The presumptive presidential nominees, Barack Obama and John McCain, have promised, if elected, a bipartisan administration. They must also walk their talk, and it can done by two methods.
First, Obama and McCain must urge the passage of a constitutional amendment requiring a non-partisan primary election for all 50 states. This political reform would allow Independents to run in the primary election against Democrats and Republicans. The two top vote-getters would run in the general election.
Second, McCain and Obama must provide a list of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who they would appoint as cabinet secretaries and to White House staff.
In a nutshell, politics as usual must stop in Washington.
I can take or leave the suggestion of having shadow cabinets or prospective shadow cabinets in place before the November election, but the idea of having a national non-partisan primary is an interesting one to say the least. This would be the equivalent of having the Louisiana political infrastructure in place on the national level. Candidates of all stripes are thrown into one chaotic election and the top two voter getters make the runoff (general election). In 2008, for example, a year with both enthusiasm and competitiveness gaps in favor of the Democrats, we would have seen two Democrats vying for the Oval Office in November (Both Clinton and Obama had in excess of 17 million votes while McCain had just under 10 million votes.). It should be noted that had Republican voters known they had to vote to get one of their own in the general election, McCain's total would have been higher.
How would other past primary seasons run in this manner have come out? A quick glance at America Votes gives us a pretty good idea. Though caucus votes are excluded, we still have a rough sense of who would have appeared in the general election runoff following what would have been a national, non-partisan primary.
1972 Nixon: 5,378,704
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, there aren't that many changes from the general election match ups anyway. The changes that do appear underline some caveats that would have to be considered to look at this thoroughly. For starters, incumbents running unopposed would have to be controlled for in some way. There's no way, for example, that Reagan would have missed out on the 1984 general election, but his vote totals in the primaries were down because he ran virtually unopposed. Without that competition, there was less motivation to turn out GOP voters. The flip side of this is whether incumbents would even be included. Would it be the case that an incumbent would occupy one spot while the other candidates (members of the incumbent's party included) would run for that spot opposite him.
I'm going to try to look at this a but deeper in the next few weeks and months, so be on the look out. Putting some additional numbers in would definitely create an interesting analysis. Now, if only my dissertation will allow me to spend time elsewhere.
2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part Two
2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part One
A Big Thanks to Demconwatch