Prop. 121 – ‘top two’ primaries, yes or no?by Mark B. Evans on Oct. 10, 2012, under Uncategorized
TucsonCitizen.com Administrator/Editor Mark B. Evans thinks Prop. 121 will allow more independents the opportunity to vote in primaries but Southern Arizona News-Examiner Editor Emil Franzi thinks it disenfranchises too many voters and is based on false premises about independent voters.
By Emil Franzi,
Southern Arizona News-Examiner
Those currently attempting to change the rules for Arizona primary elections via Proposition 121 are attempting to define those voters currently registered as independents to justify their proposed manipulation of the entire electoral process. They believe that altering the nomination process by having the top two candidates picked in a non-partisan primary, then run off in a non-partisan general election, with no other candidates allowed to enter, will somehow please those independents sufficiently to increase their primary participation and benefit the process by doing so. They are demonstrably wrong on both counts.
Independent voters once were a small percentage of the electorate. For decades, they barely hit 10 percent in Arizona and elsewhere. Many were independents for good reasons other than a dislike of political parties. Independent registration was more a sign of neutrality than one of indecision or apathy, and included military personnel, government workers and contractors, educators, and even journalists. They were a small, but highly diverse segment of the electorate.
Proponents are correct in stating that many current independents are unhappy with the two major parties most of them recently fled. But they are wrong in believing that the vast majority are some variety of nebulous centrist, longing for compromises on major issues. Many, if not most of them, are in some ways to the right and left of the parties they abandoned.
The two major parties now represent totally different basic philosophies of government. Like any political party anywhere, they are coalitions. Coalitions inside parties are where the compromises take place in a viable partisan system. The Democrats are based on the interests of trial lawyers, environmentalists, and big unions among others. Note how the Democrat factions cover each other’s back. The Republicans are based on advocates of a strong military, minimal government (particularly federal) intervention in the economy, and traditional values. Note how GOP sub-genres haven’t quite figured that out yet. Democrats favor gay marriage, government-funded abortion, more gun control, public employee unions, and a narrowly secular welfare state. Republicans don’t. Two platforms, easy read, simple conclusion.
It’s hard to put Ford parts on a Chevy. Years of compromises and can kicking everything with parts from Audis to old Willys Jeeps brought us to where we are now. Compromise is what got us all $16 trillion in the hole. Compromise got us our mushy policies towards the Middle East. Compromise got us a hospital where medical professionals work around the clock to save the life of a six-month premature baby in one wing while other medical professionals have just trashed an eight-month fetus in another wing because a shrink decided keeping it alive would injure the mother’s mental health.
Many of those who left the two major parties are not compromising squishies, longing for centrism, but folks who considered their old coalition too weak in the specific areas they care about. Many hard lefties and hard righties agree that there has been too much moderation and the inaction it breeds. They are the ones mainly responsible for the exodus from the two relatively “moderate” parties we have now. The claim that eliminating the control of nominations by political parties will elect more moderates is spurious.
The proposed system will further polarize it. While we grant the sincerity of those proponents who believe otherwise, we note their general inability to elect much of anybody to anything in the past and their further inept attempts to govern on those few occasions when they did so.
The Old Establishment interests behind Prop 121 are trying to convince you, because they actually believe it themselves, that independents are something other than what they are. If they were in fact reasonably cohesive about much of anything, and other than erratic and incoherent about how they wish to achieve it, they would’ve started their own party by now. They didn’t because they can’t because they aren’t.
Can the proponents of “no peaky primaries” actually point to a genuine role model anywhere in the free world? All functional and genuine representative governments everywhere have been based around the competing agendas found in their various political parties. The Anglo-Saxon model is primarily a two party system, the European, multi-party with various deviations such as the proportional representation used in Israel. Nobody anywhere does it the way they propose besides the Nebraska legislature which is a de facto Republican body.
What the proponents have done is to claim to represent the unrepresentable – the independent voter. They do them no service in this grand hijacking. In diminishing the role of political parties, they reduce their choices. Worse, they reduce the ability of the rest of us to reasonably coalesce and nominate candidates of our choice or even select a later alternative if unsuccessful. They also all but guarantee that no new political parties will ever emerge.
The “no peaky process” essentially disenfranchises the majority of voters who are still registered in a political party and particularly those who bother to vote in their primaries. The portrait of the voter painted by the proponents chastises good citizens who choose to participate in primary elections while pandering to those who don’t bother, hardly a lesson in civic responsibility.
Many of those who argue against Prop 121 cite the strong possibility of unintended consequences.
The intended ones are sufficient reason to vote it down.
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By Mark B. Evans
Who says there’s no such thing as bipartisanship any more? Why there has been an issue in Arizona this summer so controversial and so outrageous that we’ve even seen tripartisanship in which Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians teamed up to defeat this ravaging horror.
Yet despite this unprecedented level of cooperation among political foes they were unable to defeat their common enemy.
Yep. They lost. And so Arizonans will have the chance to decide whether unaffiliated voters – so-called independents – can have more say in choosing candidates for elected office.
Despite the best efforts of the state’s political parties and multiple lawsuits seeking to deny voters the chance to decide an issue about voting (how’s that for irony), the Arizona Supreme Court last week ruled that Proposition 121, the Open Elections/Open Government initiative, had enough qualifying signatures to be placed on the November ballot.
The measure would change the way Arizona conducts its primaries, dumping all candidates for office into the pool and letting voters sift through them. Those getting the most votes would advance to the primary at a number equal to double the number of open seats.
The law changes the primary process for all statewide and legislative offices, county and municipal races, including Tucson, and congressional races (school board elections remain the same with only a general election).
The intent of the law is to get more independents to vote in primaries. Under the current system, independents can only vote in primaries if they choose a single party’s ballot. That forces them to reattach themselves to political parties they have purposely detached themselves from, therefore, they don’t vote in primaries in very great numbers.
A third of state voters are independents. They are mostly moderates and so what’s left of the Republican and Democratic parties have become populated with zealous ideologues who relish banishing moderates from their parties almost as much as the enjoy beating the other party in elections.
The belief is that by letting more independents into the candidate-winnowing process, candidates will have to moderate their views rather than have hardcore conservative or uber liberal candidates rely on only like-minded party faithful turning out for the primary, setting up a general election with a far right candidate versus a far left candidate and leaving moderates not much of a choice.
Whether Prop. 121 will work as intended is unknown. This process is used in other states and primary elections still have low turnout, especially among independents.
But that’s not why voters should vote for it. They should vote for it because it strips the political parties of their power and puts it back in the hands of the voters. That’s why the parties fought so hard to keep it off the ballot.
The parties will still try to game the system if it passes, to be sure, but no matter how they try to manipulate who runs in the primaries, on election day all voters in a district rather than just a handful of party zealots will have an opportunity to have a say about who advances to the general.
And for that reason alone, you should vote yes on Prop. 121.