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An Open Primary Is A Bad Idea.

A FEW MONTHS back, outraged by the selfishness which had led to the passage of an open-primary law for Arizona, I wrote an impassioned math-based treatise on how such a system could be used to subvert the obviously fragile democratic process. It even included an arcane example of potential political duplicity culled from the pages of American Mathematical Monthly. (That particular issue had the hottest fold-out of the latest TI-93 pocket calculator!)

The editors politely but firmly turned it down, claiming it was too "esoteric" (or maybe they said "erotic"). I'm not sure; I hardly ever listen when they talk.

Nevertheless, the open-primary system is already wreaking havoc on the American political process and everyone from George W. Bush to Rush Limbaugh is screaming bloody murder over it. And being a lifelong Democrat, I take no great pleasure in seeing that it is happening to the Republicans. I suppose, given the GOP's long, illustrious history of rat-f -- -ing and other political abuses, some might find this turn of events funny, but I don't.

The open-primary system is a dream come true for people who lack the testicular capacity to develop a coherent political philosophy. They're generally either single-issue kooks or trendoids, ever-vigilant as to which way the wind is blowing that particular day. They whine about the two-party system being broken, but they offer no alternative.

Many of these people look back fondly at the scene in A Hard Day's Night when George Harrison, asked whether he were a Mod or a Rocker, replied, "I'm a Mocker." They wish to God they were that clever.

The street word for people like this is "hater." They don't really stand for anything; they're just against a lot of stuff. They don't want to date that woman, but they don't want you to date her, either.

I've always thought that if people don't like either of the parties, they should go start a new one. Unfortunately, some people tried to form a new political group and it turned out to be the Reform Party.

Do you remember the scene in the first Star Trek movie when Kirk and this other guy are beaming aboard the Enterprise and the transporter malfunctions? Kirk arrives okay but the other poor slob's molecules are rearranged and he arrives as this unrecognizable lump of oozing putrescence.

That's what happened to the Reform Party. They started off as a bunch of pissed-off white folk and then just turned into a crowd of pro wrestling fans.

It's a shame, though. I wish they could have held things together for a few more months. Can you imagine a political convention featuring Jesse Ventura, Donald Trump, Ross Perot and Warren Beatty? They could have put that sucker on Pay-Per-View.

Meanwhile, in the past couple weeks, John McCain has used the dirigible-sized loopholes inherent in the open-primary system to block what was supposed to have been a George W. Bush slam dunk for the GOP presidential nomination. Now, wounded and seriously pissed, Bush is forced to contemplate sinking a very-missable 14-footer at a time when he had planned on coasting toward the convention.

McCain has put together an incredible political run. He took a big chance skipping the Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire, whose grumpy voters are notorious for kicking front-runners in the scrotum.

Using the upset in New Hampshire as momentum, McCain stayed close in South Carolina, and then came Michigan. Maybe it's the cold or the fact that its largest city is actually situated north of Canada, but for some reason 92.3 percent of all people in Michigan are insane. This is a state with equal parts militia and Motown, one where, in the past, different primaries have been won by George Wallace and Jesse Jackson.

Capitalizing on the oddball nature of the state, McCain attracted the votes of some Republicans, a whole lot of "independents," and more than a fair share of mischievous cross-voting Democrats. This non-coalition consisted of people who probably wouldn't take the time to spit on one another if their hair was on fire, but it gave McCain the win and perhaps enough momentum to tough it out all the way to the convention.

A livid George W. Bush correctly pointed out that it was he, and not McCain, who had garnered the majority of Republican votes in the primary. But it all came off sounding as if the Utah Jazz had said, "Hey, we beat all the teams in the tougher Western Conference. Why do the Bulls get to wear the rings?"

And this all happened almost by accident. What will happen when people learn how to manipulate the system on a grand scale?

If this weren't bad enough, the latest genius idea -- one backed by John C. Scott, whose name will never again be used in a sentence which includes the word "genius" -- is voting over the Internet. Yeah, not much chance for abuse there. Just imagine what could happen if somebody in Chicago ever learns how to use a computer.

Voting is a privilege and, if anything, the process should be made more difficult, not easier. People should prize their vote. The Voting Rights Act and the 24th Amendment took care of the serious assaults on voters' rights. I don't think it's asking too much to have people actually show their sorry butts up at the polling place.

Meanwhile, the primary system is a minefield and by opening it up to all sorts of mischief, we've just given the candidates oversized, napalm-filled shoes to wear while trying to negotiate it. This time it only hurt George W. Bush. Let's chuck the open primary before it damages somebody important.

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