Primary, secondary, tertiary, go

      11 Comments on Primary, secondary, tertiary, go

So, Paul Waldman over at Tapped informs me that the Virginia Republican Party will request a Party Loyalty Oath before allowing the rank and file to vote in the primary election. Pamela Stallsmith of the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes, in the article Voters in GOP primary to sign pledge of intent that ‛Those who wish to cast a ballot in the Republican presidential primary will have to sign a statement that says, "I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president."“

Now, if you’ve been with us long enough, Gentle Reader, you may recall that Your Humble Blogger is opposed to open primaries. I like to think that my Party is, largely, composed of people who want to be part of it, and that when we get together to decide our candidates, it’s our own affair. In other countries (at least two that I know of), the Parties have actual membership systems, where the Party, rather than the State, keeps track of whether you are a member. The Party membership votes on leadership matters and other issues in internal primary elections, run by the Party’s rules and paid for by the Party’s money. If you don’t join a Party, you don’t get to pick any Party’s representative, because that candidate represents the Party.

This is all assuming that political Parties are, for the most part, formed around some general ideas and principles, or mindsets, or at least some organizing force more than brand loyalty. I think that’s observably true. It isn’t necessarily true, or true in all cases, but it’s generally obviously true. (Digression: when you start worrying about definitions of terms, as I do, you very quickly run up against things like this, where there are obvious categories that are ill-defined, so that we can act as though the categories exist, and most things will be easy to claim a category for, even though a large majority of things would be difficult to actually prove belong in any category. This is worrisome and leads people (I would guess) to give up on trying to define their terms. I don’t think that’s the right response; the right response is to eat humility while working on tasks that are impossible and important. End Digression.) So, if the Republican Party is largely Conservative, and wants to represent a Conservative mindset, seeking the primary election votes of non-Conservatives doesn’t make sense to me. Furthermore, since what we want is to get like-minded people into the Party, it makes sense to hold out a voice in candidate selection to those people who are committed to the Party. Those people could then help us with other Party tasks (such as convincing people that our mindset is the correct one, along with get-out-the-vote, candidate selection for lower offices, choosing party leadership, formulating a platform, etc, etc). If we let them vote and walk away, we lose.

Now, the problem is that instead of each Party selecting its candidates through its own membership, we have a state-funded primary election system. That works to the Party’s benefit somewhat, as it’s (1) money! and (b) transparent and clean, at least as much so as the general election. It would be hard for a party to run an election with 50 million or 70 million or a hundred million members, with its own funds and resources, and have the result be trusted. Even at the state level, that’s millions of votes. It could happen. But I suspect that, like reality television, only the people who vote for the winner think it’s not rigged. If we’re going to make the State pay for it, and make the State vouch for its accuracy, then the State gets to throw its weight around, which means that people who don’t belong to a Party get to help make the rules. Ah, well. Nothing is perfect.

So, although I am in some sympathy with the Virginia Republican Party wanting to restrict primary voting to actual Republicans, I do not think that the Party Loyalty Oath is an appropriate way to do it. And, for that matter, I wouldn’t want my own Party, even if the State weren’t running the election, to ask for such an oath. I value the secret ballot. As much as I value my Party, and political Parties generally, it isn’t even close to the secret ballot for importance. And, of course, there’s this: Our Only President and his cabal of crooks and incompetents has betrayed the rank and file of the Republican Party. I think Republicans should acknowledge this, and part of that should be to say that they are not willing to accept the leadership of a man like that again. Of course, none of Our Only President’s cabal of crooks and incompetents is (at the moment) on the ballot, so perhaps that point is moot.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

11 thoughts on “Primary, secondary, tertiary, go

  1. Matt Hulan

    So, although I am in some sympathy with the Virginia Republican Party wanting to restrict primary voting to actual Republicans, I do not think that the Party Loyalty Oath is an appropriate way to do it.

    Also, call me cynical, but I don’t think this is the intent of the Oath. I think the intent of the oath is psychological manipulation in the vein that these fuckers have been tapping for some time, with the whole anti-intellectual neo-con strategy of encouraging people not to vote their own principles, but to vote the principles of All Right Minded Americans Everywhere, as defined by whatever pundit happens to be let on Fox at the moment, or who happens to be writing for Time or Newsweek, ’cause those are respected Objective Journalistic Sources, right?

    So, the oath does not say “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to join the Republican Party.” It says “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”

    This is neo-con rhetoric, all the way. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or not, it matters that you’re “loyal.” You should support “the nominee of the Republican Party for president,” not because he’s the right man (these are the Republicans, after all – they ain’t gonna nominate no girl – not no girly man like that John Edwards, neither) for the job, but because he’s the nominee of the Republican Party. It’s the “loyal Bushie” thing all over again, and it’s playing into their masturbatory fascist ideology of the unitary executive. These people want their bosses to play dress-up and toy soldiers with the armed forces and tell us what to do, because that’s leadership.

