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.
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.
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 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: