The beginning of the next meeting of the Virginia Republican State Central Committee has been utterly set in stone. There will be a motion. Chairman Pat Mullins will make a ruling on that motion. There will then be a motion to overrule the Chair. From then on, what happens is anyone’s guess.
This minor drama about whether Republicans will nominate their statewide candidate for 2013 has so far been discussed entirely within the context of who will politically benefit. Don’t be fooled by arguments about who can participate, whether conventions or primaries yield better candidates, or whether the issue has been previously been settled and shouldn’t be revisited. It’s all smokescreen, and those arguments aren’t just meaningless, they’re almost universally fatuous. Cuccinelli supporters want a convention because it’s cheaper, and will position Cucccinelli better to win in a general election. Bolling supporters see this as their last slim hope of getting Bolling nominated and the only opportunity the political establishment might have to influence the outcome of these races.
I am one of the rare voices who cares nothing of these reasons, whether they’re honest arguments or the thin political cover for pushing a particular outcome they almost always are. My only care in this debate is whether the method of nomination is constitutional. Yeah, you read that right. Constitutional.
A while back I was reading an old post penned by David Ray, who really is one of the absolute brightest minds in Virginia politics these days. I’d been trying to figure out which method of nomination might be the right pick, and had been listening to arguments from both sides, trying to discover that one solid principle that should make a decision inevitable. Within this article that principle popped right out and smacked me right in the face.
In sum, conventions, which are conducted completely by private entities to transact a private internal matter, are not on trial. Primaries are. Setting aside all the respective merits of the practical justifications for a primary, the question needs to be asked: what is the compelling state interest that justifies denying a political party its First Amendment free association right to control its own internal decision-making processes? The simple answer is, there is none. Primaries are a gross violation of a fundamental constitutional liberty – free association. Thus, primaries should be abolished.
I absolutely adore a simple, clear argument like this that compels a course of action based on principle alone, as well as the opportunity to drive that argument home against people trying to justify their political agenda with a bunch of weak arguments they actually don’t believe in very much. If you stand for limited government and the Constitution, how can you morally justify an unlawful intrusion by government that violates the First Amendment of the Constitution simply because you think Bill Bolling and the Richmond political establishment might benefit from it? It cannot be done, at least if anyone has the courage to try to argue that political parties don’t deserve their constitutionally-protected rights instead of droning on about other unconstitutional schemes such as state controlled voter registration by party.
If it is possible to dispense with all the tangential but ultimately meaningless prattle that has so far dominated the discussion, the real discussion should be about when it will be possible to revoke all the provisions in the Virginia Code that relate to primary elections, particularly the ridiculousness known as “The Incumbent Protection Act,” Virginia Code § 24.2-509 (B). While we’re at it, all the state regulations on how many petition signatures are needed and from where they must be obtained in order to participate in a party nomination contest need to go as well. We might have become addicted to primaries over the course of the last hundred years and crafted an appealing mythology to surround them with that makes everyone feel wonderfully democratic and all, but if that addiction is at the expense of our Constitutional liberties it’s time to go “cold turkey” right now.
Should we have a primary to select the Republican Party’s nominees for statewide office in 2013? Absolutely not, unless the Constitution is nothing to us but a convenient political tool we use only when it serves our immediate political goals. Anyone who demands an unlawful electoral system in order to win an election should be ashamed to claim they are Republicans.
I can’t wait to see how Pat Mullins rules on this inevitable motion. Can you just imagine the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia trying to force a primary against the wishes of a majority of the State Central Committee so that the state can unconstitutionally insert itself into the private affairs of the private association he himself leads? You’d really have to wonder whether he’s the head of the party, or an agent of the state if that happens.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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