‘Primary elections are a political party affair’

Published: 3/25/2020 6:49:39 AM

For popular Bernie Sanders, a brokered convention looms. The first and foremost goal of a political party is to get its candidates in front of the electorate and, hopefully, elected to office. Having an ideological direction, holding positions on issues and policies to address them, espousing ideas and solutions — is all part of achieving the main goal: getting its candidates into office where they have the power to govern. If a party can’t do that, it is not fulfilling its purpose.

The Founders of our Republic (note: not a democracy) were, apparently, “terrified of the rabble,” which translated into deeming the people unreliable to elect the best leaders. Many of us today retain that distrust, with some justification. But look what happened in and since the November 2016 election.

Hillary Clinton, an establishment moderate/liberal, won the popular vote. A majority of voters wanted her to be president. Most of the first-time winning Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in 2018 ran from moderate, not liberal, positions. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an exception. And most recently, Democrats in South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states voted for the establishment, moderate/liberal candidate Joe Biden. That portion of the American electorate voting so far in this election year seems to be expressing positions of moderation.

A majority of voters seems to want gradual change, not revolution; decency over disruption; civility over confrontation; competency over chaos. I know that’s what I want: a repairer first, then a reformer.

While I favor much of what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren espouse, I prefer to see it accomplished gradually, thoughtfully, all in good time, with everybody participating who chooses to be heard. A so-called brokered convention, in which both the elected delegates — the Voice of the People, if you will — and the political Democrat party leadership (many of them currently holding or formerly elected to political office) — make the final determination of who the party will offer to the country as its candidate for president … that seems to me to be the best of both political worlds. Neither the “smoke-filled room” nor the Founders’ “unreliable voter” dominating the outcome (although in most modern elections, I believe the elected delegates have decided the final outcome on the first ballot, thereby making the process totally democratic, as I understand it.)

Admittedly, Democratic Party rules are currently constituted so that the Super Delegates have the last word if there is no majority of elected delegates on the first ballot. And maybe that’s appropriate, if they truly are more likely to be the political professionals, whose profession is politics, unlike most of us voters.

Remember, primary elections are a political party affair, not a general, government-organized, Constitution-authorized process, except as the individual states shall decide. As far as I can tell, the words “primary election” appear only once in the Constitution, in the 24th Amendment, which prohibits the failure to pay poll taxes as a reason to deny or abridge the right to vote. I guess the only thing that makes us a democracy is the decision of the individual states to apply general election voting outcomes to the appointment of electors in the so-called electoral college.

The Constitution clearly identifies the states as having the exclusive power to determine how electors are chosen, not the voters. Which, I guess, is why so many of us think the winner of a presidential election should be determined by popular vote, unlike Trump and some other presidents.

Greenfield resident Ron Nelson is a retired writer and keen student of politics and governance.



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