Primary Power to the People
John Fonte’s review of The New Road to Serfdom, by Daniel Hannan, focuses mainly on international policy — and avoiding Europeanization and submission to anti-democratic supranational bodies. However, given periodic discussion around here about the structure of government and of elections, this is the passage that most caught my eye:
Hannan is particularly impressed with the American system of primary elections. He points out that in Britain and Europe, candidates for parliament are chosen by the political parties. This leads to the perpetuation of a closed political class and the exclusion of issue positions favored by the public but frowned upon by elites. In the U.S., by contrast, an outsider can defeat the party leaders’ choice in a primary; this fosters a more democratic process, and brings into the open issues that elites prefer not to discuss.
Some readers are impressed with European parliamentary systems that allow votes among multiple parties, which must then form coalitions for governance, but as the quotation above states, voters are reduced to electing parties, rather than people. It’s not quite so simple, of course; it’s in the interest of the parties to find and promote politically attractive candidates, for one thing. But as the Tea Party movement has illustrated, even in our more-individualistic system, establishment partisans will only take popular appeal so far, unless forced.
Beneath the talk of voter choices, one surmises that those who admire European governments rather like “the perpetuation of a closed political class” — mainly because they do not trust the unguided masses to elect wisely. Better, they think, to let voters choose from a slate of general principles and leave the actual exercise of power to people who know how to use it.