September 14, 2006
What's So Bad About A Party Line Primary?
I've noticed lately that just about any time there's a blog at Sound Politics on the vote-by-mail fiasco the blogger, or commenters, or both leap at the opportunity to take a swipe at the "party line primary". I find this hard to understand. It seems to me that the underlying principle of the current primary system is this: if I don't (or refuse to) identify with a party, I don't have a right to tell that party who they can pick to represent them in the general election. Just as Joe Blow on the street has no right to tell me what attorney I can hire to represent me in court.
This seems to me to be a pretty basic conservative (or libertarian, take your pick) principle. And yet substantial numbers of conservatives protest just as loudly as the liberals at the restrictions in the current law. Why?
The typical answer I get when I ask that question is "because it restricts my choice". Choice to do what? Dictate somebody else's actions without having to take responsibility for those actions? That sounds like I'm smarting off, but I'm not really. That's how it appears to me and, coming from so many conservatives, it leaves me genuinely puzzled.
In Eric Earling's 9/12 blog on this site, "Snohomish County Pride", the comment was made that the parties should pay their own way, and the response came back "that would only lead to caucuses and conventions". Why is that such a bad way for parties to pick candidates to represent them? Because it's inconvenient? If that's your response, let me ask: do you really want people voting who don't have to put any effort into it; and if you do, what's your opposition to voting by mail?
I realize sanity isn't statistical, and I shouldn't let simple numbers sway me from what I believe right. But when I hear so many conservatives challenging what I think should be a bedrock conservative principle, I have to ask "Am I missing something?"
Help me out.
Posted by srodli at September 14, 2006
04:47 PM | Email This
1. I totaly agree with you on this. I have no problem with a party line primary. I also have no problem with the parties picking up the tab for their own caucases.
2. If the parties paid for the election, then I guess I could be comfortable with this. Until the parties stop spending OUR tax dollars to enforce THEIR right of free association, I will be uncomfortable with this.
You're missing nothing. Great Article. Choosing which candidate will represent them is an absolute right of political parties. It is an essential part of political freedom in a Republic. If the people don't have the right to organizations that can define their own membership and, further, run the candidates that membership prefers, they don't actually have the right to have political parties. That system has already been tried and failed in seven States. Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, East Germany, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Link: My take on THIS Primary
The reason why people are upset with party-line voting is really quite simple. It disenfranchises a majority of the voters. In Washington state, only a minority of people identify with one party or another. Therefore, you have a minority deciding who to put up to the general population for vote. There is no way for an independent to get on the ballot without a lot of work. The parties do not care about the voter. They only care about power.
If the parties want to choose their candidates fine, but then don't put such restrictive rules on the general election that rule out others from running, including candidates of their own party that better match the general population instead of the extermist that are involved in the party politics.
Finally, let's look at this year's ballot. In my district, there isn't any point to the party line ballot. In the Democrat party, the only contested race is for U.S. Senator (like Mike the Mover and other non-candidates really stand any chance). For the Republicans, there are only two contested races involving two choices. The Grange's plan would have resulted in the same two candidates (one from each party) going forward to the general election. What the party-line ballot has done is limit candidates even getting on the ballot.
5. Another factoid: NO ONE in Washington State BELONGS TO (as in "is a bona fide, card-carrying member of")a party!!! There is no sign-up sheet, no litmus test -- it is all in the head of the party aspirant. Today, I might be a liberal and vote one way; tomorrow, on another issue, I might be a moderate and vote another. Since there is no such thing as membership in a party (except in the minds of a few perverted operatives, who might even charge "membership dues"), there is no such thing as "crossing the party line" to vote.
Who is to say I'm not a Democrat when I vote for one candidate I prefer on the left, or a Republican when I select a candidate I prefer on the right? This idea of a party "member" having to adhere to an agenda set forth in a platform
written by those who consider themselves the
Chosen Few is pure bull-twickey! Until they can come up with the genetic code for an R or a D, we're all whatever the hell we WANT to be!!
