Saturday, June 12, 2010

Palmetto Primary Politics Perplexes Party Principles

Palmetto Primary Politics Perplexes Party Principals
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
June 12, 2010

If the Democratic Party of South Carolina truly believes in the American system of fair and open elections, it will stop attempting to sabotage its own senatorial candidate.

Granted, this advice comes from a Republican eager to see Senator Jim DeMint reelected to the body he serves in so well, but, the Democrats ought to remember, the people have spoken. Don’t the Democrats claim to be the party of the people?

That an unknown candidate, Alvin Greene, came from virtually nowhere to defeat a four-term state legislator, Vic Rawl, who also served as a judge, is demonstrative of two things. One, that the voters have a distaste for entrenched elected officials and, more importantly, they did not conduct their due diligence in vetting the candidates prior to arriving at the polls on Tuesday, June 8.

The South Carolina Democratic Party, lead by its chairman Carol Fowler, in an effort to wipe the egg from its face, is attempting to blame the Republicans of shenanigans in shanghaiing the primary by crossing party lines and voting for Greene. South Carolina is one of a number of states where voters do not register by political party, and thus the primary is deemed open to all registered voters in the Palmetto State.

Greene, an unemployed 32-year-old political science graduate of the University of South Carolina, is currently facing felony obscenity charges relating to a claim he showed pornography to a USC student last year. Should Greene be convicted and imprisoned, he ought to lose his place on the general election ballot in November and perhaps replaced with Rawl, who finished behind Greene in the primary.

At the very least, the party leaders are attempting to convince Greene to withdraw from the race, who would have none of it, already challenging DeMint to a debate in September.

Whether or not there was a concerted GOP effort to corrupt the Democratic primary by placing a candidate with little to no chance of victory in the general election is not the issue. The issue is the legitimacy of open primaries. It’s sort of akin to allowing an American League team entry into the National League playoffs in baseball.

Democrat Party primaries should be for Democrats and Republican Party primaries should be for Republicans and the only way to ensure this is require voters to register as a member of one party or another in order to vote in a primary. The Commonwealth of Virginia is an open primary state, yet I have never participated in a Democrat Party primary.

Open primaries lend themselves to the kind of chicanery the South Carolina Democrats are accusing the Republicans of perpetrating. It is untoward and dirty pool, but having been involved in politics for 30 years, winning at all costs takes on new, more expensive meanings with the cost of campaigns rising to astronomical stratospheric realms. Make no mistake, that does not excuse the kind of behavior that increasingly keeps citizens from participating in choosing their elected officials. Voter turnout seems to wane while voter apathy seems to wax.

At least shake the stink off primaries by closing them and keeping them within the parties as is their intended purpose. Each party selects its nominees to run against the chosen candidates of the other party or parties. For those who prefer to remain independent, their opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate comes in the November general election.

Regardless of open or closed primaries, it is every voter’s responsibility to determine the fitness for office of each candidate prior to casting that all important ballot. Those votes are important at every level of government, and not just once every four years when the White House welcomes a new resident. After all, we don’t call the president to fix our potholes or lower our property taxes or create a charter school in our neighborhood.

Speaking of schools, do your civics homework and be responsible citizens. Research and vet the candidates. Let your voices be heard.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.

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