Friday, May 06, 2005

Restore The Democracy in Washington State

If I was running against Paul Berendt for state chairman earlier this year, I would have made my campaign all about one thing:

The Democratic Party should support the will of the voters of the state of Washington and not sue to overturn the Top Two Primary.

In fact, we should embrace it. We shouldn’t be in this lawsuit along with the GOP to overturn a popular initiative. Even if its not perfect, it represents what the people of Washington want, not to be driven to choose a party.

Most Washingtonians, if you asked them, would probably say that they were Democrats. But, it’s not as simple as that. Most Washingtonians don’t want to be labeled, and as Dino Rossi showed us last fall, we would rather go with the less partisan, less Olympia, less establishment guy.

The top two isn’t about “I don’t want to be labeled,” it’s about not wanting to be part of the establishment. Democrats used to understand that:
Known during the 19th century simply as “the Democracy,” it all but invented the repertoire of mass politics with such innovations as storefront offices, precinct captains, and torchlight parades. The party embraced immigrants, Catholics in particular, who were set upon by “anti-Papist” mobs and moralists who tried to outlaw their saloons. Most Democratic stalwarts were male, and nearly all were white. But they still proudly considered themselves the bone and sinew of a “people’s party.”
So, why are we joining arm and arm with the Republican Party, to make our party look even more like a bunch of establishment hacks? If the GOP wants to walk that way, fine let them. If our state leadership actually sees some functional good in having a closed primary, then let the Republican Party carry that fight. Every political party in Washington will reap the benefits (by the way, where are the Libertarians now?) but, only the GOP will have to lose that public relations debacle.

A couple more arguments for supporting the Top Two as a Democrat:

1) If the primary is all about choosing a party’s nominee, why should the taxpayers have to pay for it? There is not a good answer for that.

2) I had a lot of fun at the Presidential caucuses last year. Tons of people came out, it was invigorating to see so many people involved. And guess what? It wasn’t a close primary, it was an open caucus! These things work, and they work great if we’re trying to bring people into the party from the grassroots. So, lets have more of these.

By embracing the Top Two primary and Washington State’s anti establishment feelings towards elections and party affiliation, we can actually help build the Democratic Party in Washington. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but as Joe Trippi once said to Howard Dean,

We don’t have to be the party of exclusion. We don’t have to be the party that tells people, “We decide who is a Democrat.” We can be the Democracy.

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