Former Lt. Governor Bill Bolling suddenly gotten quite concerned about cross-over voting in Primary elections after the defeat of Eric Cantor in the 7th District, and despite there being no evidence that Democrats played any significant role in that nomination contest Bolling nevertheless jumped on the “party registration” bandwagon in an op-ed recently. Quite predictably this has gotten heads bobbing up and down among the RINO class who think that this is a dire problem and party registration is the only means to solve it. Yes, let’s have the state intrude even more into political parties in Virginia. That’ll fix everything, right?
I have yet to see Bolling or anyone of his ilk acknowledge that government intrusion into the affairs of political parties is precisely why we have this problem in the first place, however.
The idea of having the state conduct the operation that a political party uses to select its nominees came about as part of the “Progressive Era” “reforms” of the early 1900’s that also brought us such wonderful ideas as prohibition and Eugenics. Back then people felt that party insiders controlled the process too much and government could instead run the whole operation and provide a more equitable outcome from these contests. Strangely, the state never got involved involved in how other free associations of individuals such as the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce chose which candidates for office they’d endorse, this idea was restricted to political parties only. Along with government involvement came volumes of government regulations saying what the qualifications of candidates must be, when primary elections would happen, and of course who could participate.
And we wouldn’t expect to see elected officials abuse that regulatory power now, would we?
§ 24.2-509. Party to determine method of nominating its candidates for office; exceptions.
A. The duly constituted authorities of the state political party shall have the right to determine the method by which a party nomination for a member of the United States Senate or for any statewide office shall be made. The duly constituted authorities of the political party for the district, county, city, or town in which any other office is to be filled shall have the right to determine the method by which a party nomination for that office shall be made.
B. Notwithstanding subsection A, the following provisions shall apply to the determination of the method of making party nominations. A party shall nominate its candidate for election for a General Assembly district where there is only one incumbent of that party for the district by the method designated by that incumbent, or absent any designation by him by the method of nomination determined by the party. A party shall nominate its candidates for election for a General Assembly district where there is more than one incumbent of that party for the district by a primary unless all the incumbents consent to a different method of nomination. A party, whose candidate at the immediately preceding election for a particular office other than the General Assembly (i) was nominated by a primary or filed for a primary but was not opposed and (ii) was elected at the general election, shall nominate a candidate for the next election for that office by a primary unless all incumbents of that party for that office consent to a different method.
When, under any of the foregoing provisions, no incumbents offer as candidates for reelection to the same office, the method of nomination shall be determined by the political party.
For the purposes of this subsection, any officeholder who offers for reelection to the same office shall be deemed an incumbent notwithstanding that the district which he represents differs in part from that for which he offers for election. (VA Code § 24.2-509, emphasis added)
Of course participation in a primary election would have to be as broad as possible given that government is involved. How is it to tell who is qualified among the general population to dictate which candidates the Republican Party endorses for office? It really can’t, so it’s pretty nearly anything goes.
Now Bolling and the rest want to layer yet another layer of government bureaucracy on top of this regulatory scheme that will require voters to declare their party affiliation and restrict those voters to participating in only that party’s nomination efforts. With of course some provision for people to change their mind and switch parties, with some sort of cut-off for mind-switching, limitations on mind-switching frequency, and a prescribed process for precisely who, where, how, when and where mind-switching happens. All of which will somehow magically be immune to political game playing at least until the next opportunity for someone to cry about how someone gamed the system and the inevitable calls for even more government regulation to fix the problems that this bout of new government regulation introduced. Rinse and repeat, as ever more of your freedom swirls down that alluring vortex at the bottom of a bright white bowl.
Oh, but this works all over the country in other states you say? How naive. Perhaps you haven’t heard how local government officials used these party registration lists to screen job applicants at school systems and local governments, despite this information supposedly being kept confidential. Or how information about political beliefs was strangely divulged in all sorts of ways that weren’t anticipated or even explicitly disallowed in order to punish political opponents and support political friends. Giving government a list of who thinks how is a dangerously stupid idea that invites abuses of the worst sort. Such information is never kept confidential, and is never restricted to strictly authorized uses, no matter how hard anyone tries.
The problem, better stated, is that the government-regulated government process of a primary election for a political party just doesn’t work. So end them. There’s no reason a political party can’t figure out a way to select its nominees on its own without the heavy hand of government, and we’d be far better off if elected officials weren’t busily at work changing Virginia’s election laws so they’d have a better shot at getting re-elected. The Republican Party Plan in Virginia has three different ways to nominate candidates for office other than primary elections, and all three have been used with great success within the last year.
The very last class of people you’d ever want to give authority regarding how a political party selects endorsed candidates would be elected officials. Don’t look to them to regulate any ’solutions’ for problems we think we have in Virginia that supposedly will fix what they broke in the first place with regulation.
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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