I am dismayed by reports that Democrats worked successfully to promote the candidacy of the an extreme right wing candidate in the Maryland Republican primary race for governor. Can it be the case that these folks believe that the only way they can get an odiously left-wing Democrat elected is by having an even more odiously right-wing Republican as their opponent?
The Centrist Independent Voter recommends that Democrats and Republicans cross party lines, where it is permitted, to vote for more centrist candidates. The intent of this strategy is to increase the likelihood that the general election will present voters with acceptable, if not always ideal choices. For more on this issue, visit the strategy discussion on the Candidates page of this web site.
Sadly, what seems to be emerging is the opposite strategy, where Democratic funds and voters are being directed to elect the most extreme candidates in the Republican primaries. The tactic actually has a name, it is called the “Pied Piper” strategy. It was also, reportedly, used by Gov. J.B. Pritzger (D), in Illinois, to promote the candidacy of a weaker, more right-wing Republican candidate in the Republican primary. In Pennsylvania, Democrats helped push state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an avid Trump supporter, to victory in the Republican primary for governor.
In the up-coming August 2nd primary, in Arizona, Democrats are working to support another Trump endorsed candidate, Kari Lake, against the establishment backed candidate Karrin Taylor Robson.
I am unaware of the same tactic being adopted by Republicans. If Republicans are also using this tactic, I find it equally hypocritical. Please let me know, through the comment section below, if you know of other examples of either party promoting extremist opposition candidates.
How can Democratic or Republican loyalists decry the extremism of the other party while working to make the other party’s candidates as extreme as possible?
Apart from the hypocrisy, support for the other party’s most extreme candidate is a dangerous strategy. Candidates fall ill, scandals happen, and the electoral mood shifts. It does not take much imagination to see these weak opposition candidates sometimes winning. Remember, many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s staff in a memo to the DNC, cheered Trump and other far right candidates, in 2015, because they thought them unelectable.
How to Discourage this Strategy
This dangerous strategy of promoting your opposition’s most extreme candidate works best in plurality primaries, i.e. ones which do not require a runoff to determine a winner by a majority. The best protection against this strategy is a ranked choice primary, with an instant runoff. The Centrist Independent Voter favors this approach for a number of reasons. To learn more about it visit our policy position on Voting Rights and Reforms.