The Long Way Home 7.22.22

A member of my fan club who hasn’t paid her dues this month suggests I only write about the desserts my wife makes for me and stay away from serious topics. I hate to disappoint, but my column today is on a more serious topic. Wait for another time to read about Becky’s brownie brittle, Swedish Kringle, and Better-Than-Sex Cake.

My mail ballot for the August 9th Partisan Primary election arrived and I’d like to explore it here.

There are four parties to choose from. The two usual suspects are Republican and DFL, the so-called Major Parties. The other two, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party seem to exist for one and the same purpose only and are irrelevant to my thoughts and most voters today.

The major parties have paid staff, physical offices, and collect significant money during the year to fund election/campaigning operations. They each organize precinct caucuses in January to engage real people in the process of writing a platform and endorsing candidates for public office.

At the caucuses, where a dozen or so from each precinct might show up, delegates are selected to represent their neighbors at the next organizing level which might be a Senate District or county convention. There they select even fewer people to represent them at the State endorsing Convention.

People who attend endorsing conventions are well-versed in raising a point of order or calling for the vote and generally have a strong political philosophy. But they are a small minority of the small minority of voters who caucus in the winter.

The two-party system in our country has become a major and monopolistic industry. It feeds money to businesses large and small, from lodging and convention providers to printers and political consultants; and makes sure that government policy protects the party's economic interests.

What they don’t do well is represent the interests of voters. You know, people like us.

Our primary elections are supposed to give voters the choice of who represents the party in a general election.

In 1950, 31% of eligible voters turned out for the primaries in Minnesota. Seventy years later, turnout was down to 22%. About one in five voters choose the general election nominee of the major party they identify with.

After years of campaigning in the trenches of party politics, knocking on strangers' doors, and calling their phones during prime-time viewing, I’m convinced that our two-party system is a colossal failure. Most people just aren’t that interested in politics.

You don’t need to look too hard to see that many voters claim one party affiliation or the other because of something other than devotion to the party platform. And a plurality claims no party affiliation, although they tend to vote most with one party or the other.

People choose a political party like they choose a sports team to support. The rhetoric of diehard Minnesota Viking fans versus similar diehards for the Green Bay Packers echoes the rhetoric of Democrats versus Republicans.

While door-knocking for a candidate in Nevada one time I heard a woman say, “I’d vote for so and so, but I don’t think they can win.” Voting is not a parimutuel contest where you get something if you choose a winner.

What I’d like to see are non-partisan primaries, pitting the best of Rs and Ds against each other. California has had these for over a decade, where the top two vote-getters in a broad field of primary candidates run in the general election and may be from the same party. But you may end up with one truly independent candidate running against a partisan.

It’s gotta be better than what we do now.