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By Robert A. Vella

Democracy is the practice of allowing citizens to participate in the political process by voting and through other means.  It is the antithesis of authoritarianism, autocracy, and aristocracy.  Democracy was born in ancient Greece, and it began to spread around the world during the 18th century Age of Enlightenment.  Democracy is very popular across the globe.  Its alternatives – monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy, theocracy, totalitarianism, and military dictatorships – are not.

The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the U.S.  Its roots stretch back to the founding of America, and its chosen name was obviously intended to reflect the philosophy of that era.  However, today’s Democratic Party doesn’t have that much in common with real democracy.  It is now just an institutional mechanism for maintaining an entrenched socioeconomic establishment which prefers globalized corporatism as its political system of choice.

On March 26th, my state of Washington will hold its presidential primary election for the remaining Democratic Party candidates – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  I am an independent and a progressive.  So is Mr. Sanders, and that’s why I would vote for him.  But, I cannot vote for him this month because the Democratic Party won’t allow me to.  You see, this election isn’t a primary at all – it is a party caucus.  That means I must show up in person at a designated location, declare myself a Democrat, and then cast a ballot for either Clinton or Sanders.  In all other elections in my state, I can and do vote by mail.  Since I refuse to abandon my independent status, I won’t be able to vote in this year’s primary election.

Washington state election laws are quite supportive of true democracy.  Voters are not required to declare their partisan preferences, their political ideology,  nor their party allegiances.  The state employs a Top 2 Primary system:

Washington is the first state in the country to establish a Top 2 Primary election system, rather than a party nominating system. A Top 2 Primary narrows the number of candidates to two. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the Primary advance to the General Election, regardless of their party preference.

Candidates
Each candidate for partisan office may state a political party that he or she prefers. A candidate’s party preference does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate.

Voters
In each race, you may vote for any candidate listed on the ballot. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the Primary advance to the General Election, regardless of their party preference.  Washington voters do not declare party affiliation as part of voter registration.

Political parties
Political parties do not have a guaranteed spot on the General Election ballot. The two candidates who advance to the General Election may prefer the same party, different parties, or not state a party preference. Parties are free to conduct their nominating procedures according to their own rules, at their own conventions, caucuses or meetings. This frees parties to develop their own criteria for nominations, endorsements, and other public declarations of support.

The Washington State Democratic Party has long decided to hold caucuses instead.  A 2015 editorial from The Seattle Times explained why:

The Democratic Party prefers to stick with caucuses. Party spokesman Jamal Raad said Democratic National Convention rules prohibit parties from splitting delegates between caucuses and primaries, so the state party chose caucuses. That’s a dumb rule, one that the state party should contest.

Democrats should live up to their party’s name by approving a [proposed] March 8 primary and pledge delegates based on the people’s vote. [clarification by The Secular Jurist]

In other words, the Democratic Party wants its activists to determine who their presidential nominee will be – and not the people.  That is not democracy, my dear readers;  and, that’s why I never have been nor ever will be a member of their party.

The history of Washington state’s primary election laws, and the many legal challenges to them, is quite fascinating and revealing.  In the following links, you can see just how undemocratic the Democratic Party has been:

History of Washington State Primary Systems

History of the Blanket Primary in Washington

Washington Initiative 872 – Top 2 Nonpartisan Blanket Primary

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13 thoughts on “The undemocratic Democratic Party: Why I can’t vote in this year’s Presidential Primary

  1. Will Rogers is reported to have said that he did not belong to any organized political party because he was a Democrat. Obviously, they’ve since gotten organized, to the detriment of the populace. Bernie had little choice though; it is enough in our Fascist society to declare oneself a Socialist, to add Independent to that is the kiss of death as independence of the herd is very much frowned upon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I did not realize this is happening. Yes, they did offer me a choice when I went to vote: Democratic or Republican ballot. Which is like the choice between grilled or fried chicken breast on your McChicken sandwich.

    Well, it is the best democracy that money can buy. McDemocracy. I’m lovin’ it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I may give up party affiliation after this November but will vote in the primary this time around. It all seems pointless when the majority hasn’t any real say. In the end we can have only one candidate become the president. The party, and to tell the truth, the country is positively phobic of progressive politics. Can’t figure out why though. Fear I guess. The Democratic Party is afraid of progressivism and old-time liberalism too. As you pointed out before, democrats just don’t show up for elections. Sad. And even worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t say it is “bad” information, but it isn’t completely accurate. Here’s the relevant text from that site and my comments in bold:

      Any resident of voting age by the general election may vote for Bernie Sanders in the caucus.

      True. Washington residents are not required to, and do not, declare their party affiliation when registering to vote or when voting in general elections. But, they must declare themselves as “Democrats” in person to vote in that party’s primary caucuses. This isn’t a requirement of state law, but an arbitrary Democratic Party rule (I don’t know what the GOP primary rules are).

      Good news! Because Washington has open caucuses, you can vote for Bernie regardless of your registered party. If you want to vote for Bernie, get registered to vote!

      I question the usage of the term “open caucuses.” It sounds like “open primaries,” but it is certainly not that. Washington state law requires a type of open primary election known as a “Top 2 Blanket Primary;” however, a provision in this law allows political parties to hold caucuses instead of elections which allows them to make up their own rules.

      You must be registered by Sat, March 26 (7 days away).
      Not sure if you are registered, or what you’re registered as? Check your current registration status online.

      I assume the registration deadline date is true. The second part of the second sentence is irrelevant regarding state law, and it must be related to the Democratic Party requirement for caucus voters to declare themselves as “Democrats.”

      Find your local caucus location here and be sure to arrive on time for your caucus!
      If you’ll be registering at the caucus be sure to show up at least an hour early to get your registration processed.
      Highly recommended: Skip the lines by pre-registering for your caucus online here.
      Find more information about Washington’s caucus here.

      Again, these instructions are Democratic Party caucus voter requirements, and not related to state law.

      You may still vote in Washington’s caucuses if you will be 18 years old by November 8, 2016.

      I assume this is true.

      I hope my answers help to explain this convoluted process. I’d be happy to explain further. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Un-democracy: does Public Opinion determine which Presidential Candidate will win? | The Secular Jurist

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