THE REAL OPERATION CHAOS
by John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries
March 2, 2020
For weeks, the media has been whipping up hysteria about a sinister Donald Trump/Rush Limbaugh plot called "Operation Chaos."
Tens of thousands of sleeper-cell Republicans were being prepped to flood the Democratic primary in South Carolina and cynically push Bernie Sanders to the top-presumably on the theory he was a weak general election candidate. Trump publicly urged his supporters to back Bernie, and dozens of opportunistic pundits and political operatives seized the moment to scream "open primaries are insane. We need more partisan control over who can vote!"
Dozens of articles. Hundreds of hours of cable news histrionics. Dire warnings about the dangers of allowing people to vote in ways not deemed appropriate or legitimate by the political insiders...
Except it was all hype.
According to exit polling done by the Washington Post, 5% of the participants in the South Carolina Democratic Primary were Republicans. 5%. That's about the normal amount for South Carolina, which does not have partisan voter registration. Typically, 3-5% of self-identified Republicans vote in the Democratic primary and 3-5% of Democrats vote in the Republican primary.
The actual story is that 26% of voters who participated in the South Carolina Democratic primary were independents. That's what closed primaries advocates really fear. Not "party raiding" which is about as real as the Loch Ness monster, but rather the rapid increase in the number of voters who aren't loyal to and won't join either party--The independents. That's the motivation for the hysterical overreaction to Trump and Limbaugh’s provocation.
Trump calls for South Carolina Republicans to flood the Democratic primary. They don't. But the opponents of open elections--Democrats and Republicans alike--don't care. They whip up fear and use it to advance closed primary legislation in South Carolina, Missouri, and other states. The media moves on, the damage done. One lone article has been written exposing that the Trump/Limbaugh effort was laughably ineffective.
In 2016, political insiders from both parties joined together to decry the dangers of top two open primaries in California and how it would derail the entire election. Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy joined together in unison to decry the coming danger. Not only did nothing come to pass but Californians support for top two and continues to grow and is at an all time high of 65%.
Overreaction to Trump and Limbaugh is the real Operation Chaos. Create fear. Convince the American people (including many people in the growing election reform movement) that open elections equals chaos. Ignore the fact that they don't. And then press forward efforts to close down open primaries, lock out independent voters, and further construct and reinforce the partisan silos that are ruining American civic life.
The American people aren’t being fooled. Open elections are the bedrock of democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the insiders of both parties with a very simple demand-let all voters vote!
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