As a registered unaffiliated voter, it is reassuring to see the Maryland Republican Party beginning the process of reaching out ("Time to open up," July 22). Chairman Diana Waterman recently indicated that the GOP is establishing a committee to "investigate allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in the Republican Primary along with Republicans — not Democrats." To that end, here a few thoughts on the process for implementing this change.
As we have seen in other states, open primaries can lead to shenanigans. Voters who change their registration in the final days before a primary election can cast a vote which diminishes the party rather than strengthens it. One method to mitigate this would be requiring voter registration change to be in effect for at least six months prior to the primary.
Many counties and municipalities require a minimum of six months residency to run for office, hence there is established precedent. This simple and logical requirement should help to alleviate those who would attempt to infiltrate the Republican primary with the aim of harm.
Is the interest in this potential change to promote national or statewide campaigns? To date, Maryland is by no stretch of the imagination a swing state. Placing the initial focus at the state level will generate the most benefit. The Maryland GOP does not have a strong history of helping state and local candidates. Shifting that focus will begin the process of building a new and strong conservative party.
Primaries are by nature a practice of choice and the voters deserve that choice. To circumvent this process will further erode confidence in the Republican Party. In short, do not allow the party to endorse one candidate in a contested primary before the vote occurs! Those interested enough to vote in a primary are well aware of the candidates' records and whom they want to support — both financially and through actions.
Incumbents generally have significant financial support to fend off those who would compete with them. If they are concerned about their actions while in office, let them spend these resources. It has long been the practice of political parties to back the incumbent — this practice should end prior to the primary vote. People have left the Republican Party due to the protections given to incumbents who, through their votes and actions, have circumvented the interests of their constituents. Competition is a central focus of our nation and should be the same for our political system — no one owns their elected position.
The voting public is changing in dramatic ways. Those choosing to register as unaffiliated are increasing dramatically. A number of actions will help the Republican Party to garner the interest of many of these voters.
First and foremost, the Republican Party as a whole does not articulate various social issues in a persuasive manner. Consider the very heated issue of abortion and the recent Texas law limiting it to the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. One need only look to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Maryland Medical Center. The amazing nurses and doctors at this facility are bringing to full health many babies born at 20 weeks. Couple that with the fact that at this early stage of birth, the nervous system is exceptionally responsive to pain. These two facts of science and the myriad ethical concerns therein have yet to yield the Republican Party with an influential argument against abortion after 20 weeks. In fact, there is virtually no movement in Maryland to ban this practice.
The Republican Party record on issues such as abortion is replete with failures. Yet, other organizations have a legitimate track record for well-crafted actions and solutions to these problems. Instead of continuously floundering and hampering the platform of the Republican Party, these areas should be handed off to these other organizations. Many of these social issues are paramount to the party faithful. Handing the implementation off to organizations with a sound record will supplicate those constituents and end the hemorrhaging of the many voters interested in addressing financial conservatism.
The party must embrace the Internet and social networks. People are discussing issues in these forums and they are not party-centric! Begin the process of discussing and teaching why conservative policies are superior in practice and compassion. The Republican Party will be passed by if this is not undertaken.
The process of bringing unaffiliated voters into the primaries will build enthusiasm — build upon that! Those who vote in primaries are a tiny subset of the general population, but they are the ones who generate talk and passion. Utilize this new energy and education opportunity.
Finally, be bold! Timidity loses campaigns for conservatives. Boldness, honesty, and a real knowledge of core values wins. A lack of conservative bona fides loses. The public is hungering for candidates who know what they believe and why they believe it. Build a party that articulates their positions and accepts there will be differences. Debate is good and engenders wise compromise.
Many of us in the unaffiliated camp are looking forward to the final outcome of this new committee.
Farrell Keough, UrbanaCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun