Reforming the Invisible Primaryrnby James S. Fishkinrn•,;,:; ^rni’^’V^^^’^rn^^mlaaa^S^^^S^rn- .’. ‘C’~ ‘ ‘-‘ . ‘rn’–‘-:_’ — ‘*^L^^7”’-‘rnWEiKit -^CS”‘.rn,i^,4si^3^”%t;-‘ “rn^^- -rtSrnV..-rn| ? vrnf^B^BBM^^^^rnGN^KD^Hs^SEt!?^^rn^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^rn^–:^r^^§^Hrn-. *””i;>>rn• X’-:V.”‘^rni^^K SrnR>^-” ffl^ 1rnaiv/y KJK& irnffiv^ tw^rnW^ %^mMrn3 Ws^rnB I £ ^ ! L W ^ Irn^^^SrnSr=i==^r”^^^^3-!UKi^^jJ|Akrn^^gsrZ^^^m,rnWfTCS^^^^aHH&iMM^iM^’rn^^MHSIrn^X^XiW^WKK^^J^^rnMIW^MrniSv ^s^^^M^^SSBffirrnWe have just completed another round in a continuingrnnational experiment in political theory—the primaryrnselection process as it has heen revised in several waves ofrndemocratic reform. I believe this experiment, filled with noblernintentions, has largely been a failure. From the standpointrnof democratic theorv, the presidential selection process shouldrnbe both representative and deliberative. The process should bernrepresentative of the country in all its diversity and deliberativernin permitting an informed consideration of the issues and therncandidates. At the moment, the process must be judged inadequaternon both criteria.rnrhe process fails to be deliberative because reforms havernbrought power to the people while, at the same time, the peoplernhave little incentive or opportunity to think about thernpower thcv exercise. Citizens have been rendered prisoners ofrnsoundbite democracy by what social scientists call a “collectivernaction” problem. While more citizen deliberation about thernpublic good would likely serve the collective welfare, individualrncitizens have so little effect on the outcome and so few opportunitiesrnfor political efficacy that it is easy for them torntune out, to feel “disconnected,” as a recent Kettering Foundationrnreport documented. While there is, theoretically, arngreat deal of information about the election and its issuesrnavailable from published materials, from C-Span, even fromrnJames S. Fishkin is a professor of government at thernUniversity of Texas at Austin.rnbooks written by candidates, citizens have little incentive or effectivernmotivation to invest their time and effort in that informationrnor to deliberate about it. And though there hasrnbeen a great deal of experimentation with proposals aimedrnat improving media coverage of this year’s campaign, even arncursory review of these experiments makes it clear that somethingrnmore dramatic is needed if we arc to involve the citizcnrvrnin a process that is both representative and deliberative.rnSince 1968, when Hubert Humphrey won the Democraticrnnomination without entering a single primarv, a series of wellknownrnreforms has led to the proliferation of primaries. ThernMcGovern-Fraser Commission announced that “the cure forrnthe ills of democracy was more democracy.” In moving fromrn17 to 37 primaries from 1968 to 1988 (and 39 this time), wernhave created a system for both major parties that is neither deliberativernnor representative. “Front-loading” has made the assessmentrnof most candidacies extremely superficial. The insatiablernneed for money to reach large media markets leadsrncandidates to drop out if they fare poody in the initial winnowing.rnThe voters in Illinois and Michigan, much less Pennsylvania,rnneer got to pass on Harkin, a candidate who hadrnnatural constituencies there. Most importantly, Clinton wonrnthe Democratic nomination because he won the “invisiblernprimary”—the quest for credibility, fundraising, and organizationrnbefore the official primaries begin. Tsongas said asrnmuch when he dropped out.rnNOVEMBER 1992/23rnrnrn