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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Woman Will Regain Her Superiority..."

So we began to see them, these [manikins] of modern industrial society, swarming at evening from factories and insurance offices, going home, like the typist in The Waste Land, to lay out their food in tins. At length, amid the marvelous confusion of values attendant upon the second World War, came the lady marine and the female armaments worker ["Rosie the Riveter"]. It is as if the [force of gravity] of society had ceased. What is needed at center now drifts toward the outer edge. A social seduction of the female sex has occurred on a vast scale. And the men responsible for this seduction have been the white-slavers of business who traffic in the low wages of these creatures, the executives, the specialists in "reduction of labor costs"-- the very economists and calculators whose emergence [Edmund] Burke predicted for us.

The [abnormal] phase of the situation is that the women themselves have not been more concerned to retrieve the mistake. Woman would seem to be the natural ally in any campaign to reverse this trend; in fact, it is alarming to think that her powerfully anchored defenses have not better withstood the tide of demoralization. With her superior closeness to nature, her intuitive realism, her unfailing ability to detect the [insincerity] in mere intellectuality, how was she ever [conned] into the mistake of going modern? Perhaps it was the decay of chivalry in men that proved too much. After the gentleman went, the lady had to go too. No longer protected, the woman now has her career, in which she makes a drab pilgrimage from two-room apartment to job to divorce court.

Women of the world's [former system] were [realists] in this respect: they knew where the power lies. (One wonders what Queen Elizabeth would have said had feminist agitators appeared during her reign [1558-1603] over England's green and pleasant isle.) They knew [the power] lies in loyalty to what they are and not in imitativeness, exhibitionism, and cheap bids for attention. Well was it said that he who leaves his proper sphere shows that he is ignorant both of that which he quits and that which he enters. Women have been misled by the philosophy of activism into forgetting that for them, as custodians of the values, it is better to "be" than to "do." Maternity, after all, as Walt Whitman noted, is "an emblematical attribute."

If our society were minded to move resolutely toward an ideal, its women would find little appeal, I am sure, in lives of machine-tending and money-handling. And this is so just because woman will regain her superiority when again she finds privacy in the home and becomes, as it were, a priestess radiating the power of proper sentiment. Her life at its best is a ceremony. When William Butler Yeats in "A Prayer for My Daughter" says, "Let her think opinions are accursed," he indicts the modern displaced female, the nervous, hysterical, frustrated, unhappy female, who has lost all queenliness and obtained nothing.

What has this act of [irreverence] brought us except, in the mordant phrase of Henry James's The Bostonians, an era of "long-haired men and short-haired women"?

RICHARD M. WEAVER (1910-1963)
Ideas Have Consequences, 1948

Is There A Republican Method of Performing Autopsies?

Many Mississippi voters face a predicament every four years. All or most of the candidates for their county offices are in one party's primary, while their favorite candidates for state offices are in the other party's primary. Some races are actually decided in one party's primary.

The Voter Choice Plan would solve this problem. Under this plan, we would elect county officials on a nonpartisan basis, just as we now elect state and county judges and county election commissioners. The special elections that we hold to fill vacancies in offices are also nonpartisan.

State officials would be elected exactly as they are now, and candidates for state offices would be the only ones on the August party primary ballots.

Candidates for county offices would first appear on the November general election ballot, where they would be listed along with the winners of the party primaries for state offices. The candidates for county offices would have no party labels next to their names.

There would be a runoff two weeks later for any county office for which no candidate had received 50%-plus of the vote.

This plan would enable all voters to participate in the August party primary of their choice for state offices, and still choose among all the candidates for county offices.

County candidates would never have to run more than two campaigns, whereas they now potentially face three elections-- the primary, the runoff primary, and the general election. And they would be able to stay out of the summer heat!

Many of us care about the party affiliations of the governor and legislators. But what difference does it make whether the county coroner is a Democrat or a Republican? Is there a Republican method of performing autopsies?

We also have party primaries for the county surveyor. Is there a Democratic method of surveying land?

If the legislature passes the Voter Choice Plan and the governor signs it, it will then have to be approved by the U. S. Department of Justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is the Voter Choice Plan the same as the open primary?

