Marmorstein: Amendment V Weakens Parties Too Much

Dr. Art Marmorstein waxes Madisonian but still opposes the counter-factional Amendment V.

In his newest AAN column, the Northern history prof reminds us of Founding Father James Madison’s concerns about party strife but says an open nonpartisan primary with no party labels on the ballot unduly weakens the party system:

While Madisonian in its concern about factional strife, Amendment V involves a very un-Madisonian curtailing of liberty. Parties help identify important issues, educate voters, recruit and vet suitable candidates, help get voters registered, work to ensure good voter turnout and (most important) watch the rascals in the rival party.

Yes, there’s an ugly side to partisan politics. But no free society remains free without rival political coalitions. A move to nonpartisan elections would mean a further weakening of a party system that is already too weak in South Dakota. One-party political systems aren’t healthy. No-party systems aren’t much better [Dr. Art Marmorstein, “In South Dakota Politics, Amendment V Is No Victory,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.10.05].

We should note that Amendment V does not hinder parties from carrying out any of the useful functions Dr. Marmorstein lists. Take party labels off the ballot, and parties can still organize, educate, and get out the vote. They can still recruit and vet candidates. They can still proudly declare their candidates’ party affiliation, boost their brand, and encourage newly V-enfranchised voters to join.

V does not guarantee weaker parties. Under V, smart parties will build their strength by reaching out to more voters and building the coalitions necessary to win first or second (or first and second) in the open nonpartisan primary.

I disagree with Marmorstein’s read of V as a party destroyer. But at least Marmorstein offers a serious critique grounded in history and political science rather than the cheap emotional distractions of the GOP spin blog.

7 Responses to Marmorstein: Amendment V Weakens Parties Too Much

  1. If we were to adopt Dr. Marmorstein’s piled higher and deeper nonsense then we must conclude that the Nebraska Unicameral Non-partisan legislature created an unhealthy chaotic state incapable of governance and civil discourse. Take a pass on his his courses.

  2. The only real opposition to Amendment V are the radicals who truly, intimately, KNOW that they can’t tell a D from an R outside of the voting booth.

    George Washington turns over in his grave every single time someone opposes Amendment V on the 2016 SD ballot.

  3. drey samuelson

    Well said, John. As a native of Nebraska, I can tell you that the political parties function just fine there, and that the nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature has a stunning 62%-26% approval rating (The Tarrance Group poll, October, 2015), vs. an anemic 36%-35% approval rating for the partisan South Dakota Legislature (PPP poll, January 2016). Nebraskans love the way their nonpartisan legislature works, South Dakotans are “meh” about theirs. If Amendment V passes, that will change.

  4. drey samuelson

    I would also like to know how Dr. Marmorstein justifies his opposition to Amendment V, knowing (as I assume someone in his position would) that 115,000 registered Independents in South Dakota can’t fully participate in our primaries, despite the fact that 92% of our legislative races (according to the Argus Leader’s Dana Ferguson) are decided then and there.

  5. mike from iowa

    Working less than 100 days per year for $174000, I’m guessing wingnuts are partying too much.

  6. Amendment V does not dissemble either (any) of the political parties in SD.

    “Parties help identify important issues, educate voters, recruit and vet suitable candidates, help get voters registered, work to ensure good voter turnout and (most important) watch the rascals in the rival party.” Even on face, this is not removal of state parties. Marmorstein jumps the rails to over claim – with no warrant – that these informational watchdogs cannot exist without candidate team affiliation denotation on ballots.

    How about the opposite claim that BY identification, a candidate can falsely give the impression that he or she stands for ALL elements of a party platform and revive false support from voters on issues that candidate does not support? The denotation on ballots does not come with a footnote to detail the exceptions that candidate has to his or her party’s agenda. What if a confused voter votes for the “R” candidate because “R” candidates are “pro-issue X” and that specific candidate is NOT “pro-issue X?”

  7. happy camper

    This is 2016 a hyper partisan world we need to change the structure. In the old days they couldn’t travel home from Washington very often so they all socialized together. Don’t you want to sit down next to a person you can argue with? They used to mingle. So why did it get so partisan at the state level? It should be about issues. Seems like this would be a good federal law with maybe even some guidance on how legislators are paid. New Mexico pays nothing we pay $6,000 a session, ND $172 a day.

    “We’ve found (it’s) a much better system when each of us as elected officials is accountable to the people that we represent and not the parties. Those who are afraid of losing their power, my answer to that is, ‘Maybe they should.’ I see South Dakota having a real opportunity to begin that leadership role.”

    Read More: Amendment V Looks to Shift South Dakota Voting Power |