Yesterday was election day across the nation. But I wanted to make a comment about closed primaries, and how they don't help anyone except maybe the established parties and incumbents. I use the word "maybe" because it can be argued that closed primaries can harm the parties that promote them, gradually transforming both major parties into insular, centrist, lethargic organizations. About half the states in the nation have closed primaries, and they essentially do two things: they discourage voter turnout, and they suppress challenges to incumbents within the parties themselves. They are intended to prevent non-affiliated voters and registered voters from the other party from "raiding" the primary process. However, the consequences is that they disenfranchise independents who want to vote for challengers in the rare times they emerge.
The primary campaign of Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu in the New York governor's race is a prime example of how closed primaries kept out plenty of potential and real voters (myself included). Teachout and Wu are not mainstream democrats by any stretch. They have no corporate backing. They are tentatively in-favor of marijuana legalization. They support net neutrality (Professor Wu even coined the phrase in an academic paper over 6 years ago). Yet, in order to challenge Governor Cuomo in the most public and effective way possible, they ran as Democratic challengers in the primary. The problem is, only registered Democrats could vote for them. I recently shed my Democratic affiliation (mainly over my disgust with the party leadership, sluggishness on key crises, such as our decaying infrastructure and the ongoing global environmental catastrophe, and the continued Bush 43 policies under the Obama administration). Teachout and Wu gave Cuomo a bit of a scare regardless. But their impact would have been much greater if New York had an open, or a primary system open to non-affiliated voters (like New Hampshire).
Obviously, this is just a footnote in what has been happening in American politics since the 1970s. It is 2014 and we still cannot vote electronically. And in many states, we still cannot vote early on or our own schedules. It's as if the two parties do not want to make it easier for us to vote. And usually, they don't.
Apathy reigns, and it's easy to see why. People see voting as an essentially pointless activity. The economy limps along, all the increased wealth of the nation goes to the already rich, and a tiny, insulated elite always get what they want from every level of government, regardless of public opinion or the common good. So, why bother?