Thursday, March 31, 2016


I'm a Democrat.  In every election, and by that I mean literally every November since I turned 18 not just every four years, I have voted along the Democratic party line with a few exceptions where the Democrat was challenged from the left.  I am a Democrat not because I embrace their corporate kowtowing, or their cynical election strategies, but because we live in a two party political system and the party whose candidates come closest to my political views is the Democratic Party.  I have spent a lot of energy arguing with friends and acquaintances about the merits of Democrats over Republicans and challenging the myth that both parties are essentially the same.  And while I concede that if your only concept of elections is November every four years, you're more right than you are wrong.  Which is why primaries are so important and everyone who complains about the status quo should take steps to vote in primaries every single year.

During the primaries, voters have the opportunity to select a candidate whose views approximate their own.  For years my response to those who claim that Democrats and Republicans are all the same has been to ask if they participated in a primary contest.  And that is the reason for the similarities between the general election candidates.  The primary is where voters have the ability to move what their party stands for.  It is only during the primaries that Democrats, or like-minded independents, can push the party away from the policies that have hollowed out the middle class, incarcerated millions of black and brown bodies, and result in deadly and destructive military actions overseas.  

By watching the Cables, reading the news, or speaking with people about politics, it would seem that nearly everyone is angry about the status quo, which begs the question: why doesn't shit change?  I think the simple and obvious answer is the anemic turnout that is typical of a primary election.  We've all heard how low voter turnout is for general elections with just shy of 55% of voting age Americans participating in the 2012 general election. If that number sounds low, it is miles above a typical mid-term election with 2014 seeing lowest turnout since World War II (33.9%).  Even lower than mid-term election turnout is the number of electors who show up for primaries.  With so few people deciding the names that appear on the November ballots, it's no surprise that both parties tend to nominate people with similar backgrounds, world views, and policy ideas.  Sure, each party has its own issues that differentiate them for the voting public such as the Democrats' beliefs that LGBT Americans should be treated as people or the Republicans' insistence that a 2% increase in the top marginal tax rate is Hitler, but on the major issues over which elected officials will actually make decisions, top ticket candidates from both parties have been very similar.

Democrats were angry at President George W. Bush (R) for the war in Iraq, but President Obama (D) toppled the government in Libya and has, intentionally or unintentionally, provided weapons and resources to ISIS aligned groups in Syria's bloody civil war.  When it comes to targeted assassinations, many of which have killed civilians and some of which have killed American citizens, the Democrat leads by a mile in terms of body count.

During the 2008 primaries there was a candidate, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who had he won the nomination and the White House, would likely not have authorized Hillary Clinton's Libya strategy or increased the use of extra-judicial drone killing overseas.  That is a real world example of how the primaries, not the general elections, determine the policies of America.

So if you sit on the sidelines and ignore the primaries, don't be surprised when, come November, the choices all look like dog shit.  If you cede the selection of the candidates to people who love dog shit, that's what you end up with.  Furthermore, democracy requires a more substantial commitment than once every four years.  As Samantha Bee so magnificently illustrated, the 2010 election was more important than 2008 and yet the turnout was less than 38%.  You know what, just listen to her:

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