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Primary Problem

New Book: America’s Broken Politics Starts with America’s Broken Primaries

Election reform expert Nick Troiano exposes the problem of party primaries and offers a blueprint for a more functional and representative government

Ross Sherman
Press Director
January 9, 2024

With three-letter initials like MTG and AOC now nearly household names and endless dysfunction in even electing Congressional leadership, the fringes of both major parties have come to dominate the halls of Congress. The House of Representatives is so dominated by ideological extremists that a paltry 20% of Americans have a positive view of the institution. The culprit behind this maddening, unproductive mess? The broken system of party primaries and their
polarizing incentives.

In The Primary Solution: Rescuing Our Democracy from the Fringes (Simon & Schuster, February 27, 2024), Nick Troiano — founding Executive Director of Unite America — crafts a bold proposal to abolish party primaries in our country. With no need for a Constitutional amendment or an act of Congress to do so, some states have already implemented this answer to a nationwide problem. By replacing party primaries with nonpartisan ones, state governments provide voters with the freedom to vote for any candidate in every election, regardless of their party affiliation.

Troiano makes the case that not only is this entirely achievable, it's already being implemented in states around the country. As a presidential election looms where the public yearns for anyone other than the two frontrunners, The Primary Solution offers a path forward for voters across the political spectrum by outlining a realistic, sustainable roadmap to a more representative and functional government.

Party primaries, after all, are a relatively new invention in American politics. Just over a century ago, party primaries were created to democratize and broaden candidate nominations. Today, they have the opposite effect: most primaries in their current form guarantee that a small fraction of hyper-partisan voters again and again determine the outcome, exacerbating division and polarization. While some citizens consider the cracked cornerstone of primary elections unchangeable, Troiano highlights the necessity of reform.

In The Primary Solution, Troiano details:

- The origins of the primary problem: The American electoral system has changed drastically over time, in many ways radically so. In fact the Founders never contemplated a party-driven nomination process because they never desired to establish political parties in the first place. From nominating candidates for office via local newspapers, to countywide general meetings, to caucuses and conventions, to direct primaries, the process for choosing a party’s candidates has been defined by anything but continuity. If American history is any indicator, primaries are ripe for once-in-a-century reform.

- A lose-lose-lose system: Party primaries have a compounding effect on American politics: they are bad for voters, bad for the parties, and bad for the country as a whole. Rather than serving their original purpose of expanding voter participation, improving the nominating process, and cracking down on corruption, party primaries are today doing the exact opposite.

- The Primary Solution in real time: Those curious as to how well primary reform adoption plays out need look no further than Alaska, if you’re willing to make the trek. Like three states before it, Alaska replaced its party primaries with a nonpartisan primary in 2020 –– giving all voters the right to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, in every taxpayer-funded election.

- The path toward nationwide reform: The complex nature of election reform will require supporters to apply smart, proven strategies built on principles drawn from the success of those who came before. From defending early wins vigorously, to embracing unexpected allies, and choosing battles accordingly, state-by-state change arrives in the same manner that Ernest Hemingway described bankruptcy: “gradually and then suddenly.”

Praise for the Primary Solution

"This book offers thought provoking ideas to terminate polarization and extremism in America. We need more people like Nick Troiano focused on solving the polarization problem in America.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th Governor of California
“The Primary Solution shows how our political system is designed to empower extremists, how we can fix it, and how the vast majority of Americans stand to gain from more open and democratic elections that lead to more sensible and practical government." - Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies and Mayor of New York, 2002-2013
“We have wandered into a dark forest of bitter discourse and growing animosity. The Primary Solution illuminates a powerful yet practical pathway out." – Admiral James Stavridis, US Navy (Retired); 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO

About the Author

Nick Troiano is the founding executive director of Unite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. Since 2019, Unite America has invested over $50 million to help win three major statewide ballot initiatives and over a dozen state legislative and municipal policy victories. In 2014, Troiano ran for the US House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 10th District and was both the youngest candidate of the cycle and the most competitive independent Congressional candidate nationally in over two decades. Nick earned both his BA and MA in American government from Georgetown University and, as an undergraduate, co-founded an endowed Social Innovation and Public Service Fund.


For more information or to schedule an interview with Nick Troiano, please contact Ross Sherman at