I’d like to post a question that reader G-Veg sent to me regarding states and the primary process.
Cursory research suggests that the most common reason cited for states running Primaries is to avoid fraud. This is certainly the reason cited by Progressives in Teddy Roosevelt’s time for campaign reform. While not strictly focused on Primaries, 19th and early 20th Century Progressives made huge strides in dismantling political machines. (Interestingly, at least in Pennsylvania and New York, primary contests have been paid for and managed by the state for as far back as I could research on line. In Pennsylvania, for example, election officials ran primary contests at least as early as Lincoln’s election and there are records of New York City primaries for Mayor going back to 1850.)
Research suggests that we’ve been doing state paid for and managed primaries for quite some time with almost no thought as to whether there is even a legitimate state interest in the contests to begin with. I suggest that there is no legitimate interest and that state patronage is both unconstitutional and irrational.
First, I’ll note what we all know: that we have a “Two Party System” by default, not law. The Constitution of the United States makes no mention of the country’s political makeup or character. That reality gives particular significance to Washington’s warnings about factionalism.
Second, the argument that State sponsorship controls fraud is, itself, a farce. It does nothing of the kind because the “back room deals” Progressives sought to control continue to rule the process. It seems like a well-intentioned but failed experiment. It is an expensive one too. In Pennsylvania, for example, a statewide election, whether primary or general, costs a touch more than $1 million (2010).
Third, even if State sponsorship controlled a host of ill effects like fraud, disputed outcomes, and mob selections of candidates, the state has no interest in contests. So what if Party X chooses a union bullied candidate or one purchased lock, stock, and barrel by monied interests? Party X can do what it wishes. They can select by heredity if they want to. As long as there is a robust general election, how candidates get on the ballot is largely irrelevant.
Fourth, state paid for and managed primaries force out of elections many millions of qualified citizens because there can never be more than two “real” parties as long as the coercive powers of the state are used to keep alternatives marginalized and disenfranchized. Surely the state has an interest in promoting greater levels of public service among the citizenry and anything that discourages such participation should be overhauled.
For these reasons, I believe that states should stop paying for and managing primaries. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Personally I don’t think there’s much under the constitution that would allow the federal government to get the states out of elections, and any large-scale attempt to get the states out of the business may only enhance the power of the two-party system. But I’d like to hear thoughts on this.
Don’t worry! We are done with elections for a while! I am not going to start writing about 2012 already! However, as annoying as the election commercials, mendacious politicians and all the assorted insults to our intelligence that are part and parcel of political campaigns are, we sometimes forget how truly remarkable a process it is in the history of our planet. Continue reading
Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”
Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. 🙂 But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:
As the election becomes more a matter of history than immediate emotion, it is a good time for sober analysis of what went on in the 2008 election. Yuval Levin has a very good analysis in Commentary Magazine of the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin’s candidacy. In framing the controversy he makes an interesting distinction:
In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.
Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance.
Addressing how Palin’s candidacy turned this cultural fact into a firestorm, he says:
O Father in Heaven,
Today we stand at a crossroads, and we ask humbly for Your guidance. We pray for the graces to discern with open eyes and a clear understanding of Your intent for us this day. Help us to be humble, to not let overweening pride or human ideology come between us and Your holy plan. Let not our will, but Yours be done in this election, and provide us with the strength and courage to face the future regardless of the outcome. Let the charity in our hearts never die; may our faith in You never wane; may our hope never extinguish.
Readers in California, please don’t forget that as you attempt to chose a pro-Life candidate for President of the US you are also being called to defend marriage by voting Yes on Proposition 8. Whether they are beloved friends, co-workers or relatives, we all probably all know gays and lesbians that we love and care deeply about; many of them may be in long-term loving relationships. But let’s not fool ourselves, a “marriage” between two people of the same sex is not a marriage in Christ. It is not love in the way Christ called us to love one another and the more we head down this path of destroying the institution of marriage, the further we move down the road to our own destruction as a society.
Peter Suderman has another provocative essay at Culture 11 bearing the above title, with the more interesting (and in the case of his actual essay, accurate) subtitle, “Why we care too much about politics”, in which he echoes some themes found in Ryan’s previous post on slippery slopes.
Last week InsideCatholic.com editor Deal Hudson complained about the use of the Bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to justify a vote for Senator Barack Obama — who as Robert P. George persuasively argued, is “not merely a pro-choice politician, but rather as the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket”.
Much has been said of Archbishop Chaput’s statement on pro-choice politics and their standard bearers. Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia now reports that Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, made another bold statement for the most defenseless among us.