Parties of Me Pretending to Be Parties of Thee

New Orleans Are you thinking and talking about the recArnold Shwarzeneggerent elections still?  Well, yes, I am because now is the time to prepare for the coming elections in 2 years.  In writing recently about the Tea Party and Me Party dominance in various elections, friends raised the new “top 2” primary system in California which takes effect in 2011 as auguring for some change.  I’m not so sure.  And, I’m definitely not sure this is “change we can all believe in.”

Louisiana for years has had a similar “open primary” system that put all comers against all wannabes and let whoever survived go to the runoff and win.  This might have seemed to be good political tactics several decades ago when there was functionally only one party in Louisiana, the Democrats.  The open primary was devised to eliminate the Republicans rather than go through the usually mindless drubbing of whomever the Republicans might have put forward in their own puny primaries.   Fast forward three decades and tactics don’t turn out to be good strategy since now in Louisiana we almost have a one party state again, and it’s fast becoming the Republican Party, though I will guarantee that most of the candidates don’t mention that fact, and that’s what’s on my mind.

The experience recently in Washington State which adopted open primaries and the likely coming reality in California is that candidates can self-label.  Ok, you read my earlier blog, so you know that I’m not all bad with more parties, so what’s my problem?  Partially, it’s truth in advertising.

Travis Ridout of the Washington State poli-sci department raises this issue well:

“Although most candidates still run as Republicans or Democrats in Washington State, some have adopted more creative labels. Some Republicans have declared themselves members of the “GOP Party,” a label that should not confuse anyone familiar with the Republican Party’s nickname.

But there is nothing to prevent a candidate from running as a member of the “No New Taxes” party. And there is nothing to prevent a life-long Republican from running as a “Democrat” on the ballot. A scenario like this may be why the institutionalized political parties have opposed the top-two system: it denies them control over who runs under their party label. Such creative labels also deny voters the wealth of useful information about where a candidate stands on issues of the day that comes from a party label.”

The political sales and promo politicians and businessmen of California sold voters on Prop 14 partially on the premise that it would produce more moderate candidates.  I wonder why?  Certainly that was not the history here in Louisiana where the classic election outcome such a process produced was the contest between the Klan’s David Duke and repeated governor and sometimes offender, Edwin Edwards.

If an open primary system is going to prevail, let’s make sure that there are clear and consistent labels and that real parties – lots of parties – for the “useful information” point that the professor mentions, but even more importantly people should have the ability to align and combine with likeminded people, which is a big part of what parties are and are supposed to be.

If not we need to enforce truth in advertising, because this is going to be a mess, I’ll guarantee it.

Let’s party for real!

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