TC: I?m not ready to accept your reasoning yet. As to how few people identify with a party, I'd have to see some verifiable numbers first. Swing voters nationwide are considered to comprise somewhere between 35%-45% of the electorate, if I remember correctly. That leaves a majority who identify with a party of some kind. Maybe those numbers are different for Washington, I don't know.
To say that parties only care about power is an oversimplification. A political party is nothing more than a group of like-minded people organized to influence the direction of the country (state, city, whatever) according to what they believe to be best. It's only right that they try to obtain sufficient representation in government to allow them to do that. Is there abuse? Of course. That's why I favor term limits at all levels of government.
I see a lot of parties presenting candidates in any general election. So the public does have a lot of choices. And it SHOULD be hard for an independent to get on the ballot. Nobody wants to have to study a hundred different candidates for each office. Limit the candidates to those who can get some minimum level of public support.
As to extremists, any party that consistently nominates people whose views are too extreme for the majority of voters is going to be the victim of market forces - in this case, the marketplace of ideas. I believe we're seeing the beginning of that with the Democrats. The left wing wackos are getting more press than the right wing wackos - I suspect because the "mainstream" press identifies closely with the left wingers.
Finally, I don't know if your district is representative of the situation across the state. So I can't give any weight to that argument.
So, I'm still looking for enlightenment.
Clagett: the suffix "-oid" on a word means "imitation" - a good modifier for your "fact". There are quite a few people in Washington (I'm not one) who are card-carrying members of one political party or another. And yes, the parties collect membership dues to cover the costs of their activities, just as your union does. The only difference is that your union doesn't use those dues for political activities... uh, wait a minute...
If you vote for candidates on both the left and the right because their individual positions fit your basic moral code, then you have the beginnings of a political party if you can hook up with enough other people who think the same way you do. If, on the other hand, you bounce back and forth because you have no foundation, may I suggest a good church? Or fraternal organization? Or mental health professional?
Okay, that last was a cheap shot. I'm not perfect either.
In any case, you don't address the main premise of my blog: that like-minded people who have organized for political purposes have the right to choose for themselves who should represent them in the elections instead of having the choice forced on them by those who don't belong to, or even identify with, their association.
Why don't you ask McGavick.
He is the one running against the two parties (especially the Republicans).
9. As others have mentioned, I have no problem with the parties picking their own candidates for the general election with one condition, the parties pay for the process.
You can't take national statistics and apply them as representative of Washington state. I don't know the exact statistics but in WA state people that identify themselves as either Republican or Democrat is below 50%. The majority vote across party lines depending on candidates running.
As for the parties themselves, if left up to them, you would have the right fringe, who is more active in local politics dominate the nomination process, and the left wing (Ron Sims crowd, etc.) dominate the Democratic side. Middle-of-the road candidates have a problem getting nominated. At least the Republicans finally wised up with the Senate race and early on supported a more moderate candidate, much to the chagrin of its right-wing base.
In an open primary, one can get beyond the local politics issue. For example, in Kitsap/Kitsap-side of Pierce county, it is well-known that the McMahon's family-clan run the local republican politics. Why do you think Lois McMahan is nominated so often, even though she can't win a general race?
TC, in order of your points:
The majority in Washington can still vote across party lines - in the general election. You've still given me no reason to think those who don't identify with a party can dictate that party's choice to represent it in the general election.
If the fringes are more active than the middle in local politics - get more active! Don't try to modify the system to accommodate middle-of-the-road lethargy.
I'm not that familiar with Lois McMahan. Looking her up on the Internet I see that she's won in the general on two of her last four races; lost the next one; and appears to have lost the nomination in this year's race. Kind of spotty for someone who "runs the local Republican politics". Especially since only Republicans, the ones she "runs", could vote for her in the primary.
It appears this blog is about to drop off into the archives. Thanks, everybody, for your input. It did help me clarify my thinking.