The Kentucky Republican Party executive committee voted over the weekend to approve a “caucus” instead of a primary election for one office—and one man.
That’s a huge mistake—for the party and even more for democracy in the commonwealth.
The vote to allow Sen. Rand Paul to run for president, evading state law that you cannot run for 2 federal offices at the same time, was done by less than half of the committee’s members...even though this was probably the most important vote of the decade. And of the fewer than half who voted, Paul got less than half of those voting..all he needed...but still NOT a real ringing endorsement.
Among the problems is this…while details are far from set, early reports are that many counties will have only one caucus site. Larger counties, such as Fayette, may have 2 or 3. That’s in contrast to the approximately 285 precincts where Republicans will vote in the May primary for all the other offices. That’s more than an inconvenience; it means a very, very, very, very, very low turnout in an election that often sets records for low voter turnout. It will give his party opponents a great talking point: "Even in his home state, only 0.3% vote to support Sen. Paul’s candidacy!” OK, maybe he gets 9%, but you see the point.
To me this is far more important than the cost, which Sen. Paul has agreed to bear...an unknown cost which has already gotten him into big problems with his party. We shall see if he finally pays for it. If not, the caucus will be cancelled. And good riddance.
Beyond this are some thoughts about organizing principles. Why would you warp party traditions, procedures, and history to support one man? Hardly a good idea. Parties are supposedly founded on principles, not on “the cult of personality.” But with this precedent, what will happen next time? Caucuses versus primaries inevitably mean a lower turnout—not to mention in this case, two elections next spring with whatever confusion that causes.
And, dare I say it, it opens Paul to a charge of being a “professional politician”—truly an “establishment man," so much so he ran in not just one but two elections...opening the door a tad wider for a Democrat to defeat him in his run for the Senate next year.
I'm just sayin'!...