Yesterday I served as one of many volunteers helping to make a go of the Republican Party’s 2019 Prince William County Firehouse Primary. It was a long day, grueling because it required the full attention of someone with a short attention span, but it was worth it.

What is a firehouse primary? It is a primary election that a political party runs on its own WITHOUT the dubious assistance of the government. Why is that important? The more entangled a political party is with the government the more that party becomes an organ OF THE GOVERNMENT.

Have you ever wonder why it is so difficult to establish a genuine third political party in this country? Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to get the grip of establishment politicians off the reins of power even when Congress is terribly unpopular? Well, the answer is that to a large extent incumbent politicians control the processes that nominates candidates for office. That means politicians are not answerable to the parties that nominate them.

Think about it. Don’t government-run primaries favor incumbents with the help of donors with big bucks? Is that not why politicians set up government-run primary elections? When politicians are generous with other people’s money, are they not almost always most generous to themselves?


  • Prince William County Republican Committee discouraged Democrats from participating in its primary. Republicans made it clear that people who did not intend to support the winner of the primary in the general election would not be welcomed. They did not want Democrats coming to the polls just to vote for what they perceived would be the weaker candidate. If nothing else, Republicans wanted people to care enough to find out what was going on and learn how to participate.
  • Interested people are easier to reach. Lots of advertising dollars are required to gain the interest of the half-hearted, but the interested just need to be told where to look for information. Hence, firehouse primaries allow low-budget candidates with enthusiastic volunteers to be competitive. Such challenges force incumbents to consider themselves answerable to their party, the people who nominated them in the first place.

Do you want the politicians you vote for to be answerable for their conduct? Then reward the political parties that do their best to hold the people they nominate accountable.


  1. @Catherine

    I don’t have any idea what this strategy you are talking about involves. Whose strategy is it? Democrats? Why would Democrats want votes for Trump? How does anyone guarantee that every vote one candidate gets is matched by a vote for another candidate.

  2. My dad votes in a primarily Democratic and black neighborhood. When he was standing in line to vote in the primary in 2016, he overheard folks talking about their strategy. Essentially, for every vote for Hillary, there’d be a vote for Trump.

    You’re welcome?

  3. I guess I’m lost here.. maybe it’s too early on a Sunday morning.. whatever… but I am totally lost on what the firehouse thing is, Tom. I even went over to the Family Alliance website and it’s still confusing what this is all about. I’m sure I don’t see the initial “problem” that spawned your grass roots effort here.

    1. @Doug

      Here is an article that describes the different nomination methods.

      Political parties don’t belong to the government. They are private entities that belong to the people who participate in them. They are protected by the First Amendment. We have the freedom to assemble and petition the government.

      When politicians use the government to take over political parties and tell them how to operate, they threaten our ability to assemble with people of like mind and advocate our cause. They just don’t want us to select our own leaders. They want to be selected.

        1. @Doug

          Each state has its own rules. Since California has virtually become a one-party state run by Democrats, I suspect firehouse primaries are unheard of. Pity.

  4. Have you ever wonder why it is so difficult to establish a genuine third political party in this country?
    Pure winner-takes-all vs. proportional representation or a mixture of both is a biggie.

    1. @marmoewp

      That’s not altogether correct. In presidential elections, most states do have it set up so that one candidate gets all that state’s electors. However, all that does is force parties to nationalize their efforts if they want to elect the president. That’s why Trump won and Clinton lost.

      Imagine if a third party candidate won some states and prevented any candidate from gaining majority of the electors. That would throw the election into Congress. Here a third party could influence the outcome.

      Thus, the real problem is in legislative races. Unfortunately, instead of having runoff elections, we have primary elections. The primary elections affect how people vote in the general election. Since the guy with the most votes win the general election, most people are afraid of wasting their votes on third party candidates. Third party candidates are selected by conventions. Nobody knows the extent of their support. So the thought is that if I vote for that third party guy, I am just letting the Democrat or the Republican I would have voted for instead lose.

      Without any the opportunity to build up a legislative bench, third parties have little opportunity to elect a president. They never get well enough organised at the state level.

      1. Basically, I agree with you. I just do not see, how a genuine third party could evolve in the current US political system and get a foothold in parliament. AFAIK, all your elections are winner takes all, be it for federal congress or senate, state congress or senate, judges, majors, you name it. A third party would have to establish a base of say at least 30% of the population in an electoral district to even stand a chance. You do not usually get that level of support within a couple of years and a movement will usually quickly lose steam, if there is no parliamental representation. Even the Tea Party movement did not work as a movement of its own, as far as I can tell, but basically as a faction of the conservatives and competed within the GOP for votes.

        In Germany we have a system, where you have two votes in each election. Half of the seats is elected by winner-takes-all in the electoral district, and the rest of the seats is distributed such that you have proportional representation in the parliament corresponding to the second vote. It can get complicated when a party gains more direct mandates than its second vote share, but the system allows outsiders to be voted into parliament based on a single electoral seat race, while also giving parties with more than a 5% share of the vote a seat in parliament. The drawback is, that by now we have 5 parties in parliament, which makes formation of a government a “bit” more difficult than it used when we only had two major and one minor parties. So yes, while I personally prefer our system, it does have its drawbacks, too.

        1. @marmoewp

          The framers of our political system Consider political parties apart from the government. George Washington famously had no use for political parties, but they formed anyway, and that is while he was still in office.

          Americans look upon political parties with some suspicion. Loyalty to a political party should not supercede loyalty to country. Nevertheless, politics encourages the formation of factions.

          The original political parties in the USA were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Party. Neither of these parties still exists.Today’s Democratic Party traces its origins to the Democratic -Republican Party. The Republican Party grew up out opposition to slavery.

          Because of the way the American government was designed, America tends towards a two-party political system. However, that system is not suppose to be static. As this article suggests, the party system is not static => https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_parties_in_the_United_States#History_and_early_political_parties. However, what is interesting to not about about periods four through six in that article is that no new parties actually formed. The same political parties were still in operation, but the nature of the coalitions behind them shifted.

          Our leaders have been manipulating the rules to favor incumbent politicians. So now days politicians are far more likely to switch parties than they are to form a new one.

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