A. No, since candidates for county offices would only run in the November general election, with a runoff if necessary.

The term "open primary" has been popular in Mississippi since the 1960s. It has usually referred to the Louisiana election system, in which the political parties have no way of nominating candidates for any state or local offices.

Q. You say candidates for state offices would be the only ones on the August party primary ballots, but I would still have to choose either the Democratic or the Republican primary. Why can't I cross party lines in August?

A. The U. S. Supreme Court declared that unconstitutional in 2000.

Q. What's the difference between a primary election and a general election?

A. The purpose of a primary election is to nominate a party's candidates for the general election. Candidates are actually elected to office in the general election.

Sometimes all the candidates for a particular office run in one party's primary. When this happens, winning that primary is equivalent to being elected to office. But the winner of that primary is not actually elected until the general election, where he runs unopposed.

Q. You say that, under this plan, county officials would be elected on a nonpartisan basis. What exactly does that mean?

A. Candidates for county offices are now included in the August party primaries. To get on the primary ballot, a candidate has to qualify with his party.

Under the Voter Choice Plan, a candidate for any county office would get on the November general election ballot by getting signatures on a petition. Since county candidates would no longer run in the party primaries, they would have no party labels next to their names.

Q. Why would the candidates for county offices have to wait until November to be on the ballot?

A. Any candidate who runs on a nonpartisan basis only runs in the general election.

Q. Most plans have drawbacks. Does the Voter Choice Plan have any shortcomings?

A. Yes, but I must first insist that you be sitting down and have a king-size bottle of nerve pills handy.

This plan has two drawbacks: (1) You won't be exposed to as much political advertising in the summertime, and (2) you won't have as many politicians knocking on your door.

OH, NO-O-O-O!!!


If you like the Voter Choice Plan, please contact your state representative and state senator and tell them. In case you're not sure who they are, here's the address for the Secretary of State's home page. Click on the "Elections" icon; near the bottom of the "Elections" page, click on "Voter Registrars by County." (The circuit clerk is the voter registrar, and this office can give you the names of your representative and senator.)
Secretary of State

To get contact information for your representative and senator, go to the legislature's home page (address below). There are links for "House of Representatives" and "State Senate"; on each of these pages, there's a "Members" link.

The Voter Choice Plan will first have to be approved by the Apportionment and Elections Committee in the House and the Elections Committee in the Senate. On both the House and Senate home pages, there's a "Committees" link, which will take you to a list of each committee's members.

Mississippi Legislature

Friday, October 15, 2004

Will Washington (and California) Cross the Rubicon?

Since 2001, I have followed with great interest the controversy surrounding Washington state's election process.

My state's election system has been a recurring issue here since the 1960s; in fact, Mississippi gave Louisiana the idea for its current system.

Federal court rulings finally forced Washington to adopt a new system. On September 14, 2004, the state used a Montana-style system of separate party primaries. On November 2, however, there will be a proposal, Initiative 872, on the general election ballot for a Louisiana-style "top two" system. (California will have a similar measure, Proposition 62, on the November 2 ballot.)

If the Washington initiative passes, that state's political parties promise to take two actions: Challenge the "top two" system in federal court, and hold conventions to endorse candidates.

Background. The basic function of a political party is nominating candidates for elective office. This was originally done by caucuses at the federal, state, and local levels.

Early on, presidential candidates were nominated by the party caucuses in the U. S. House of Representatives, and later also by state legislatures and mass meetings.

Several of President Andrew Jackson's followers, who detested "King Caucus," conceived the national nominating convention in 1831. (In a caucus or convention system, obviously, grassroots citizens can vote only in the general election.)

In the early 1900s, states began requiring parties to use primary elections. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines "primary election" as "[a] preliminary election in which voters directly nominate for office the candidates of their own party.[italics added]")

Project Vote Smart says a primary election is "an election prior to the general election in which voters select the candidates who will run on each party's ticket. Primaries are also used to choose convention delegates and party leaders... ."

The word "primary" has been corrupted to mean the first step of almost every election process.

Today, just a few states still use nominating conventions; these states use conventions in some circumstances and primaries in others.