    [EDIT: suggestive epithet impugning the sexuality of a person with such a mindset removed for civility’s sake]


  2. hapa

    i was going to say, “between the big two parties, where’s my november candidate who believes in public sector services and oversight but is strongly against the gunboat economy?

    “iraq happened BECAUSE we turned our military into an economic program of its own. we should have cut our hydrocarbon use years ago. we should have done real economic development for trade-displaced workers years ago. we picked financial fantasyland, wage suppression, and bombers — services for the rich, all.”

    party leaders DO take a loyalty oath, and one sees the bipartisan results.

  3. Chris

    Good gravy, but my pal Matt can write real purty when he gets on a tear, can’t he?

    I think this pledge is a remnant from earlier years in Virginia. Until recently, the Republican Party didn’t have primaries here. They had a state convention, and the people most likely to show up were extra-chromosomed wingers. They controlled the process, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that they liked it that way. As an observer (I lived in Maryland when I first noticed this), I thought this virtually guaranteed that their candidates for higher office would have little or no mainstream appeal. My example at the time was when they ran Ollie North against Chuck Robb. Robb was a fairly conservative Democrat who’d survived a sex scandal, but he was also a really weak candidate. North had great name-recognition, but very little support in the more populous voting districts. Robb was so weak, he was toppled by George Allen, whose record as Governor was fairly awful (especially when compared to another former governor named Chuck Robb).

    I congratulate the Virginia Republican Party on modernizing to the point where they let their constituents pick their candidates in their own localities. Now they should just go that extra distance in actually trusting their constituents. I don’t think it’s a good idea for a state political party to want the same relationship with its members that Frank Oz has with Fozzie Bear or Miss Piggy.

  4. Michael

    In the interests of increasing transparency, I’m ok with the Republican party adopting the trappings of fascism to go along with their platform of fascism. And I suspect that this loyalty oath is more trapping than platform. But I’m still very troubled by the notion that a state election office would embrace this wholly un-American concept.

    I’ve written a longer bit about this at:

  5. Matt Hulan

    Following up on Michael’s comment and post over at his place, that’s very much what I intended to imply with my rhetoric about neo-con strategies. You’re obviously better at calmly articulating why you’re outraged than I am. But, yes, it’s coercion and it’s anti-democratic, and it’s deeply, deeply fucked up that they’re doing this in a state primary.

    And it’s neo-con tactics through and through. This is all in the playbook of Rove’s Eternal Republican Majority Fourth Reich fantasy. I’m hoping, like Michael, that Americans will chafe under their yoke and reject them, since I would imagine that the resulting Second American Revolution I envision as inevitable about fifty years after their dreams come true as being very painful and not making things much better…


  6. Matt Hulan

    hapa: John Edwards and Barack Obama both seem to meet these criteria: “believes in public sector services and oversight but is strongly against the gunboat economy.” Am I wrong?

    I mean, beyond the “they’re politicians, who by definition are in the pocket of the corporations, so not so much” argument, which I mean sure, but one has to vote for SOMEONE, right?


  7. Matt Hulan

    Well, true. I suspect, however, that only one of them will survive Iowa with a viable organization, and I further suspect that it will be Sen. Obama. I further suspect that Sen. Obama can take Sen. Clinton in a fair fight.

    I mean, of course, a political fight. Amusing as it would be to decide the Democratic nomination by trial of combat, I can’t see it happening.

    FWIW, I would also be fine with Edwards winning Iowa, Obama dropping out, and Edwards and Clinton continuing the race, although I’m less sanguine about Edwards beating Clinton in a fair fight. I could be wrong about that, though.

    And, finally, I would in fact also be fine with Clinton winning the primary, despite the fact that she’s not politically ideal, since I think she’d be better than another four years of Loyalist Republicanism.


  8. Chris

    The GOP has been running against Hillary since 1992, and after “Whitewater” and all related investigations, she’s probably the most investigated woman in America. I think she learned some of the wrong lessons from those years, taking public stands that she thinks are cautious, but what can you do? It’s not like most of our Democratic representatives in D.C. are a passionate bunch. I think if you get elected to Congress or the Senate as a Democrat, there’s a special orientation where they take your balls and put them in a deep freeze “to keep them safe.”

    “Yeah, here you go. I wouldn’t want to get reckless with those!”

    The funny bit about Mrs. Clinton’s lead in fundraising and her respectable lead in some polls is that all that direct mail marketing that the GOP has done over the years has given Hillary an edge that I don’t think she’d have if she were any other 2nd term Senator having to introduce herself to a national audience. A former Goldwater girl could never be the commie pinko bogeywoman that they painted her as, but they wanted their National Bitch Hunt. Did I once hear somebody say to be careful what you wish for?

  9. hapa

    on-topic, i’m deeply wrecked about the official “enemies list” with tens of thousands of people on it; party loyalty oaths, i dunno. it does almost seem like giuliani insurance.

    on-off-topic, someone’s gonna be president. not me!


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