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I am William S. U'ren and I am dead. I was once a big noise in Oregon politics, an activist back in the days when Republicans were called progressive and there was an actual Populist Party. The history books say I am largely responsible for things like the initiative, referendum and recall here, as well as the direct election of US Senators. I ran for governor, once, when William Howard Taft was the Republican president, and I lost. Then I retired from politics and, thirty years later, I died. And almost everything I accomplished has been turned on its head and against the very people it was meant to help. Enough is Enough in Oregon!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting Rid of Party Primaries

I used to be big on party primaries.

I am one of the people who left you saddled with them.


Lame, I know, to say this, but I wasn't alone.

We Populists and Progressives liked the idea that the people would go to the polls and choose the candidates who would run for office representing their parties. Made sense. Candidates that most of the people in a party wanted to vote for was the person to be the standard bearer. Much better candidates would emerge, we were sure, than those chosen by the bosses of the parties in smoke filled rooms.

I'm not much on "makes sense," anymore--I am more into results. Death has made me an empiricist. What are the results of having party primaries? Have they done for you what we thought they would?


And so much "no" that it begs the question: how could we have been so wrong?

(I've been over this with you before but the answer to that question is so obvious that it bears repeating often. If those at whom reforms are aimed can spend as much money as they like to resist them then all such efforts will be undermined and turned into vehicles to perpetuate the evil it was hoped they would eliminate. Live--or in my case, die--and learn.)

So, check the outcomes.

Get to know some of people in political office today. If you have a long perspective you will find that the quality is not a bit higher, today, than it was when we started agitating for primaries; not one little bit better.

The Oregon Legislature, for example, is just as much a "representative body" today as it was 1n 1890--you will still find some of the smartest and finest people you ever met there, and you will also still find some of the most ignorant and corrupt popinjays to every walk the face of the earth. And you will find that most of those legislators know this is true although they have different lists of which among them is in which category.

Although there are far more women there now (one of the few real improvements in government that we actually made back then was helping women get the vote), as many of them have joined the ranks of the latter as the former group.

These "representatives" still, of course, represent the same forces as those who, before them, were chosen at conventions. If you doubt that check out the campaign financing. Buying "access" means getting to hold the strings that make them dance and making sure they dance with them that brung them.

OK. No change. None. Nothing. (Today I believe you call that "Bupkis?")

So, how many millions of (your) dollars are spent on these primary elections that have not changed the quality of candidates running for office or helped build the middle class? How many of those (your tax) dollars came from those among you who don't care about any party on the ballot; from those who cannot get the party they do care about on the ballot, from those who are not particularly inclined toward any party except those on tailgates at Civil War games?

Party primaries have turned out to be a government (taxpayer) subsidy for political parties--for the two party stasis--and to ingrain in power the very factions that the Founders of the Republic predicted would be a pox on our political houses.

In other words, the descendants of the wealthy and powerful interests that chose the candidates before party primary election system still choose the candidates but now in a dog and pony show of democracy that is paid for by you.

If the result is the same, why not save the money (or spend it on schools--many of your children still cannot afford college) and let the parties choose their own candidates any way they want to?

The only difference party primaries has made to your system is that vast amounts of money get raised and spent to manipulate you in to casting vote after vote based on slogans and lies to elect people acceptable to (and ultimately funded and owned by) the same kinds of wealthy and powerful interests that selected them in the 19th Century. And they get to call this "democracy" like that was some kind of great deal for you to pick up the tab.

The only way to get control of all this democratic tyranny you have going on is to get control of the money.

(Another quick review: You will always be equal to one another in this country--dollar for dollar. If you have $100 to contribute then you are $900 less equal than a guy with $1000 to give. If you want everyone to be equal in your "democracy" then everyone has to be worth the same small amount of money to the candidates).

Because if you don't get control of the political money it will subvert anything you try to do--just as it has turned around the initiative, party primaries and most every other reform I or anybody else ever took a shine to.

I'll be discussing most of these reforms, in time, as I have discussed some of them, previously.

Because I think that sooner or later you are going to wise up.

I have lots of time and little else to do.

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