Horrible Idea Of The Day


A bill proposed by East Tennessee Republicans calls for U.S. Senate candidates to be nominated by the Legislature’s partisan caucuses rather than in contested primary elections.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, proposes that the new system take effect on Nov. 30, 2014. That effectively “grandfathers in” incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election under the present system “because he’s doing such a good job,” said Niceley.

Humphreys writes that this change would,

avoid the huge fundraising and spending in primary elections and open the door for more qualified candidates with fewer financial resources to seek the nomination, Niceley said.

Bullshit. It would neuter the Tea Party, whose only power right now is in threatening to primary any candidate who doesn’t sufficiently bend and scrape and spout the crazy they need to prove they’re the “real conservative.” It would end the kind of stuff currently causing Mitch McConnell the vapors in Kentucky. It would take the power away from the most dedicated voters, the ones who vote in primaries.

I get why they want to do this. It’s not just the money. Primaries force candidates to say stuff necessary to win the base that they then regret in the general election. To which I say: Awww. I’m sorry that the GOP base is so extreme that it turns off most sane voters. Really, I am!

Tennessee’s Democrats aren’t immediately nixing the idea, either. They well remember the disaster that was the Mark Clayton senate candidacy. Again: Awww. Sorry, but your inability to do your damn jobs and sufficiently vet the candidates and sell your candidates is no reason to take the power away from voters. Sorry to make you guys actually work for a change.

I understand that people don’t vote in primaries (well, I do. But I’m one of those crazy people who thinks voting matters). But whose fault is that?


Filed under Tennessee politics

14 responses to “Horrible Idea Of The Day

  1. Eykis

    Please NO – we must rid Tennessee of Lamar “Kamikaze” Alexander in 2014 – he is WRECKING America.

  2. satai

    This would only be the first step towards making Senatorial selections by the Legislature as it used to be done; it was a bad idea which is why the Constitution was amended.

  3. Jim from Memphis

    I don’t understand why this would even require a bill. The courts already decided that the parties had control over their own nomination processes when they agreed with the Democrats and threw out the Kurita primary results.

    • TN Democrats took that action in response to an election challenge by Tim Barnes, who lost the primary by 19 votes. I’d guess that is the difference. The court ruled that the parties have the right to decide on the party nominee, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have primaries. I don’t think if TN Dems had picked someone who hadn’t even run in the primary to replace Kurita that the courts would have agreed.

      From Wiki:

      On October 15, 2008, Judge Robert L. Echols of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee dismissed her complaint. His ruling stated that when primary election results are contested, under Tennessee law the primary board (in this instance the Democratic Party executive committee) has the authority to decide on the party’s nominee. Kurita said she would appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.[6]

      Good riddance to her. It’s because of her that we got saddled with that nutwagon Ron Ramsey.

      Don’t know what happened with her Appeal.

  4. SB,

    Kurita has lost all her appeals. I am not a lawyer so I won’t offer an explanation. Your quote from Judge Echols is probably what the appeals court decided.

    I think she has ended her legal actions. When last seen, she endorsed Doctor Mark Green who defeated Senator Barnes last November.

    This move to return the election of US Senators to state legislatures has been gaining momentum for a while but it will not get anywhere. As a wonderful former State Representative named Clint Callicott would often eloquently opine: “Bubba, you won’t get anywhere trying to take the vote away from people.”

    Direct election of Senators is not going to be changed for exactly the reason Clint expressed.

    • “Bubba, you won’t get anywhere trying to take the vote away from people.”

      Yeah those attempts to suppress African American, Hispanic and young voters really backfired in 2012. GOP will have to find a new tactic.

      • There will never be sufficient popular appeal to amend the Constitution to go back to appointed US Senators.

        For the record, the strongest advocates of going back to appointed Senators are small government conservatives who want to make the Senate more responsive to the needs of individual states.

        The idea is that too many Senators feel invulnerable to primary challenges so they are more inclined to side with their national party and to try to raise their national profiles at the expense of the interests of their individual states.

