Clyde: Let’s dump political parties
I guess it’s all over now except the shouting. The Democrats will nominate Hilary Clinton, which is no surprise, and the Republicans will nominate Donald Trump, which is nothing less than shocking. Neither one of them has the number of convention delegates locked up to guarantee the outcome, but it’s inevitable now. So that’s our choice –Clinton or Trump. Ugh.
This nomination process is messy, complicated, and in the end, a tiny fraction of the voters are dictating the candidate selection the rest of us get at the general election. In many states, the primary elections are closed, so that only party members can participate. Utah’s Republican primary is closed; the Democrats will let anybody vote. The caucus states are even more complicated, where the people there don’t vote for a candidate, they vote for a convention delegate who then votes for a candidate at the state nominating convention. So while they announce total votes on primary election night, the total votes don’t mean squat. It’s all about the "delegate math" which is a sort of arithmetic where 2 + 2 can equal 5, and winning a 20 percent vote margin can mean a tie.
I really don’t care how the political parties select their nominees. That’s their business, just like organized crime families deciding who should succeed Uncle Jimmy, who met with unfortunate circumstances. The political parties are not part of the constitution. They exist for their own purposes, and as private entities, they can do what they want.
But I don’t like the idea that we have surrendered the election process to them. They are the gatekeepers. We can choose anything on the menu, but they got to choose the restaurant. Tough luck if you wanted Thai and the party went Mexican. You can’t win an election if you aren’t on the ballot, and the political parties exist for the purpose of obstructing who can get on the ballot. It’s not working.
I’m not suggesting that just anybody can sign up to run for president, with a ballot that’s a thousand pages long. There needs to be some process where people with some reasonably demonstrated level of support in all 50 states can get on a primary ballot without having to deal with the likes of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz or Reince Priebus. There’s nothing in the constitution that says 325 million of us have to choose between just two people, who were chosen for us by a couple of thousand crazed zealots at the party conventions. So maybe we have a national primary, with a pile of choices, and then narrow it down to a runoff election. The parties could rally around their own, and the rest of us could see what the other options are. The Internet kind of replaces the party structure.
Here at home, Rep. Kraig Powell, who represented part of a gerrymandered Summit County in the state legislature, was denounced by party as being a "moderate." That’s worse than a child molester among Utah Republicans. He was going to get blocked in the convention, so he attempted to use a petition process to get on the ballot. The party brought in the Koch brothers’ PAC money and basically put a hit on him. He’s out. He was often a lonely voice of reason in the loony bin Legislature. He likely would have been reelected easily, but the party took that choice away from us.
Governor Herbert would likely be reelected in a landslide, despite the fact that about 70 percent of us couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. He’s done a pretty good job running things. But he had the nerve to stand up to the radical right wing in the Legislature, and they are out to get him. He will now have to run in a primary (where only the true-believing Republicans can vote) against a gold-hoarding disaster prepper. Herbert looks like Bernie Sanders by comparison, and could lose. The rest of us will have the right to vote in the general election, but it is a diluted vote because the choices were limited by the parties.
Rep. Mel Brown also has a primary challenger this year, Logan Wilde. Wilde was quoted in the paper last week as saying, "It’s not healthy that [the County Council has] a super-majority of one party. What I see in the Summit County political arena seems to be pretty one-sided." Wilde hopes to join the Republican super-majority in the legislature, with a more conservative Republican governor and all-Republican congressional delegation. "Healthy" is apparently a relative concept.
If we really want meaningful elections, let’s dump the parties completely, or build a system that allows the majority, which belongs to neither party, to put candidates on the ballot directly, and not let the zealots in each party limit our choices.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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