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Hey, Republicans: Stop potential hijinks by eliminating open primaries

Dear Republicans out there:

You're reeling right now, and things are about to get much worse for you. As we have learned from news footage, tsunamis often come in multiple waves, and the first one isn't always the most destructive.

The Democrats are fairly pleased with having elected Barack Obama and tightening their grip on Congress, but you understand that if you give those people an inch, they'll take your capital gains. They've got momentum and a deep bag of tricks. If you listen closely, you can hear them stealing votes for Al Franken in the Minnesota Senate race recount.

This isn't the Democratic Party of the 1970s and '80s--and thank God for that! These Democrats are focused, organized and clever. Still, politics being politics, there is a place where your narrow self-interests and my desire for a better America intersect.

In those pockets where you still have some power, you should set out immediately to do away with the inherently unfair (and often borderline un-American) practice of allowing independents to vote in some primary elections, and all-out crossover voting in other primaries. It is a process rooted in deception that invites a manipulation of the outcome. Anyone with an understanding of logic can rig the outcome to his own advantage.

I'll use an example I came up with a while ago. Let's say that Junior, Sabrina and I are hungry. (That's pretty easy to imagine.) We have three eating establishments from which to choose. I, being the connoisseur of the group, want to go to Popeye's, where grease and spice collide in a most heavenly way. Sabrina wants to go to Subway, where they have lots of white bread, white cheese and white meat. Junior, ever the trendy one, wants to go to this new vegan place, Mold.

If I can't have Popeye's, I'd greatly prefer Subway to Mold. Sabrina prefers Mold to Popeye's, and Junior prefers Popeye's to Subway.

Since none of us is willing to change our position, a three-way vote would be useless; we'd each vote for our first choice, and the tie can't be broken by going to our second or third choices. We decide to hold a preliminary two-way vote and then have the winner of that vote face off with the remaining restaurant to see where we'll eat. We toss coins, and it is determined that Popeye's will take on Subway, with the winner taking on Mold.

If we vote our preferences, Junior and I will both vote for Popeye's. But then, in the next vote, Mold will win. (I realize this because, among other things, eating fried chicken makes one wise.) However, if I vote against my preference in the first vote, I can guarantee that my second choice, Subway, will win. Better a meatball sandwich with jalapeños than sprouts with anything.

Even if the others realize what I'm doing, it won't change the outcome. Sabrina is not going to change her vote in either contest, because she's getting her first choice; there's no way she can improve her position. Meanwhile, Junior, who should win if things were done according to stated preferences, ends up instead having to go to his third choice.

If the first-round vote pits Mold against Popeye's, it doesn't matter how I vote, because Mold will win the first vote, and Subway will win the final vote. And if Mold and Subway are matched up in the first vote, Popeye's will win. Quite gallingly, Junior can't do anything to stop me. In fact, no matter what Junior does in any of the matchups, because I am dead-set against Mold, Sabrina will get her way twice; I'll get mine once; and Junior won't get his, ever.

I can't use this chicanery to guarantee that I'll win, but I can see to it that I don't lose.

Similar shenanigans can be pulled in the electoral process in ridiculous "open" primaries. Let's say there is a U.S. Senate seat coming open in a state that leans conservative. The Democrats are united behind one candidate. The Republicans have two candidates. One is a mealy mouthed middle-of-the-road RINO (Republican In Name Only), while the other is Sarah Palin with a scrotum (don't say it)--pro-war, anti-abortion and in favor of tax breaks for the rich. You know, a GOOD American.

If people voted strictly according to their preferences, the Palin-esque GOP guy would easily defeat both his rival in the party's primary and the Dem in the general. The devious Democrats, realizing this, hatch a plot. They go on that Internet thing and tell everybody to cross over in the primary and vote for the moderate Republican. This eliminates the right-wing guy and leaves voters with the choice between a Democrat and a moderate Republican. The Democrats might not get their first choice, but they've eliminated the least-favorite possible outcome.

National political turdmonger Rush Limbaugh openly tried to manipulate votes in Democratic primaries last spring, treating it like it was some big joke. Well, it's not a joke; it's a ticking time bomb, one you can defuse by telling the independents to either sack up or stay out of party politics, and by eliminating crossover voting altogether.

The Democrats are coming, and I'm betting they understand this strategy. Do you think they might use it?

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