A number of reports have recently come out describing a rather interesting strategy from Republican political operatives in upcoming primary states. They’re encouraging GOP voters to vote for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in open primaries.
For those unfamiliar with the term, an “open primary” is a primary election that doesn’t require participating voters to be affiliated with the political party whose candidates they’re voting for. In other words, someone can vote in a Democratic primary even if they’re not a Democrat.
South Carolina will be the first open primary state in this year’s presidential nomination schedule, with others falling later.
While there are Republican primaries in these states as well, President Trump is popular enough with GOP voters not to spawn any serious competition for the party’s nomination. Thus, the idea is that Republicans and pro-Trump independents should cross over on primary night and vote for the Democratic candidate least likely to beat Trump.
And according to people like Greenville GOP chairman Nate Leupp (and several other Republican leaders in South Carolina), Sanders would pose the easiest challenge for our president in the general election (due to Sanders’ extremely far left policies). So in Leupp’s view, Republicans should vote for him in the state’s primary.
If this strategy sounds familiar, you might recall that Rush Limbaugh called on his listeners to do something similar in 2008. The talk-radio host referred to his plan as “Operation Chaos,” and urged Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to keep her competitive against Barack Obama, who was gaining momentum in that year’s nomination battle. The idea was to wear down the eventual Democratic nominee… mentally, physically, and financially.
Some prominent conservatives, however, don’t like the idea of Operation Chaos 2.0 in the year 2020. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro is one of them, and he recently addressed the issue on Twitter:
Republicans, do not cross party lines to vote in primaries for the other party. First, you’re playing with The Monkey’s Paw. Second, it’s bad. Let Democrats choose the form of their destructor. It’s their party.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 5, 2020
I think Shapiro makes some sense, especially in how Republicans should be careful what they wish for. After all, are they sure that Sanders would be Trump’s most easily defeated opponent?
Personally, I’m not convinced.
Bernie Goldberg recently wrote a good column on this topic, in which he points out that Sanders shares many of the very traits that made Donald Trump a successful presidential candidate. The populist rancor; the stoking of the grievance culture; the personality cult… In our current political environment, all of it plays to Sanders’ advantage.
And if the popularity of Donald Trump with Republican voters has proven anything, it’s that — in today’s America — not even members of the “fiscally conservative” party are concerned with the cost of big government and our country spending astronomically beyond its means. With Trump on track to add even more to the national debt than President Obama, it’s safe to say that the Tea Party ship has sailed (“sunk” is perhaps a better word).
So, with fiscal sanity no longer a political issue, is it really all that hard to imagine that someone like Bernie Sanders, a you-only-live-once candidate who promises that the U.S. government will pick up the tab for just about every major personal expense in people’s lives, could become our president?
Being that the “Democratic socialist” from Vermont leads Trump in just about every national poll (and has since the beginning of his 2020 run), it’s tough to deduce that the country is scared to death of socialism.
Still, Nate Leupp thinks he has the right game plan. “Bernie Sanders is the most socialistic, liberal candidate running in the Democratic presidential preference primary,” he told a local paper, qualifying his position.
This begs a question. If a Sanders presidency is indeed the worst-case scenario for America, why on Earth should Republicans help him get within a single election of occupying the Oval Office?
If Republicans and conservatives are so terrified of a socialist becoming our nation’s top executive, and America turning into a socialist country, wouldn’t they want to do everything they electorally could to make sure someone like Sanders never even gets as close as the nomination? Wouldn’t they want to put out a wildfire long before it ever reaches their doorstep?
With that in mind, it seems to me that a much better strategy would be for Republicans and conservatives (including those who aren’t all that high on Trump) to cast an open-primary vote for whoever they think is the least nutty Democrat on the ballot.
Sure, the easy joke is that they’re all nuts. But there are clearly differences between people like Sanders and people like Amy Klobuchar. If the choice is ultimately a “binary” one (as many on both sides insist), wouldn’t it be a good thing for the choices in the general election to be as least dreadful (and the outcome as least consequential) as possible?
From a truly conservative, anti-socialist perspective, that course of action would seem sensible…not for the sake of Trump but for the sake of the country. And as an independent conservative who lives in an open-primary state, perhaps I’ve just talked myself into following that course.
But if you think I’m wrong, please let me know why. I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.