Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Democratic Party shouldn't have sued to overturn the Top Two primary

It would have been thrown out anyway, because I'm sure the Republicans would have taken it this far too. But, that isn't my real reason.

In 2004, political participation spiked. But, not in a way that benefited organized politics or parties.

More people tried to influence how others voted:

A lot more people put a sticker on their car or wore a button:

But only a small amount of additional people attended political meetings in 2004. This increase probably has to do with the increase in non-traditional meetings available (such as meetups) that the parties never intended to happen:

And the percentage of people who actually "worked" for a candidate during 2004 stayed exactly the same as in 2000, 2002 and in 2004:

Even though more people were engaged in 2004 it didn't translate into the deep sort of engagement that turns people out during March of an off season to build the party. Our local and state parties couldn't translate increase participation in 2004 into increased participation later on because we aren't built to catch those kinds of citizens.

So, what does this have to do with the Top Two primary?

The most blistering attack on the Top Two is that it hurts parties, and therefore hurts democracy. I'd agree that parties are good for Democracy, but the kinds of parties that are built for closed primaries are not the kinds of parties people are seeking to join. In essence, we need parties that are built for people that tried to get their friends to vote a certain way and put bumper stickers on their cars, but didn't attend a political meeting.

As politics is becoming less traditional, moving out into the world of personal relationships, so do the parties (or at least the Democratic Party does, I don't really care what the Republicans do).

I like the ideas of the Blue Tiger Democrats in this regard. They say the local parties should be as interested in civic engagement on the local level as they are with winning elections. The more people see the Democratic Party itself as a force for good, the way you see the Shriners or the Lions, and less as an organization that sues to overturn a popular initiative and win elections for the sake of winning elections, the better.

Granted, the Top Two primary is gone and was obviously unconstitutional. But, I would have loved to see the party that thrived under those conditions. How would you have built a party, with broad participation, if you had an open primary system?

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