Friday, January 25, 2008

Who Should Choose The Candidate

I feel that the Washington State Presidential Primary is an effort by political insiders to cut grassroots activists out of the nominating process.

Although the Secretary of States FAQ says:

Q: Why does Washington have a Presidential Primary?

In 1988, more than 200,000 Washington voters signed an Initiative to the Legislature proposing that a Presidential Primary be held. The Legislature adopted the initiative in 1989, and it is authorized in Chapter 29A.56 of the Revised Code of Washington. The law states:

The...presidential nominating caucus system in Washington State is unnecessarily restrictive of voter participation in that it discriminates against the elderly, the infirm, women, the disabled, evening workers, and others who are unable to attend caucuses and therefore unable to fully participate in this most important quadrennial event that occurs in our democratic system of government.

The Legislature further emphasized that the presidential selection process must be more open and representative of the will of the people.

A Presidential Primary allows each Washington voter to participate in the nomination process, not just political party insiders who participate in the caucuses.

The truth is that a primary means that a candidates only needs a few big-buck contributers who will pay for TV ads, not grassroots supporters who have been convinced that he/she is the best candidate. The argument about discrimination is bogus. The contention that only political party insiders participate in the caucuses is simply a lie, unless you're prepared to say that anyone who puts in a couple of hour once every four years is a party insider.

The 1988 initiative creating a Presidential Primary was instigated in an attempt to weaken political party's here in Washington State.

What the imposition of a government mandated primary does is violate the right of free association of those persons who choose to join a political party. Political party's are not a part of the government and they are not funded with tax moneys. They are voluntary associations, funded exclusivily by members contributions and those members are entitled to set their own rules.

Whether it's Presidential precinct caucuses or State-wide Presidential primaries, it is part of the political Parties nominating process in which only declared members of the Party do the selecting.

On the Secretary of State's website in the FAQ on the Presidential Primary you'll find this:

Q: What do I have to do to participate?

Every registered voter may vote in the Presidential Primary. Depending on the county, just as in a regular primary, voters will either receive a consolidated ballot or separate party ballots. Each voter must sign a one party oath, which will appear in the poll book for those voting at the polls, or on the envelope for those voting by mail. The major parties drafted the oaths to which voters must attest. They are:

Republican: I declare that I am a member of the Republican party and I have not participated and will not participate in the 2008 precinct caucus or convention system of any other party.

Democrat: I declare that I consider myself to be a DEMOCRAT and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2008 Presidential election.

Q: Will others know which party ballot I voted?

Each party will receive a list of voters who chose to vote in that party's Presidential Primary.

After the dust settles from caucuses and primaries and conventions, there will be a Democratic Party candidate and candidates from other minor political parties (/snark) running for President of the United States... then there will be an election and "each Washington voter" can participate.

The DLC, the Industrial Authoritarians of the Democratic Party, hate caucuses. They say "Caucuses like Iowa's shut out independents and give too much power to party activists."

A political party is supposed to be a group of individuals with shared ideals and a platform that spells out their political goals, not just a source of campaign workers for politicians who get their talking-points from focus groups.

Call me cranky, but since Washington State voters have always been so adamant about their independent status and refuse to register by Party, as an active member of the Democratic Party, I resent the idea that I would be expected to go out and campaign for a candidate that was selected by whichever couch-potatoes happened to dig a pen out from between the cushions on Feb. 19th.

It's clear to me that the Presidential Primary is an attempt by elitist factions to dumb things down and cut grassroots activists out of nominating process.


Ozy said...

I agree with you and disagree with you at the same time.
You have a good case here and I think it's still wrong but hey it's a choice if you want to be a democrat or not. Ultimately I think this system will change.

Thanks for your honest and insightful views as usual
Steve. =)

Poindexter P. Parkenfarker said...

70 years since initiative #1 to the State of Washington Sponsored by the Washington State Grange (which was initially an Oregon Territories Grange before we became a State) We had an open Blanket Primary until the Democrats sued the State of Washington to end the Open Blanket Primary. Then the Republicans and Libertarians signed on as interested parties. Too Bad, the Grange was right on this one, even though they are wrong on their newest versions. But Both the main parties and the little party were wrong on this one.

Steve Zemke said...

So let's see - the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries cut grassroots activists out of the nominating processes. And there was no paid advertising in Iowa or Nevada which had caucuses.

The reality is that the candidates who win primaries and caucuses do both advertising and use grassroots volunteers.

Caucuses consistently have lower voter participation rates because they have more hurdles and obstacles in the way of voters participating.

In most states that have caucuses, they outright prevent many from being involved and having their votes counted.

My daughter who is in college in New York State but is a registered voter in Washington State will not be able to participate in her first opportunity to help select a Democratic nominee for President which is the caucuses on Feruuary 9th. She will vote in the Presidential Primary on February 19th, but that will not be a vote that counts because the Washington State Democrats will not honor that process.

Other who are excluded from caucuses besides students who are out of state are in state students who may live a long way from their home voting address. People who are on vacation or work out of state, military personnel in places like Iraq or Korea, disabled or home bound people or persons in the hospital or people who have to work and can't just leave their job for a few hours are out of luck. These workers include anyone who has a business open on Saturday, firemen, policemen, and hospital workers, prison guards, and others. Also religion may prevent some people from participating.

To be fair, this year in response to criticism, in Washington State if a voter is aware it exists, they can sign an affidavit if they are military, disabled or have a religious confict and mail in a vote by Feb 1, 2008. That's this Friday. Go to to download a copy.

One big benefit of a Presidential Primary is that it resembles the actual voting process that will take place in November. And the more voters that you can get to be involved in the nominating process, the more likely they are to vote in November and feel that they had a role in selecting the nominee who is on the ballot.

For the record I was one of those "elitists", who through a grassroots nonpaid signature campaign, collected the necessary 200,000 signatures to put Initiative 99 for a Washington State Presidential Primary before the Legislature for a vote.

The Primary allows all voters to participate, including so called independent voters like in New Hampshire, who could select to vote in the Democratic Primary.
Come November our election process will even let "Republicans" vote for the next Democratic President of the United States.

I personally will be attending my precinct caucus and am the overall site coordinator with another PCO for 6 precincts. I will also be voting in the Presidential Primary. Both produce lists of Democratic voters that can be used to help Washington State vote for the Democratic nominee in November.