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DNC Chairwoman Alienates Independents With Defense Of Closed Primaries

The chairwoman for the Democratic National Committee said she “absolutely” believes the “party’s nominee should be chosen by someone registered with that party,” a statement which could further alienate independents who have tried to participate in the 2016 presidential election.

On the Bloomberg Politics show, “With All Due Respect,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz declared, “We should not have independents or Republicans playing games.”

When asked if that means she is opposed to the concept of open primaries, which allow citizens to vote in primaries regardless of their party affiliation, the chairwoman asserted the Party’s nominees “should be chosen by members of that party.” She claimed she did not want to do away with open primaries, but she does not want to see states with closed primaries move to open primary systems.

It is estimated three million registered voters—about 27 percent of voters—were disenfranchised in New York because of the state’s closed primary system. Independents had to declare their party affiliation by October 19 if they wanted to vote in the Democratic primary. The closed primary system was a source of outrage, which led to a lawsuit which was recently thrown out by a judge.

After a significant loss in New York, Sanders blasted the closed primary in New York, “You’re paying for this election. It’s administered by the state. You have a right to vote. And that’s a very unfortunate thing, which I hope will change in the future.”

Rhode Island had a semi-closed primary on April 26, and unlike four of the other primaries held that day, independents were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not hide its trepidation over the fact that independents could vote in the primary.

Nick Black, state director for the Clinton campaign, told The Providence Journal, “We knew it would be tough in terms of demographics; the secretary had greater success in larger, more diverse states,” and “it’s always tough when you have an open primary.”

In January, Gallup reported the number of Americans, who affiliate as Democrats or Republicans, were near “historic lows.” The number of people, who describe themselves as independents, has risen sharply to four out of ten Americans during the last five years.

Fewer and fewer Americans are willing to support the two-party system. In September, Gallup also released a poll that showed 60 percent say a major third party is needed for “adequate representation.” Seventy-eight percent of independents said there should be a major third party.

More specifically, for example, there are more than one million unaffiliated voters in Colorado, who outnumber Republicans and Democrats registered in the state. Many are part of the millennial generation (which is the generation Sanders continues to win by huge margins).

Closed primaries are a means for the Democratic Party to keep a stranglehold on the voting process and stymie this movement away from the Democratic Party. However, it could backfire tremendously in a general election, when every citizen is able to vote for a presidential candidate regardless of their party affiliation.

The Democratic Party establishment has lined up to support Hillary Clinton, despite the insurgent success of the Sanders campaign. Independents are showing the Democratic Party why Clinton may be a weak competitor in the general election in November.

“An April Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that Mrs. Clinton’s favorability rating among independents had dropped 15 percentage points in the last four months alone,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. “That poll found that 20 percent of independents viewed Mrs. Clinton positively, compared with 62 percent who viewed her negatively—a gap of 42 percentage points.”

“In January, that same poll found her with a positive rating of 35 percent and a negative rating of 54 percent—a gap of fewer than 20 percentage points. A year earlier, four months before she launched her presidential campaign, that gap stood at just four percentage points—35 percent positive to 39 percent negative.”

It does not help Clinton that the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee defends a closed primary system that disenfranchises voters.

Also, independents should not be stereotyped as only being white voters. According to Open Primaries, “33 percent of Asian voters, 20 percent of Latino voters, and 15 percent of African-American voters were denied the right to vote” in New York because they did not affiliate with either the Democratic or Republican Party.

Yet, at a time when millions reject the political status quo perpetuated by the two most prominent political parties, it is understandable why Wasserman Schultz would favor closed primaries. They are a kind of fail-safe for the Democrats to maintain power over voters and ensure populism does not lead to a candidate the elites despise wholeheartedly.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."