Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm not moving to Montana, not that I cared for the cajuns anyway

In a column that seems to argue for the Montana style primary Floyd McCay makes the case that really any primary will do. It is the people that matter, rather.

It is not the system that determines quality — it is the quality of the electorate. You and me.

To the extent that we allow party officials to determine our choices, and disdain politics as dirty work for someone else, we will elect hacks and lackeys beholden to special interests. To the extent that we support friends and neighbors who are willing to sacrifice privacy to serve in public office, we will elect strong people.

Perhaps the most disturbing electoral development in Washington in the past few years is not the endless primary battle but the extent to which party leaders and bankrollers want to control the nomination process.

...what happened in the gubernatorial and Senate races in 2004 was wrong — GOP leaders simply froze out anyone but Rossi and Congressman George Nethercutt, respectively. Would-be candidates, some of whom certainly had the capacity to serve with distinction, were told to bug out and were not even allowed to speak at the Republican convention if they criticized a rival. Let's hope the same pattern isn't emerging with McGavick. Some lively competition would be good for all.

That type of muscle does not serve the voters — it serves the entrenched powers of the party. Would Democrats have done the same? Perhaps, but certainly not in 2004. Then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire had lively competition for the open governor's seat, although Sen. Patty Murray enjoyed the usual incumbent's advantage.

My point is that under any system, party leaders can muscle voters out of the picture by intimidating challengers to the party's favorite and drying up their funding. When that happens, as it clearly did in 2004, voters don't get the chance to pick someone willing to buck the party establishment.

To the extent that the Top Two primary was unconstitutional (bearing in mind I'm not all that up on my constitutional law) I woudn't support it. But, to the point that it was a popular idea, the parties should have gotten behind it because apparently, the people don't want to have to declare what party they belong to, if any, in order to vote.

What is never really talked about is the nature of parties. Something that could really change politics, and what kind of politicians we have, it determined a lot by party. How open our political parties are in Washington may be up for debate, but I'm willing to say that they could be more open. People may not want to be part of an organization that looks like it wants to keep them on the outside, or at least, stiffle competition within the party.

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