Betsy Wright Hawkings,
I’ve been a longtime skeptic of many frequently proposed political reforms, including redistricting and primary reform.
I am a career Republican House chief of staff. Why would I want to upset the system that worked well for me and my bosses in 12 elections over a quarter century?
Moreover, our system of governance was strained even before the current impeachment debacle began. Americans’ confidence in the veracity of election outcomes has declined steadily since Bush v. Gore, even before interference by Russia became an issue.
Why would I think more disruption and “reform” is a good idea?
The short answer is that as a conservative I believe in competition, and competition is not currently working well in the political marketplace. The candidates who can successfully compete for the most number of voters in general elections are often not being nominated — by either party.
The current primary system, regrettably, is stifling, rather than promoting, competition. Statehouses drawing congressional districts is too often undermining certainty and stability in this already volatile economy. I see political reforms that promote business certainty and a political free market as in our country’s — and my party’s — best interest.
Every 10 years, legislative districts are redrawn by state governments, largely based on who holds temporary political power. Anyone who must interact with the government must therefore develop two strategies for doing so for several years before every reapportionment if they are to effectively position themselves once the outcome is determined. This saps resources that could be more directly dedicated to core business.
For competition to more effectively drive the political marketplace, we must promote greater predictability in our political apportionment process through independent political commissions rather than unpredictable partisan processes controlled by self-interested politicians. Redistricting reform is therefore in the best interest of Republicans, who currently hold the upper hand in statehouses around the country but who risk losing that majority in the upcoming elections.
Furthermore, the party for which I worked even before I could vote is shrinking. Demographic studies show that, absent a course correction, the Republican party will be a permanent minority by 2040.
Of particular concern, in 2018, the party elected the smallest number of Republican women to Congress in a quarter century. Republicans will not be a majority party again if the majority gender in America holds less than one-tenth of our party’s seats in Congress.
We need to reverse that trend, and primary reforms can help.
With turnout in primary elections at historic lows, and awareness of those contests abysmal, it seems to me that only parties wanting to discourage voting would oppose trying to increase attention – and participation – with unified primary days rather than separate primary dates for every state. I agree that each state should decide for itself – states’ rights are important. But so is voting. As a Republican, I want to encourage more Republicans to vote.
We can also easily establish instant runoff elections in our primaries to ensure that the candidate who is nominated is the candidate who actually has the majority of support, while also saving significant time and money — savings fiscal conservatives can applaud.
And importantly to me, more women will likely be elected with the implementation of instant runoffs in primaries, by lessening the incumbency advantage (incumbents are most often men) and by incentivizing candidates to run positive campaigns in order to win second- and third-place votes. (Women often cite negativity as one of the top reasons not to run for elected office.)
Taking steps that allow more voters to vote for Republicans while encouraging the parties to appeal to them, and setting a more predictable playing field for all sides — as these reforms will do – will help strengthen our Republican Party, our republic and the role of women in both.
I am a conservative. I do not support quotas. I support candidates who can appeal to a broader range of voting consumers with core conservative principles based on those of President Reagan — the first president for whom I campaigned. And I support encouraging as many people to vote for those right-of-center women candidates as possible.
Intentional market shrinkage and destabilization will eventually render political parties unable to compete. As someone who has spent most of her professional life in the trenches for one of those parties, I think we can use some innovation.
It’s what American capitalism does best.