Tag Archives: primary elections

Five More Days….

…until the primary election is over.

If you are like me, you are fed up/disgusted with the incessant negative television spots that tell you nothing about the candidate who has “approved” them and the constant stream of email messages “urgently” requesting money so that good can overcome evil. I’m just hiding under my desk until next Tuesday.

But while I’m under there, I’ll share a message I got from a reader yesterday, commenting on his own political observations and concerns. He wrote:

I’d like to focus on the peculiarities of the primary election in the former 4th District of Indiana. First, with the exception of Lafayette, West Lafayette, and a couple of other cities the District exhibits one-party rule. The consequence is that, in most cases, except for statewide contests, the Republican primary is the election. The media, outside of Tippecanoe and Clinton County, therefore focuses almost exclusively on the Republican primary candidates, ignoring the Democratic candidates and the local general election. Civic, business, media, and school organizations frequently sponsor debates and forums for the primary elections but rarely for the general election. This system is facilitated by the widespread indolent habit of general election voters to vote straight-party ballots in the general election avoiding an actual confrontation with the names of their elected representatives on the ballot. As I have greeted voters my required distance from the polling places on the general election day, I have found that fewer than 50 percent of voters actually know the name of their current U.S. Representative. Many will still not know when they emerge from the voting booth.

Second, I would note the conveniences and inconveniences of the current Indiana voting system. We have essentially monthlong voting here. If I am not mistaken, more than a third of Tippecanoe County voters cast their ballots before Election Day. I have been voting early for years, because I have been busy speaking to voters on my behalf or on the behalf of other candidates on Election Day. In Tippecanoe County we are blessed with an efficient and convenient Vote Center system. There is some disadvantage to candidates for precincts that cover only part of the County who wish to target their messages to voters on Election Day and obviously one can’t reach in the days before the election the substantial numbers of voters who have already cast their ballots, but the general advantages outweigh these concerns. In contrast, we have the earliest closing polls in the country, which makes it quite inconvenient for working people to vote. Lines can be quite long at lunchtime or at the end of the day.

Third, in the 2010 Republican U.S. Representative primary there were, I believe, 13 candidates. It was remarkable how in the majority of responses to questions they would each mouth identical right-wing platitudes. Name recognition is probably even a more significant contributor to success in the primary election than it is in the general election.

Finally, I don’t think it would be appropriate to ignore the component of race in the primary elections. I recall that there was a well-known African-American candidate on the Republican primary ballot who was unopposed. In the Indianapolis donut/white-flight counties this candidate only received two-thirds of the number of votes that other unopposed Republican candidates received. In a Democratic primary contest a mostly unknown candidate with a name that one might guess was African-American (the candidate was not, in fact, African-American) did much better in precincts with large African-American populations than in other precincts. There was a dramatic and sad ethnic-name based outcome in the 2010 Democratic 5th District primary. It should also be noted that Indiana was one of the first states to institute the Voter ID laws, which are racist in intent and discriminate on a racial basis in practice. It is claimed that they are designed to prevent voting fraud. No evidence has been provided to demonstrate that this form of fraud has existed in Indiana. Voter ID laws are the modern version of the racist poll taxes. I know that Voter ID laws have been found to be Constitutional. Poll taxes were evidently Constitutional too until there was a specific Amendment banning them.

In conclusion, I encourage people to be informed voters. Go beyond the names and party affiliations. Get to know the candidates, whether they are honest, and their positions on the issues.

Your thoughts?

Etch-A-Sketch and Old White Guys

There’s been a lot of talk–gleeful and rueful–about the “Etch-a-Sketch” comment by one of Mitt Romney’s advisors. (For those who missed it, the advisor was asked by a CNN reporter whether he worried that Mitt had been pushed so far right during the primary process that he would be unable to attract moderates during the general election; he responded that he wasn’t concerned, because the general election was like an Etch-A-Sketch–you shake everything up and start over.)

The remark underscored one of Romney’s biggest problems: the widespread perception that there is no “there” there–that he is Mr. Inauthentic. But I think it displayed an even more fundamental disconnect.

Today’s GOP has become a party of old white men who don’t understand how people communicate in the world of twitter and Facebook. We saw this during the last campaign–John McCain was often (aptly) described as “an analog candidate for a digital age.”

Romney’s advisor wasn’t wrong, exactly, about the nature of the primary and general campaigns–he was simply behind the times. It used to be that candidates could target voting blocks and special interests with direct mail appeals that flew under the radar of the electorate at large. It used to be that primaries could be conducted as largely “in house” contests–and it was usually only political junkies who would read the traditional media’s reporting on those primaries.

We don’t live in that world anymore. Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, among others, have altered the political landscape; people see a ridiculous remark, or are angered by a political position, and post it. Posts go viral. Literally millions of people are drawn into arguments that would have been “inside baseball” in days gone by.

And speaking of days gone by–nothing says old-fashioned and out of touch like a reference to Etch-A-Sketch.

Romney’s problem isn’t just that he’s willing to say anything to anyone. It’s that he and his team of old white guys don’t understand the world they now live in.