7 With the benefit of that best of predictive instruments, hindsight, it has
always seemed that the introduction of the direct primary was a reform that
ran counter to party interests. Unquestionably, in the long term, it helped
to weaken the parties. Consequently, explanations of why this reform was
introduced have generally assumed that it was something parties would
rather have not done, but that they could not prevent. Thus, one common
explanation has been that it was the result of antiparty reformers triumphing over party regulars, while another explanation was that it
followed from a supposed descent into one-party dominance in much of the
North after the mid-1890s. However, the states studied in detail in the last
two chapters demonstrate the limitations of these two accounts of the rise
of the direct primary. In the West, the introduction of the direct primary
was linked to the success of insurgency, but this occurred only after a
number of states, many in the East, had started already to experiment with
direct nominations. That is, in spite of the weakness of insurgency in the
east, most states there did introduce the direct primary, and there is no
evidence either that the legislation involved conflict between antiparty reformers and urban-based political machines. Furthermore, there is also no
evidence that the absence of party competition was responsible for this
legislation. To the contrary, in some circumstances restrictions on party
competition were a factor hindering its introduction (Connecticut), while
intense party competition could drive both parties into supporting the direct
primary (Maine).To begin constructing an explanation of why the direct primary should
have been introduced even in the eastern states, it is necessary to recapitulate some of the points that have emerged in previous chapters.
Explaining an “Irrational” Reform
|1. ||By the end of the 1880s and the beginning of the 1890s, party elites
in many states had become concerned about how party nominations
were being made. Nomination procedures did not appear to be|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North.
Contributors: Alan Ware - Author.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press.
Place of publication: Cambridge, England.
Publication year: 2002.
Page number: 196.
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