Primaries and Polarization

You often hear people say that reforming the primary system will reduce political polarization and that more jurisdictions should embrace open primaries or some such. The thinking here isn’t as sloppy as that behind the much-touted and basically non-existent gerrymandering/polarization link but as John Sides details the evidence suggests that there’s not much here. This chart gives a taste of the lack of effect here:

primariespolarization 1

I don’t really think polarization is a problem. The sensible thing to do would just be to assume that our two-party system will be fairly polarized, and make political institutions that work with polarized parties. At times, voters would give one party or another control of the levers in government and they would do a bunch of stuff. Much of the time, party control of the different
branches will be divided, and then compromise will be strictly necessary. But pining away for the lost days of relatively incoherent parties seems useless.