I find I’m thinking the unthinkable: On August 3, I’ll likely vote in Michigan’s Republican primary election. Never did that before. Never even seriously considered it.
Unthinkable, I say. I’m a Democrat. I used to work in the Democratic Party–hell, I used to work for the party, occasionally for pay. I usually vote for Democrats. I send money to Democrats. My heart’s in the Democracy, and voting in the other party’s primary’s not far from treason.
Except: Where I live, especially this year, the Democratic primary doesn’t much matter. Few of the primary races are contested, and few of those Dems who’ll get my November votes will win; on the other hand, a vote in the Republican primary can affect the real outcome of the election. I’ve a strong opinion in the Republican Congressional race, and can develop a preference for the Sheriff’s contest. That’s a reason to cast a vote. I expect I’ll do so.
That comment is probably pretty opaque if you’ve never voted in Michigan, as Michigan’s primary laws are a bit odd. Historically, this state has not required–nor even had a mechanism for–registering to vote for a specific party. All Michigan primaries are open to anyone who is eligible to vote. The only rule is that, for a particular primary, you can only vote in one party’s contests.
For a short time Michigan had a party-declaration requirement, but the declaration was sufficiently unpopular–an “invasion of privacy”–that the Democrats decided it was preferable to stage a party-run presidential primary–which they (I’ll not say “we” about this) choose to call a “caucus.”
The national gerrymander habit must die. The practice of routinely creating one-party election districts undermines political discourse, and subverts republican government. One party elections encourage extremism, and create a climate where debate, discussion, and compromise are impossible–on many issues, the practice permits folks to honestly believe that reaching a compromise is indecent. Few politicians, and few citizens, are naturally extremist, but we’ve created a system which encourages an extremist culture. Party advantage is not a healthy basis for defining political boundaries, and ideology needs to be tempered by honest discussion. We ought to do better than this. We must do better than this.
Modification 7/28/04: Explanation about the Michigan primary system.