Thursday, September 23, 2010

The people have spoken (so get used to it).

The polls are in, and whether the majority of America wishes for a more conservative government or not, it is certain that the majority of primary voters do.  Not only have plenty of conservatives won nomination fights (and we can definitely call at least some of these primaries "fights") over their more moderate opponents, but participation in Republican primaries has eclipsed turnout in Democratic contests.

Notable examples include Carl Paladino, the GOP nominee for New York Governor, Marco Rubio, who long ago forced Charlie Crist into an independent bid for the open Florida Senate seat, and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware.  Notable exceptions include Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman in California, Terry Branstad in Iowa, and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.  Arlen Specter, of course, is a special case in that he was rejected by both conservatives and liberals in Pennsylvania.  That particular Senate seat will go to either conservative Pat Toomey or Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, both of whom are seen as sufficiently "pure" by primary voters.

That's really the standard these days for nominating candidates, isn't it?  Before you think it's just the Republicans (or rather, Tea Partiers) who do this, remember that Barack Obama won his party's nomination over a much better known and qualified Hillary Clinton by outflanking her on the Left, especially on the issue of the Iraq War.  Remember also two years earlier when Joe Lieberman, once the Democrats' nominee for vice president, couldn't even get renominated because of the same issue (though he could certainly get reelected).

It's a simple fact that all decisions, including who our choices will be in November, are made by people who take the time and make the effort to vote.  In 2008, there were more people voting for Democrats, whether conservative, moderate or liberal, than for Republicans of any kind.  Now, it seems more conservatives have gone and will go to the polls this year.  Once again, purity seems set to win over pragmatism.

That's not to say these candidates aren't pragmatic or even good ones.  Many have strong business backgrounds, which will no doubt prove very useful as we work to rebuild the country's economy.  Many have never held public office before, which can be both a help and a hindrance.  While they may need a certain amount of on-the-job training, they won't feel as constrained by "the way things are".  And, in the case of the ideologues on both sides among the new candidates, they'll be more resistant to the "culture of corruption" in Washington.

These "upstart candidates" have caused more than a few headaches to both the Democratic and Republican national parties.  While candidates like O'Donnell were challenging "establishment picks" like Mike Castle on the Right, the Left invested millions of dollars (and man-hours) defending their own choices, such as Michael Bennet in Colorado.  I think it's a good sign.  While the national parties may be watching the "big picture" of nominating as many "electable" candidates as they can, the voters are focusing on their own big picture:  the reality that they'll be stuck with whomever is nominated as their candidate and probably their representative in Washington.  If their choice of a candidate happens to conflict with whomever the national party thinks can win and give them that final tie-breaking vote in Congress, then they say, respectfully, "Screw you" to the national party.  What's in a name?  As the Bard himself taught us, nothing.  Remember, Arlen Specter was once supported by the RNC, and he ended up betraying them.

So, forget about electability and national strategy.  Ignore the implications of nominating O'Donnell over Castle.  Trade one man's big picture for another's.  Here's my big picture:  these elections are so the people can decide who their candidates will be, not so the parties can.  I am no fan of the primary system, but as long as both major parties seek to perpetuate it, I say let it work against them and for the people.

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