I'm voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primary.
Please indulge me for a moment. I'm about as liberal as they come, vote in every election (even the tiny local ones), and almost always cast a straight-ticket Democratic ballot. I'm registered as an independent, however. Eons ago, during one gubernatorial election here in Massachusetts, I favored the moderate Republican candidate over his much more conservative Democratic rival. Since then I've preferred to remain officially neutral, voting on the issues rather than automatically with the party. But as my opinions and morals lean pretty far to the left, I almost always vote for the Donkeys.
Not this time.
We Bay Staters have what's known as a semi-closed primary: people with a particular party affiliation can only vote in their party's primary, but unaffiliated voters get to request either party's ballot. Some states have even less restrictive policies: In states with open or semi-open primaries, any voter -- Democrat, Republican, independent, or other -- can request either ballot on primary day. A total of 25 states have some form of open primary. And in those primaries, some committed, lifelong Democrats and Republicans intentionally (if temporarily) switch sides to vote for whoever would prove the weakest opponent against their true party's nominee in the general election. This tactic, known as "party raiding," has the added benefit of eroding support for the weaker candidate's more viable in-party competition.
An example of this approach is the "Operation Chaos" gambit that Rush Limbaugh proposed during the 2008 presidential primary. By encouraging Republican voters in states with open primaries to cross party lines to vote for Hillary Clinton, Limbaugh argued that the GOP would slow the momentum of a surging Barack Obama. To an extent, his strategy worked. According to a Huffington Post article from March of that year, "approximately 25% of Clinton's voters in Mississippi were Republicans voting for a candidate they hate in order to try to undermine Barack Obama ... [otherwise] Obama would have easily expanded his delegate win there from 19-14 to 24-9." Similar results were reported in Texas and Ohio.
Let's assume for a moment that Hillary Clinton, who currently leads Bernie Sanders by nearly 9 percent nationally, will be the 2016 Democratic nominee. Clinton matches up better against Donald Trump in a general election than any of the other leading Republican candidates. According to RealClearPolitics' latest average of national polls, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 2 points in a hypothetical presidential showdown. Conversely, RealClearPolitics shows Clinton trailing Marco Rubio by 3 percent and Ted Cruz by 1.8 percent.
Should Bernie Sanders become the nominee, the data is similar: Sanders leads Trump and trails Rubio (although he is running slightly ahead of Cruz). So for either Democratic candidate, Trump proves to be the most favorable -- and desirable -- matchup.
Moreover, should Donald Trump earn his party's nomination, some GOP strategists fear that some Republican voters would be so disenchanted with (or appalled by) Trump that they might not vote in the election at all, leading to down-ticket victories for the Democrats by attrition. This theory is supported by veteran Republican political pundit Karl Rove, in an editorial he penned for last week's Wall Street Journal:
If Mr. Trump is its standard-bearer, the GOP will lose the White House and the Senate, and its majority in the House will fall dramatically. If the nominee is Ted Cruz, the situation is still dicey. Any of the other major candidates, if nominated, will best Mrs. Clinton in a close race and help the GOP narrowly keep the Senate.
The latest polling numbers back up Mr. Rove's prediction, at least in the race for the White House. As for a Trump nomination hurting the GOP's chances in down-ticket battles, Rove's concerns are echoed in a recent Politico article by prominent party members Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ohio), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania), and others.
It's important to note that my home state of Massachusetts, where Donald Trump is ahead of his nearest rival Marco Rubio by 25 points, is one of 26 states that award Republican delegates proportionally. So vote count matters: the greater a candidate's margin of victory here, the more delegates he or she carries to the nominating convention. Since a contested Republican primary come July is a real possibility, every delegate brings Trump closer to the eventual nomination while eating away at the support of his more-electable rivals.
I disagree with Donald Trump ideologically in virtually every respect. I believe that his policies and proposals would ruin the strength and integrity of our great nation, undermine the fundamental tenets of our democracy, and make us the laughing stock of the international community (except, perhaps, for Vladimir Putin). But no matter what you think of him, one thing's for certain: Donald Trump is a polarizing figure who is not just divisive across liberal and conservative lines, but within the Republican Party itself.
Which is exactly why, on March 1, I'm voting for Donald Trump.