An Argument for Disestablishing the Major Parties

Watching the debate about the Michigan and Florida primaries has been instructive in many ways. I’ve previously noted that I come at it from two different angles. First, the states broke the rules and thus deserve to be penalized, though why this penalty should be complete elimination of the delegation I don’t know. Second, the primaries are to some extent about bringing people into the process, and on that basis there is good reason to try to find some way to include the missing delegates.

But there is a complicating argument, that the state legislature, Republican dominated as in Florida, voted this, yet the Democratic party and its leaders in Florida is being penalized. When I go under my first approach (they broke the rules) I can suggest that the Democratic party in Florida could have started work immediately to allocate delegates on a different basis. They preferred not to. But if one is arguing fairness, the state involvement is problematic.

I find the fact that the legislature was controlled by a different party less compelling as an argument. In Michigan, the Democrats controlled the legislature and did the same thing. It’s the state involvement, irrespective of the controlling party, that troubles me. To be blunt I don’t see a good way to make rules clear, fair, and reasonably enforceable when there are so many authorities with their fingers in the pie.

What would I prefer? Let the political parties–any party at all, large or small–set up and administer their own means of choosing candidates. If they want a statewide primary, let them pay for it. If all the parties want to do one together, let them agree on how to finance it. Make the parties 100% responsible for the selection process. Then whether they want a completely democratic process, some mix, or a top-down selection, it is a matter for a private, voluntary organization.

I think that state entanglement with the candidate selection process is a formula for ever increasing legal issues. People are already arguing this issue as though people had a constitutional right to a certain level of influence in their party.

At the same time, let’s eliminate party registration. What business does the state have keeping records of political affiliation? Of what public value is it? Let the parties track their own members. They could then repudiate such claimed members as David Duke for the Republican parties and be held responsible for anyone they didn’t repudiate.

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One Comment

  1. “Let the political parties–any party at all, large or small–set up and administer their own means of choosing candidates.”

    This system has its drawbacks; without open and visible election processes, you tend to get a lot of back-room politics, and unpopular minorities tend to lose influence real quick.

    I don’t have any sources at hand, but I seem to recall (possibly from Stetson Kennedy’s books?) that state-operated primaries were one of the goals of the civil rights movement post-WWII; the state party conventions in the South were indistinguishable from Klan rallies, and were not electing significant numbers of blacks or sympathetic whites.

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