Hugh Hewitt plans to vote for Bernie Sanders in Virginia's open primary

Hugh Hewitt, a well known conservative talk radio host, announced on Sunday's Meet the Press that, while he'll vote for President Trump in November, he intends to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Virginia open primary.  He explained that he was doing so "because he's authentic."

Hewitt didn't mean that Bernie is an authentic guy, the kind you like to hang out with.  Instead, Hewitt is voting for him because Bernie is an authentic socialist:

I want a clear choice between the authentic, traditional socialist and all the people who just pretend to be.

On the one hand, Hewitt's plan to help expose the Democrat party for what it has become — a socialist institution trying to hide behind less obvious candidates such as Warren or Buttigieg — is admirable.  On the other hand, it shows everything that is wrong with open primaries, which can cause profound damage to America's representative democracy.

One flaw with open primaries is that they stifle political speech at the precise moment that voters, most of whom aren't politically obsessed on a daily basis, are finally starting to pay attention.  In this regard, keep in mind that the point of the primary system is to give citizens who are members of a specific political party the opportunity to pick that candidate who best represents their views. 

Once a political party has picked the person it believes is the best flag-bearer for the party's ideas, in the actual election, those cherry-picked party candidates get to go head to head, giving voters a genuine ideological choice.  This is important even in states that tilt heavily in one direction or the other, because it means that when voters are actually paying attention, they are exposed to more than just the majority party's viewpoint.

This doesn't always happen in an open primary state.  If the state tilts heavily in favor of one party or the other, not only is the minority party knocked off the ballot, but that party is also entirely denied a voice in the marketplace of political ideas.  Without a candidate on the ballot, the minority party has no commercials, no debates, no opinion pieces, and no candidate interviews.

There's a second problem with open primaries, and it's one based on the law of unintended consequences.  The theory behind open primaries was that parties would put forward candidates who would appeal to the state's centrists rather than appealing only to the base.  This would have a moderating effect on extremist politicians.  However, Hugh Hewitt exposes a major risk behind open primaries, which is that people from an opposite ideology try to game the other party's primaries.

Some Democrats worry that Bernie, who openly espouses socialism, cannot win, and they hope to get a Manchurian candidate — one whose dangerous political convictions are hidden from view — onto the ballot instead.  Meanwhile, Republicans, who don't have to worry about their primary candidate this year (it'll be Trump), hope to get the worst possible Democrat candidate on the ballot to increase the Democrat party's risk of losing.

While this tactic might work out well for Republicans in 2020, it's a terrible idea for American politics over the long term.  If you get enough people in both parties playing this game, the primaries morph from being a process by which each party chooses those who it believes are its best people into a process by which each party finds itself with its most extreme or inept candidate — carefully chosen by an opposing political party that hopes to see a miserable candidate fail.

It's easy enough to say this is an unlikely outcome because people will prefer to vote for the candidate they like rather than the one they hate, but that's not really true in a one-party state.  Run-offs between two hardcore Democrats get boring, as was the case when Kamala Harris, a Leftist, faced off against Loretta Sanchez, a Leftist, for California's second seat in the Senate, with nary a Republican on the ballot.  That gives people an incentive for mischief.  Presidents matter, but in states such as California with open primaries all the way down the ballot, bad things can happen, too.

Hugh Hewitt, a well known conservative talk radio host, announced on Sunday's Meet the Press that, while he'll vote for President Trump in November, he intends to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Virginia open primary.  He explained that he was doing so "because he's authentic."

Hewitt didn't mean that Bernie is an authentic guy, the kind you like to hang out with.  Instead, Hewitt is voting for him because Bernie is an authentic socialist:

I want a clear choice between the authentic, traditional socialist and all the people who just pretend to be.

On the one hand, Hewitt's plan to help expose the Democrat party for what it has become — a socialist institution trying to hide behind less obvious candidates such as Warren or Buttigieg — is admirable.  On the other hand, it shows everything that is wrong with open primaries, which can cause profound damage to America's representative democracy.

One flaw with open primaries is that they stifle political speech at the precise moment that voters, most of whom aren't politically obsessed on a daily basis, are finally starting to pay attention.  In this regard, keep in mind that the point of the primary system is to give citizens who are members of a specific political party the opportunity to pick that candidate who best represents their views. 

Once a political party has picked the person it believes is the best flag-bearer for the party's ideas, in the actual election, those cherry-picked party candidates get to go head to head, giving voters a genuine ideological choice.  This is important even in states that tilt heavily in one direction or the other, because it means that when voters are actually paying attention, they are exposed to more than just the majority party's viewpoint.

This doesn't always happen in an open primary state.  If the state tilts heavily in favor of one party or the other, not only is the minority party knocked off the ballot, but that party is also entirely denied a voice in the marketplace of political ideas.  Without a candidate on the ballot, the minority party has no commercials, no debates, no opinion pieces, and no candidate interviews.

There's a second problem with open primaries, and it's one based on the law of unintended consequences.  The theory behind open primaries was that parties would put forward candidates who would appeal to the state's centrists rather than appealing only to the base.  This would have a moderating effect on extremist politicians.  However, Hugh Hewitt exposes a major risk behind open primaries, which is that people from an opposite ideology try to game the other party's primaries.

Some Democrats worry that Bernie, who openly espouses socialism, cannot win, and they hope to get a Manchurian candidate — one whose dangerous political convictions are hidden from view — onto the ballot instead.  Meanwhile, Republicans, who don't have to worry about their primary candidate this year (it'll be Trump), hope to get the worst possible Democrat candidate on the ballot to increase the Democrat party's risk of losing.

While this tactic might work out well for Republicans in 2020, it's a terrible idea for American politics over the long term.  If you get enough people in both parties playing this game, the primaries morph from being a process by which each party chooses those who it believes are its best people into a process by which each party finds itself with its most extreme or inept candidate — carefully chosen by an opposing political party that hopes to see a miserable candidate fail.

It's easy enough to say this is an unlikely outcome because people will prefer to vote for the candidate they like rather than the one they hate, but that's not really true in a one-party state.  Run-offs between two hardcore Democrats get boring, as was the case when Kamala Harris, a Leftist, faced off against Loretta Sanchez, a Leftist, for California's second seat in the Senate, with nary a Republican on the ballot.  That gives people an incentive for mischief.  Presidents matter, but in states such as California with open primaries all the way down the ballot, bad things can happen, too.