement about ending the US government’s obsession with war, something the Democrats have failed to take advantage of. It would also highlight Michigan’s economic problems which were caused by the Federal Reserve.

  6. Clayton says:

    How about you cross over to vote against the war and try to get Ron Paul elected genuinely.

  7. SDM says:

    I love the zealous protest by Sister Toldja, that an open, legal, honest effort to participate in an open primary in a way advantageous for one’s chosen party, as Republicans have done in the past, is the “depths of depravity.”

  8. just me says:

    I am not keen on the idea of voting in another party’s primary for the sole purpose of creating mischief.

    I would actually prefer that primaries be limited to those who are registered for the party, but if primaries are open, I like the way NH allows independants to participate-while independants can choose to vote in either primary, registered democrats can only vote in the democratic primary, and registered republicans in the GOP primary.

    I think those who would be most enamored of causing mischief more than likely are going to be affiliated with a party.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I can see how this idea would appeal to people who are indifferent to whether the country is better off or not as long as their side wins.

    In my view everybody, regardless of party, should vote their hearts. I think strategic voting is self-deluding.

  10. Jordan Selvidge says:

    What is wrong with all of you? Voting for someone like Mitt when you are a democrat? This is a no brainer, if you care about ending the war and ending big brother spying on you then make your vote count and vote for Ron Paul. How could anyone go to the polls to vote for someone they purposely did not like. Ron Paul is the only candidate worth a damn. Get off your ass, go get your friends and vote for Ron Paul, End This War NOW!

  11. Flowerplough says:

    “helping Jesse Jackson win the Democratic primary, helping rack up big margins for Jackson in Republican precincts. (Michigan Republicans can clearly be counted on to practice the worst of racial politics.)”

    Is Soros Kosolitos telling us that voting for Jesse Jackson in a primary election is “the worst of racial politics”? And does he then believe the Clinton fairy tale that “Dr. King’s dream (only) began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act”?

  12. Tlaloc says:

    I don’t follow, if you get no say in who becomes POTUS unless you register with one of the two parties, wouldn’t that encourage continued party affiliation instead of discouraging it?

    You are probably right. I was assuming people who weren’t in either party probably had a good reason, but in reflection a lot probably aren’t because they just don’t bother.

  13. yetanotherjohn says:

    As I commented on a different thread earlier in the week, the open primary is likely to produce a McCain win.

    Yes there will be those who come out to vote just to do mischief in the GOP. Whatever your moral stance on that, its within the rules as written. I think the left’s justification that two wrongs make a write is humorous, but lets be realistic, they are looking for a fig leaf to justify their actions. I especially love the racism involved in denigrating votes for Jackson. I guess the heart of racism in the democratic party that voted against the 1964 civil rights act is alive and well.

    Second, as the comments here show, those wanting to do mischief are likely to spread their votes around. Mitt, Ron, Huckabe will all get a point or two, but it isn’t like the nutroots are going to deliver 33% of MI voters.

    Third, I suspect that the democrats will have at least as many who go to vote for who they really prefer to who would be worse for the GOP. This will in effect cancel out the mischief voters to leave the independents.

    The independents made up 45% of the democratic primary and 37% of the republican primary in NH. The have no reason to vote in the democratic primary in MI (thanks to the DNC) so I suspect that they will vote in the republican primary (of those who would have voted anyway). If they are truly independent they will not be seeing who they can vote for to hurt the GOP, but rather who they think will be best for the country. In NH, according to the CNN exit poll so grab your salt shaker, McCain got 40% of the independent vote, to 27% for Mitt, 13% for Paul, 9% for Huckabee, 6% for Rudy. I suspect we will see similar distribution for MI. McCain got 34% of republican party ID to Mitt’s 35% so it was a wash there.

    Certainly MI is different from NH, but I suspect that the independents are likely to be somewhat the same. Of course, this will all be known soon.

    As to open vs closed primary, I can see both sides to this. So I would leave it up to the parties to decide which they prefer. The problem really only comes up when one party has a boring primary (usually the party in the White House) or the special case of this year the DNC making the MI contest meaningless. Now if you showed that the DNC made the MI contest meaningless in order to push democrats to vote in the republican primary for the “worst” republican candidate, then I would want to revisit the issue. But you would have to be the sort to assume Clinton stole the NH election through diebold to start believing that level of conspiracy theory.

  14. Bandit says:

    Ron Beasley cries Foul, arguing that Democrats would lose the moral high ground they now hold

    The moral high ground they share with Ted Rall, Killer Kennedy, Norman Hsu, Alcee Hastings, Sandy Burglar, Will Jefferson, The Clintons … I could go on and on but I’d never get to the end until I got to Osama.

  15. Tlaloc says:

    Osama’s a democrat? Funny, I thought all the theocrats were in the other party.

  16. Jim says:

    James,

    I usually agree with you but there is a major exception keeping the primaries closed: the financing. If the parties are willing to conduct their primaries with their own funding and infrastructure than I have no problem keeping them closed. Once the state helps defray the costs than the state can impose conditions.

  17. James Joyner says:

    Once the state helps defray the costs than the state can impose conditions.

    I actually agree that the parties should pay for these things; Lord knows they have the cash.

    The Supreme Court ruled against the California mixed open primary a couple years back, though, so the law’s a bit murky.

  18. R. Alex says:

    I like the way that Texas does it. Anybody can vote in any primary, but once you do your voter registration card is stamped with the party of the primary that you voted in and you’re technically a member of that party. They primarily do this so that you only vote in one party in the general primary and the run-off, but it actually acts as a disincentive. It’s one thing to vote in the other primary to cause mischief, but it’s another to have to formally identify with a party that you hate.

  19. Bruce Moomaw says:

    If you want a really spectacular example of the mischief that crossover voters can inflict, consider how George Wallace’s vote in the Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan (which allow crossovers) was inflated from narrow victories to huge landslides simply because there wasn’t a GOP contest that year and huge numbers of Republicans decided to cross over and vote for Wallace — some of them to try and sabotage the Democrats, lots of them because they actually liked the SOB.

  20. Bruce Moomaw says:

    That’s the 1972 Democratic primaries. (I forgot to include the date.)