Here's a sneak preview of Tuesday's editorial on Idaho's closed GOP primary. UPDATED, 5:36 p.m., to better reflect the GOP resolution, and the Republican central committee's role in deciding the fate of the primary.
As the old political joke goes, there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary tax. Same goes, perhaps, for Idaho Republicans’ “experiment” in a closed primary.
During their convention last week, Republicans didn’t seriously discuss getting rid of the closed primary. Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and other party leaders oppose this new party policy, which allows only registered Republicans to vote in a primary.
Republicans instead approved a non-binding resolution asking the GOP central committee to study the primary — and try to figure out whether it affects voter turnout and the GOP’s success in November elections.
Sometimes, ideas get studied to death. Then again, maybe Republicans will study this issue until internal angst quietly fades away.
Republican disagreements about the closed primary have been on full public display. Opponents say the closed primary is alienating voters, and they point to the record low 24 percent turnout in last month’s primary. Supporters say it is inaccurate — and misleading — to blame the poor turnout on the closed primary, and maintain that parties can and should choose their nominees without interference from outsiders.
These two camps arrived for the state convention at loggerheads, but in no hurry for a floor fight. After all, nothing’s going to change before the 2014 primary election, at the earliest. So, Idaho’s prevailing political party made the political decision to keep the peace — for now.
It’s tempting to say that the “study” solution is just a way to sweep this matter aside, thus allowing the GOP to focus on its day job of winning general elections with remarkable regularity. And maybe it is.
Or maybe, Republicans will take a closer look at their decision, in the name of self-interest. During the convention, Coeur d’Alene delegate Sandy Patano cited a secretary of state’s report that showed Republicans trailed Democrats in fundraising in 2011.
“I think this year, our poor showing as a state party in fundraising maybe is indicative of our efforts to disenfranchise people from our party,” she said.
Patano is no RINO, or Republican In Name Only; the longtime field representative to former Sen. Larry Craig has solid party credentials. She’s also a pragmatist. She is a member of a group of North Idaho Republicans who backed Ed Morse, a challenger who successfully defeated tax-protesting and ethics-challenged state Rep. Phil Hart in the May primary.
Maybe Patano has hit on a successful argument. Closed primary backers won’t change their mind because they’re lectured about voter turnout and doing the right thing. The only convincing argument may center on the numbers.