Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Oy.  In what will surely generate some interesting mental gymnastics from Koz and others attempting to explain how awesome this idea is/is really done more by liberals, the Virginia GOP willow require voters to sign a loyalty oath before voting in their state primary.

Approved yesterday by Virginia’s state election board, before being allowed to cast ballots voters will now be required to sign a document reading ““I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican party for president.”  This despite the obvious fact that voters might well have no idea who that nominee will be.*

Of course, this is being done because you are not required to belong to a party to vote in its primary in the state of Virginia – and the GOP doesn’t want liberals screwing everything up.  Also, since votes are private it will in no way be legally binding.

Still, I would argue this perfectly and emblematically symbolizes everything that is wrong with today’s GOP.  It asks you to vote for a candidate regardless of qualifications, speaks not one whit about governance or vision, pays tribute to meaningless platitudes, and stands for no mission other than weeding out RINOs and saying FU to Dems.  It’s not the mentality of the Reagan-esque leader; it’s the mentality of the die heard sports fan.

If that isn’t today’s GOP in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.  Today’s GOP isn’t a political party.  It’s a tailgate party.

 

* Though in Virginia’s defense, they do seem to have their own unique way of separating the chaff

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92 thoughts on “Sic Semper Tyrannis!

  1. Seems to me this is just their (vain) attempt to keep Democrats from trying to tilt the primary results.  I doubt they had RINOs in mind — other-party mischief is a common fear in open-primary states when an incumbent is running.

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    • Would it be too much to ask to remind them that we have a SECRET ballot for a reason, most notably, to stop voter intimidation efforts?

      Oh, wait. These are the people who are at the forefront of voter intimidation drives. Nevermind.

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      • Mike, I do not see what they are doing as voter intimidation; especially since it’s for their own primary.

        This loyalty oath is many gigs, but those things fall more on the silly end one the spectrum, not on the thuggish.

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  2. I’m not sure why this is a big deal.

    When I vote in the Minnesota GOP caucuses, everyone is told 1) that only people who consider themselves members of the Republican party are allowed to vote, and 2) that the definition of a Republican is was someone who intends (at primary time) to vote for the Republican nominee in the fall.

    I can’t remember signing anything, but if I did, it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, and I knew at the time that I hoped I would be voting for the Republican nominee in the fall but couldn’t promise that I would be (and subsequently didn’t).

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  3. I’ll reserve my judgement* on this Virginia GOP move  until I see if Occupy actually interferes with the Iowa caucus’s themselves (which they said they aren’t going to do) vice just campaign events and headquarters (which they already have, and is fine.  As is them getting arrested for it)

    *as a Commonwealth voter, when hearing this on the radio today, I immediately thought of signing my ‘oath’ with the title of your post

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    • Kinda dumb, but perfectly legal per existing state law already on the books:

      “The code of Virginia allows for political parties to require individuals who wish to participate in presidential primaries to sign a pledge that he or she will support the party’s candidate in the general election,” Board of Elections Deputy Director Justin Riemer told NBC Washington.

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/29/virginia-gop-requires-loyalty-oath-from-primary-voters/

      As an un-fan of open primaries, this disturbs me not much, and as Mr. Kolohe points out, sabotage is in the air, not that I’d expect #Occupy to respect and “honor code.”

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      • Though, really, the worst thing they could do (assuming the current ballot goes through) would be to vote for Ron Paul.    Which I don’t find all that awful, but I imagine you do, Mr. Van Dyke. ;)

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        • True dat, Mr. Kolohe.  I’m on record as voting Obama over Paul with no hesitation.

          BTW, Ohio has this same pledge routinely in the primaries for both parties.  In fact, Dems in Cayohoga County called for an investigation after Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos.”

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          • yeah, I think they did actually make a court case of it, as they caught people on air saying that they lied on the damn form.

            Personally, I have no problem with any system, though I rather favor a closed primary like PA’s, where you can register up to a month ahead of time, and no loyalty oath.

            Because I’m a liberal, and I like to meddle! But I’m an honest meddler, and I wouldn’t SPOIL the primary by voting for someone I wouldn’t want to vote for in the general. That’s just mean, dishonest, and dirty dealings.

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      • Oh, and note that Occupy is going after Obama’s HQ in Iowa, too, so they’re not fans of him either.   Imagine if Occupy brought forth a series of unfortunate events that ushered in a Paul presidency.  it would be the lulz heard round the world.

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    • Tom is certainly right when he points out this is a wholly legal move.  (As I said in the OP, they went through the process of getting this idea approved by the election board.)

      Regarding the Occupy movement, though…Unless the state of Virginia has Occupy issues I am unaware of, I don’t see where this is much of an issue.  (Same thing applies to Bob’s assertion below, that this move is needed to save the election from the black panthers.)  Let’s say the Occupiers that are registered to vote in the state do decide to all vote for.. I dunno, Santa Clause as a write in?  Or maybe just throw their votes behind a ludicrously un-winnable candidate, like Bachmann?  If so, then what happens?  You get a few hundred (maybe thousand?) votes against the 3 or 4 million registered republicans and… what, exactly?