Not only is the primary election an American invention, the United States is the only nation that uses it. In the rest of the democracies, political parties operate essentially as private associations. Party candidates are chosen by party officials, party activists, and the parties' elected officeholders in government. [UPDATE-- 1/16/07: Several parties in several other democracies have begun using versions of primaries.]

Washington State's History. The primary election was enacted in 1907, along with preferential voting. (The latter, similar to what is touted today as "instant runoff voting," was repealed in 1917.)

1916: Voters refused to abolish the primary by a count of 200,449 to 49,370.

1919 challenge law: A voter requesting a party's primary ballot, if challenged, had to promise to support that party's nominees in the general election.

1919, 1921, and 1927: Bills to repeal the primary and restore the nominating convention were introduced in the legislature.

1927: A measure for a system like the Top Two was defeated in the state House of Representatives. In Primary Elections (1928), Charles Merriam and Louise Overacker call this "a most curious proposal. The names of all candidates appeared on the same ... ballot under the office for which [election] was sought. ... The names of the candidates who were first and second in number of votes ... were to appear on the [runoff] ballot."

Note: In a special referendum in October of 1915, California voters rejected a proposal for a system like the Top Two. North Dakota voters defeated a similar measure in 1925.

1936: Washington began using the blanket primary. All candidates were listed on the same ballot, with the top vote-getter from each party advancing to the general election. This was the primary system that was recently struck down by the federal courts.

Montana System (open primary, private choice: Montana, Washington, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin). There is no voter registration by party, and the voter picks a party on primary day. No record is made of the voter's party choice.

Open Primary, Public Record (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia). This is like the Montana system, except that each voter's party choice is publicly recorded.

Note: Iowa is the only one of these states that does have voter registration by party.

What's the big deal about the parties' knowing which voters nominate their candidates? Keeping primary voters' party choices secret is a lot like having convention delegates wear disguises. (Personally, I would go for either a Zorro or a Batman costume.)

Note-- 1/16/07: There are now two federal lawsuits against open-primary laws. These are Miller v. Brown (in Virginia) and Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour.

Closed Primary (now 27 states, including California). This requires voter registration by party. In a number of these states, registered independents can vote only in the general election. California independents, however, may vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary for congressional and state offices.

Note: For a description of Alaska's hybrid primary system, see www.ballot-access.org/2004/0801.html#11. [Alaska has since changed its system.]

In one of these states, Utah, the Democrats invite all voters (even registered Republicans!) to participate in their primary.

Louisiana System. All candidates, including independents, run in the same election. If no one gets a majority (50%-plus), the top two, regardless of party, meet in a runoff.

The Louisiana system is an extension of the old one-party (truly no-party) system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary, with a Democratic runoff if necessary.

In every state but Louisiana, each party has the right to nominate one candidate for every partisan office. And there is no limit on the number of independents who can run for each office in the general election.

Isn't it better for the voters to have more than two choices in the final, deciding election?

Louisiana has had party registration since 1916; it has used its current election system since 1975. Circa 2002, there were 23 percent registered Republicans. But if everyone votes (and all candidates run) in the same election, what difference does it make? Everybody might just as well be an independent.

Let's look at some actual Louisiana elections.

1987 governor's race: The top two vote-getters were both Democrats.

1990 U. S. Senate race: The Republicans backed Ben Bagert. Ex-Klansman David Duke also ran as a Republican. Embarrassed by the Duke candidacy, the GOP wanted to avoid a runoff at all costs. His campaign going nowhere, Bagert dropped out shortly before the election, and the Republican leadership wound up supporting the incumbent Democrat!

1991 governor's race: The national Republicans and the state Republican Party supported different candidates, neither of whom made the runoff. The final choice was the Republican Duke versus ex-Gov. Edwin Edwards, who had already been tried for bribery. President Bush I and the incumbent Republican governor endorsed the Democrat Edwards, who won with 61%.

1995 governor's race: The runoff featured a white conservative Republican and a black liberal Democrat. The Republican, Mike Foster, won going away. (Now-U. S. Sen. Mary Landrieu had finished third.)

It's very unlikely that either Duke in 1991 or the Democratic runoff candidate in 1995 could have won a party primary. I chuckle every time I read about Washington and California proponents of this system claiming that it will help more "centrists" or "moderates" get elected.

