Before I get too far into this, I want to point out that I’m not exactly a huge fan of the Top Two specifically. I was a big fan of our old Jungle Primary and was annoyed when our political parties, especially my Democratic Party, sued to get rid of it. I had a wry smile on my face when the Top Two passed, and I thought, well… they learned their lesson. Apparently not, when they sued to get rid of the Top Two, which was the second most popular initiative last year and won in every single county.
The Top Two, or any other really open primary system, where we don’t ask the people to pay for the parties’ nominating process will be bad for the parties, as they are today. I’ll admit that. But, the parties aren’t doing much today to bring people into the politics. We ask our supporters to write checks and vote, not much else. We should ask more, our parties, especially the Democratic Party, should be an agent of increasing civic participation.
In Oregon, they are talking about moving a number of state-wide offices to non-partisan. This may be where we are going in Washington if the parties don’t back off. Preemptive Karma is having a great discussion on this.
Since the McGovern reforms, political parties have become too t.v. centric when reaching out, and people have been driven out of the process. Yes, parties are raising more money today, but that money is increasingly coming from businesses and other political action committees. Actual personal participation in political parties is dropping through the floor.
When people talk about going back to the days of the smoke filled rooms as an effect of moving back away from closed primaries, I think of last year’s Presidential caucuses. Granted last year was special with Dean, the Iraq War and general anti-war feelings. But, it showed that people could be interested in politics, and in a real way. The multi-purpose room at Margaret McKenny Elementary school was not a smoke filled back room, but rather a great example of participatory democracy.