Reed Davis, the former chair of the King County GOP, writes a very interesting piece on the Top Two primary and the nature of parties in the Northwest Progressive Institute blog this morning:
…a real party is not a national or even a state committee. Those are professional organizations whose primary function is fundraising; whatever else they may be, they are most certainly not volunteer organizations whose primary function is to mobilize voters on behalf of candidates.
When I speak of the importance of parties, then, the parties I have in mind are the grassroots organizations that exist for the sake of, well, real people, and not political professionals.
Throughout the piece, he seems to be contradicting himself, saying that what parties are now (grassroots apparently) is what is being defended when the parties decided to sue to overturn the Top Two primary. But, what is actually being defended is the system of professional parties, fund raising entities that don’t put much focus on grassroots.
The Top Two at least has forced the parties in King County to accept candidates that couldn’t race money, but could organize people:
Interestingly enough, in order to avoid the possibility of members of the same party running against one another in the general election, both the King County Republicans and the King County Democrats (as well as county organizations for both parties statewide) have met in order to nominate just one candidate for the general election.
That not only preserves voter choice for the general election, it strengthens local parties: now a good candidate is someone who is capable of mobilizing, organizing and appealing to the greatest number of real live people, not someone who is simply capable of raising the most amount of money.
We have designed a system that is today exactly backwards: we tend to place our parties at the disposal of the candidate who can raise the most money rather than giving our money to the candidate who proves that he or she can mobilize the most people.
On the other hand, the GOP candidate that had the money, essentially representing the professional political class, is thinking about bucking the party and running anyway.
I agree with Andrew at NPI that parties do a lot of good, and that politics would be dismal without them. What I don’t agree with necessarily is that chucking the Top Two is a way to build the parties.
It isn’t enough to vote. It isn’t enough to give money even. You have to be part of the Party. And the Party should be so damn open that you want to be involved.