As written in the initial section of this chapter, the rules governing primaries, not the voters in them, may be responsible for candidates with narrow bases of support winning the nomination. The evidence and arguments presented above offer support for that contention. To increase the chances that voters in primaries select candidates with widespread support, these intraparty struggles should rely on proportional representation schemes to allocate delegates, adopt a preference ballot, and allow independents and partisan defectors to participate in primaries.
The party does, however, have other concerns besides picking candidates with the most support. For instance, parties seek to choose an acceptable candidate quickly so as to avoid dividing the party. The proportional representation rule, for example, might keep contenders in the race longer than under a system that favors the winner. In 1988, for instance, Dole might have been able to stay in the race longer if the GOP had relied more on allocating delegates proportionally. Such prolonged candidacies can undermine party unity. 19 Also, allowing independents and partisans of the opposing party to participate may be seen by loyal partisans as undercutting the values of the party. If disillusioned, the "core" party supporters might be less willing to work for the party and contribute money to its campaign treasury. 20 Finally, a preference ballot could confuse voters (especially the poorly educated ones) and lessen turnout in the short run, which could potentially lead to voters who are highly unrepresentative of the rank and file selecting nominees. 21 Thus, when considering changes in the rules governing presidential primaries, such concerns must be balanced.
The more important lesson in this chapter, however, is that the rules governing presidential primaries need to be considered when assessing the characteristics of voters. Perhaps if additional rules were changed, then other weaknesses in the current system might be minimized. In the concluding chapter I shall consequently propose changes in the rules that take account of both the strengths and weaknesses of voters when choosing candidates.
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Publication information: Book title: Nominating Presidents:An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries. Contributors: John G. Geer - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1989. Page number: 120.