From the vault: “In Defense of Partisan Hacks”


So I dusted off my best NPR voice and was in the KJZZ studio earlier today being interviewed by Steve Goldstein for Here and Now. The topic was the National Federation of Republican Women being in town this week and how the parties planned to target women voters. This old post of mine is not directly related to the topic of the interview but I thought of it because I ended the interview by proudly stating that I was a partisan and because the AZ Capitol Times Yellow Sheet reported that the Top Two people were going to be launching their initiative again and are leaning on prominent Arizona Democrats to support it.

From August 14, 2012:

Republic columnist Laurie Roberts took some time off from her “De-kook the Capitol” project (in which somehow our Republican controlled legislature will become less extreme by, erm, electing more Republicans) to hawk the Open Primaries initiative.

The top-two primary initiative would usher in a new system of nominating congressional, state, county and local officials. Instead of holding partisan primaries, Arizona would hold one primary open to all voters and the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would move to the general.

Gone would be the day when most congressional and legislative elections are decided in the primary, when politicians who cater to narrow ideological interests find themselves elected before most voters ever cast a ballot.

Of course, Roberts produces no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this claim but, whatever. Puppies! Rainbows! I’ve already explained why I don’t care for this primary initiative and don’t trust many of it’s proponents so I won’t get too deeply into that again. What irked me about Laurie’s piece was her obvious disdain for partisan activism.

Given that a third of the state’s voters are independents, I’m guessing they’re not so moved by the argument that we should be subsidizing political parties.

Tobin and Pierce have also asked the high court to kill the proposition. In addition to all-around angst about the loss of partisan primaries and political subsidies, they don’t think it’s fair to treat all parties identically.

I will say that the subsidy argument is one of the better ones put forth by the Open Primaries campaign but here it appears to be more of a useful red herring for Roberts to express her contempt for those who have chosen to align with a political party and work to get that party’s candidates elected.

Then there are the Democrats in Maricopa and Pima Counties. Naturally, they object to having to ante up their own money to fill out their party structure. They also complained that the ballot initiative “unconstitutionally dilutes political party associational rights” by allowing candidates to run under whatever party designation they choose and that it undermines the longstanding role of political parties in the electoral process.

“In Arizona,” they wrote, “political parties serve as guarantors of honesty and accuracy in elections.”

Yeah, I’m still laughing about that one, too.

I know a lot of the county Democratic party officials she’s laughing at. They are honest, hardworking, and dedicated people who have put a lot of their own money and unpaid labor into building their district organizations and supporting candidates. Geez, what a bunch of jerks! I can’t speak for the Republicans, but I can tell you that the Democratic groups in AZ are hardly smoke filled rooms full of ward heelers. Laurie should drop by the MCDP headquarters on Thomas and Central sometime and see for herself what goes on. Yes, there is corruption and mudslinging in some campaigns. It is politics after all but it’s unfair to kick dirt on the well-meaning volunteers who do all the grunt work in elections. And they will still be doing that thankless work no matter how the primaries are changed. Why should Democratic activists have to devote limited time and resources to fighting off sham Democratic candidates in a jungle primary? Like I said, the subsidy argument has merit, but so does the right of private association. If parties don’t get subsidized then parties should definitely get to decide what candidates can wear the label. Fair is fair.

As for me, I choose the Democrats not because I just like being part of the blue team. I do so because I can articulate a set of principles that I hold and a list of policy preferences – on the economy, education, health care, women’s rights, the environment, etc. – that are informed by those principles. Of the two major parties, the platform of the Democrats much more closely fits my positions. Which I’ve put a lot of thought into and done extensive research to support. Will the Democrats I vote for give me everything I want and think is best for my community? No, but I know I’m going to get a lot more of it from them. I’m not sure why this makes me inferior to the the typical low information swing voter who “votes for the person, not the party” and doesn’t bother to show up for primaries (and still won’t bother even with more “choice”). I also find it interesting that only the parties are assumed to be “catering to narrow ideological interests”. You mean to tell me that the CEOs and corporate lobbyists behind Open Primaries follow no ideology? Really? I would consider their constant clamoring for tax cuts, deregulation, and privatization to be an expression of ideology. And there’s simply no basis for the implicit assumption that the interests of moderate voters in Arizona line up perfectly with those of the business community. I’ve talked to many self-identified moderate voters here over the years and I don’t recall one ever citing corporate tax rates as their big concern.

Denigrating partisan activism may make conflict-averse people who don’t want to take a stand on any issues feel superior but it doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything. Voter apathy is certainly not the fault of Democratic party activists, who are doing more than anyone to get more people to vote.


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