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.