I don’t write a lot about politics (outside of The West Wing show) here. They’re not what this blog is about, and frankly my views on politics tend to be either “meh” or “frothing at the mouth fanatic” with not much in-between, neither of which makes for helpful or informed writing. But I’ve been thinking a bit about the structure of our political system this election season. There is one thing I think is really important, and really really under-appreciated.
Voting in primaries is unbelievably important, for all parties. General elections are important, and that’s where you decide which party gets to run the country or a certain segment of it. But Primaries are where you decide what your party is going to look like. We’re a nation of party-politics, and we effectively only have two parties. Deciding what our party will look like and who will be in charge of it is how we truly affect the future of this country. Primaries are where we get to choose between the hard-liners and obstructionists and those interested in compromise between equals.
Primary elections are a seriously under-appreciated thing. This is my 12th election year as an eligible voter, registered every year as a Democrat. And yet this is the very first time I’ve ever voted in a primary. I like to think of myself as a relatively informed voter. I pay attention to current events, form opinions, and go looking for candidates who match my values regardless of party-affiliation. I research candidates’ histories and goals as much as possible, and I try to stay abreast even on local politicians (whose value is also under-appreciated but that’s another post). And yet I’ve never voted in a primary. This is partially my own fault, but it’s also partially the problem with American Politics. The general election gets all the attention (most people know when election day is), and when you register to vote they make sure you know when the next general election is. I don’t know if they do so now, but when I registered to vote, not one word was said about primaries.
So, what I’m trying to say is, go vote in your Primary. Find out when it is (the website of your county supervisor of elections is probably your best bet), where you go to vote, and who is on your ballot. This goes for all parties with Primary Elections, by the way (not just Democrats or Republicans). Primaries are how parties grow and change (or shrink into tiny pools of frothing maniacs unwilling to move in any direction, depending).
Think there’s something wrong with your party of choice?