        Advocates believe that any Senator who spent too much time {and federal money} on other states would be more vulnerable to removal by state legislators than by popular vote.

        I don’t think that the issues are that simple or that this solution will work. More importantly, I think that such a system would end up pitting states against each other in ways that are unhealthy for the nation.

      • Maybe not appointed Senators but that’s not what this is … this horrible idea is having the party caucuses pick the nominees, doing away with the primaries. Just reeks of cronyism to me. I mean, look at Nicely’s motivation — to “grandfather in” Lamar Alexander. That seems to be the opposite of what you’re saying, which is make senators accountable to state legislatures.

        Anyway, thanks for the background. Pretty hilarious that taking the vote away from individuals and giving it to state legislatures is the brainchild of “small government conservatives.” Pretty much puts the lie to that whole charade.

        It’s clearly designed to shut out a Tea Party challenge from the right. Headlines like this one from The Tennessean can’t help; Tennessee is where the Tea Party has gone to die, it’s probably one of the few states where a Tea Party primary challenge might actually be successful.

      • It would be interesting to see a full proposal but such a system would still require party candidates to run in a general election. Anyone could still file to run as an independent so the idea of ‘direct election’ would be preserved.

        Can you imagine a situation where 33 Senators and 99 Representatives get to vote on the next Senate nominees? My bet would be on a tie vote between 132 nominees.

        Let me clarify something. By ‘small government’ I meant having a preference for state power over federal. This is not so much about specific issues as it is about a broader effort to shift power back to the states. You and I might well agree that their view of state power is too expansive for our tastes even though we would disagree on specifics.

      • Anyone could still file to run as an independent…

        Please. We all know what a farce that is. Third party candidates are ALWAYS spoilers: right, left, it doesn’t matter. It rarely works. And yes, I agree that defining “small government” as “state government” is stupid.

        If we can ever get instant-runoff voting or something along those lines, then third party/independent candidates might have more validity. And allowing caucuses to decide candidates would skew us toward a more parliamentary system.

        So do you think Nicely and the other East Tennessee Republicans are just sucking up to Alexander with this legislation?

      • SB,

        I agree that independents are most often a non-factor. My only point was that the presence of independents keeps the appointed party nominee approach legal.

        It is still a bad idea to get rid of primaries. Unless one or both state parties wanted to go to statewide caucuses. Sort of like Iowa’s approach to the Presidential primary process. That would be interesting. Regular party voters would still determine the outcome but in smaller numbers than with primaries.

        I can’t speak to Senator Nicely’s agenda. My guess is that he realizes that there is no chance of changing the primary system for US Senate with the 2014 race coming up. There won’t be a Senate race in 2016 so there would be four years to put a new system in place. And who knows, Senator Corker might not run again in 2018, meaning Nicely’s system would be applied to an open seat.

        I have never known Frank Nicely to suck up to anyone. Senator Alexander is going to be re-elected. His support in East Tennessee is deep as are his ties to the Governor, the Lt. Governor and the Speaker. The three Congressmen who represent East TN are all on board. The idea that there are enough Republican state legislators who would vote to nominate someone other than Alexander is a right wing pipe dream.

        Instead, I think that it is more that targeting 2018 is politically feasible. Why get the goal of changing the system mixed up with this race? I think Senator Nicely is playing a long game, which is very smart.

  5. “Third party candidates are ALWAYS spoilers: right, left, it doesn’t matter. It rarely works.”

    Sadly true. NOT what I’d prefer, though. I’d much prefer an honest but extreme Tea Party, a middle of the road but conservative party, a more liberal than those other guys party, a progressives party and a left-wing, the real socialists, party so our lives wouldn’t be spent with one of two unacceptable parties creating a logjam that none could pass. It could force collaboration.

    Then, eventually we’d become like the French. 🙂

    • Instant runoff voting and similar ideas have been proposed to give third party and independent candidates a little more viability. Big shocker that neither of the two parties in charge have embraced this change. 🙂

  6. Min

    Wow. This legislature is turning into a Bad Idea Bazaar fast.