2002 U. S. Senate race: The national Republicans backed Suzanne Terrell, while Gov. Foster endorsed another Republican. Foster publicly criticized Terrell after she had made the runoff against Democratic Sen. Landrieu. (In November 2004, David Vitter became Louisiana's first popularly-elected Republican U. S. senator in history.)

The Democrat Rodney Alexander was narrowly elected to the U. S. House in 2002. In August 2004, he qualified to run again as a Democrat. Two days later, and just a few minutes before the deadline, he re-filed, this time as a Republican! It was, of course, too late for the Democrats to come up with a major candidate.

In a state with party primaries, where a party-affiliated candidate must qualify with his party, a politician cannot pull this kind of shenanigan.

The party primary has been a major factor in the growth of the Republican Party in the South. Over the years, I have been astonished to hear staunch Mississippi Republicans calling for our state to adopt the Louisiana system-- in which there are no party primaries. That's like chickens inviting Colonel Sanders into the henhouse.

The two federal court rulings on the Louisiana system are Dart v. Brown and Foster v. Love; neither suit challenged the overall system. For more on these decisions, see the note at the end of this essay.

For more on the Louisiana system, see my article of September 20, 2005 on this blog.

"Top Two" System (Washington's Initiative 872 and California's Proposition 62). This works like the Louisiana system, except that there is always a runoff-- even if one candidate gets 50%-plus in the first round. Thus, it's possible for the first-round winner to be defeated in the runoff.

The two rounds in the Louisiana/Top Two are commonly called the "primary" and the general election. Actually, the first round is the general election, followed by a runoff general election. I submit that a candidate who gets 50%-plus in a general election should not then be forced to enter a runoff.

In a general election: All the candidates are on a single ballot, and voters can vote for any candidate for any office. This means that the campaign costs more than a party primary race, since a candidate has to communicate with all the voters. Hence, the Louisiana/Top Two requires the top two vote-getters to finance and conduct two general election campaigns. This discourages potential candidates from running. (In Louisiana, of course, a candidate who gets 50%-plus in the first round does not face a second campaign.)

Consider independent candidates. In a party-primary system, they reach the general election ballot by getting signatures on petitions, and that's the only campaign they have to wage.

In the Louisiana/Top Two, in contrast, independents are on the first-round ballot along with all the other candidates. If lightning strikes and an independent makes the runoff, he then faces a second general election campaign.

Consider small-party candidates. In a party-primary system: Since small parties often have trouble finding even one candidate per office, their candidates usually just have to run in the general election. (In my state, none of the six small parties have ever had a contested primary.) In the Louisiana/Top Two, small-party candidates encounter the same situation as independents.

If a small party's message is kept out of the final election, the party loses its main reason for existing.

Isn't it ironic that so many Washingtonians, who cherish their independence, favor the Top Two-- which makes it even harder for independents and small-party candidates to get elected?

When the two runoff candidates are from the same party: Not only is that party split, all the other parties' faithful voters are effectively disenfranchised.

A citizen certainly has the right to be an independent. But a citizen does not have the right to force all of his fellow citizens to be independents-- and that's essentially what the Louisiana/Top Two does.

If the Louisiana/Top Two is such a good idea, why is it that only one state uses it?

Note: Louisiana is the only state that uses the "top two" to elect all of its state officials. And Louisiana, which alone has used the "top two" for its congressional elections, is restoring party primaries for those elections, starting in 2008.

1/16/07: Last year, the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Washington state's "top two"-- which the voters had approved in November 2004. The state has appealed State v. Washington State Republican Party to the U. S. Supreme Court.

Conclusion. Political parties deserve to be able to perform their basic function of nominating candidates. The party primary is the most democratic method of nomination, and the Montana system provides the most open party-primary system.

The choice between a party-primary system and the Louisiana/Top Two is a choice between a party system and a no-party system.

I submit that a party system is superior.



Note: Dart v. Brown, 717 F. 2nd 1491 (5th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U. S. 825 (1984) is available from FindLaw and Westlaw.

Foster v. Love is available at: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-670.ZO.html

[The posts on this blog of the following dates are related to this topic: February 28, 2006; November 23, 2004; and September 20, 2005.]