Monday, June 14, 2010

The California Primary Election

Last Tuesday was primary election day. Republicans and Democrats chose their candidates for the big contest in November. Some won, some lost, some are in limbo facing a run-off, and a few are in election hell as they still don’t know the result. Many candidates were quite unknown to the voters so generally incumbents did well. That makes a lot of voters angry enough to vote for term limits. Not that it always makes much of a difference. Politicians don’t fade quietly from view. They go on to compete in a different political office be up for grabs. These may not have term limits at all.

Not many people vote in primaries. I think that’s due to a massive dose of inertia, lack of any real enthusiasm for the candidates, and maybe a feeling the election that counts for anything is the one in November.

On a rather long bus ride a while ago I had struck up an easy conversation with a fellow passenger. Our subject had drifted to a coming election. I was curious why he said he very seldom voted.

“There’s nobody to vote for” was his prompt reply.

Maybe then I thought this was a lame excuse, but not anymore. Last Tuesday had some really big prizes to view for: governor, senator, top state offices, and a multitude of local contests. These are often very hard-fought campaigns. What helps one win a primary? Well, we know incumbency is a big plus. So is plenty of money and the ability to raise more. Can you portray your adversary as demonic without coming across as just waging a dirty campaign without regard for the truth?

Currently, a great deal is focused on how mean and dirty politics are. Okay, our first President George Washington was hardly elected; he was selected with no opposition, but it took only to 1800 to have everything change. This election, between Adams and Jefferson, was as full of dirty tricks and intrigue to set the tune for subsequent Presidential contests. In 2007, Edward J. Larson profiled this race in his spirited book A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign.

Of course, whoever wins the Presidency wins everything. We don’t have a parliamentary type of government.

Are primaries of any value?

I think they only serve the agendas of our political parties. Candidates are pitched to conservatives, liberal, minorities, rich, poor, and any other voter group considered worth cultivating. With such strategies, a low voter turnout may be perversely beneficial. The finalists for the governor’s race, Whitman v Brown, are already slugging it out for November on how many debates will be scheduled and where and how.

But since important debates are so carefully scripted they will probably lack any spontaneity or much information for the voter. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

Today is Flag Day. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress selected the Stars and Strips as our national flag.  

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A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign


Friends of 1776 Team said...

Yes, politics got down and dirty very quickly after the Revolutionary period. Or maybe the rhetoric was pretty bad then too!

Dean Procter said...

I wonder what the Founders would think of the amount of dirty & foreign money financing candidates these days. Perhaps they would have set limits if they thought corporations might someday outweigh the voters in elections. My favorite posession is JA's own navigation book.