      On a more conceptual level, though, I am not certain I agree that someone with a legal right to vote casting a protest vote is somehow less valid than someone else voting in a more traditional sense.

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      • Well, for the record, Tod, I think it’s stupid b/c it’s just going to be mocked, as here.  Providing the rope to hang ’em with.

        But I was surprised to find that it’s not out of left field—it’s already codified in the Virginia law that they can request this, and already used in Ohio.

        As for the mischief part, I’d think this is directed against Ron Paul, whose strength in Iowa and NH is boosted significantly by non-GOP crossovers.

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        • I was also surprised about the legality, and was unaware that it is already done in Ohio.

          Though following through on the last part of my comment, assuming that you are right about Ron Paul having genuine crossover appeal and VA is set up to allow anyone to vote in the primary… how is this causing mischief?  It is allowing people throughout the state, regardless of party affiliation, to vote for a registered Republican that they want to see be the nominee.  Isn’t this exactly what the system is set up to do?

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          • Well, Tod, again it comes down to open primaries vs. the role of parties.  Open primary fans see it the way you do; WillT [and I] are OK with parties, as he writes:

            But if a group is trying to expressly say “We want the Republican nomination to be decided by Republicans” I think it best to honor that request.

            And for the record, I wasn’t good with Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos either.  It was fun and not out of character for a Steven Colbert type, but infantile.

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            • “And for the record, I wasn’t good with Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos either.”

              I’d have bet money on that.  As I’ve said, one of the things I respect about you is your ability to see the good and bad on each side.

              But regarding the primaries, if that’s your wish then don’t have open primaries.  I find I have little sympathy for a group that says “please come join us, we want a big tent!” and then calls foul when the bigger tent doesn’t do what they’re told.

              You want a small tent?  Fine by me.  Make a small tent.

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              • Tod, I’d think open primaries are not a Republican idea. [Dunno if they’re a Dem one, but somebody pushed ’em through.]

                Since the “loyalty pledge” was already on the books in VA, it seems to me somebody was not a fan of open primaries.

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                • Yeah, I’m pretty sure neither party is a big fan of open primaries anywhere.

                  They came up on the ballot initiative a few years ago in Oregon, and you’d have thought the state Ds and Rs were longtime best friends based on all the collective money they spent kumaya-ing about it.

                  Still, to paraphrase what you said above, I can’t think that a loyalty oath will do anything but make it worse for any party that insists upon it.

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  4. * Though in Virginia’s defense, they do seem to have their own unique way of separating the chaff.

    Just as a point of information, under the same rules*, Alan Keyes and Dennis Kucinich have got on the Virginia Primary ballot for their respective parties.

    *now, what did change this year was, that as a result of a court case brought by an independent, they spent more effort cross-checking the petitions than they had previously.   it’s quite possible that  Gingrich and Perry might have been in under the previous system.  Note, though, that this change only happened in November, so that doesn’t really excuse them from beating feat before then, and even less for not upping their game after.  And that certainly doesn’t excuse half the field for not even trying .

     

     

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    • “Just as a point of information, under the same rules*, Alan Keyes and Dennis Kucinich have got on the Virginia Primary ballot for their respective parties.”

      See?  Whatever they do differently, it might actually work.  Other than Perry, who appears to be amaaaaaazingly incompetent after the fanfare he arrived with, were any of the above ever serious candidates?

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  5. Today’s GOP isn’t a political party. It’s a talegait party.

    Awesome.

    I just wonder if this counts as evidence of Team Red’s intellectual corruption or only conservative’s Borg-like tendency to Plot-and-Scheme…

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    • So Stillwater, when someone like Kimmie, right here on these blogs explained in detail how she gamed the system by voting against the candidate she thought least of in the primaries (crossing party lines of course to do so) and dozens of others including yourself joined in that this was perfectly reasonable, well then I guess your version and the world’s version of intellectual corruption differ.

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  6. As long as people talk openly about voting in opposite party primaries, this just doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. Completely unenforceable, but symbolic in the way that primary voting itself is symbolic (on an individual level).

    My home state made it so that you became a member of the party whose primary you vote in. This was actually enough to prevent people from crossing or voting in the primary of a party they find distasteful. Not many, but it got some people thinking about the appropriateness of voting in the wrong primary.

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    • I suppose we really are so deep in our partisan politics that it’s just plain unreasonable to expect that anyone could, in good conscience, prefer candidate A among one party’s primary candidates but, should they fail to take the nomination, vote for candidate B from the other side as their second-preference.

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      • Indeed. But that’s part and parcel of the silliness of political parties in general. Political parties are a great way to ENSURE that those who are trying to get elected are a polarized bunch, catering to “the base” in the primary while trying to pick off “enough of” the center to win in the general.

        The idea of someone actually FROM the center getting elected isn’t even remotely feasible any more. It’s a mark of silliness to a greater degree when a willingness to compromise, be a statesman, and accept working with the other side is considered a detriment by the crazies of the Republican/Tea parties of present.

        If I believe it will make a difference, I will gladly vote for Mitt Romney in the Republican primary in my home state, if only to help stave off the insanity of a potential Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich nomination. By the same token, however, I still intend to vote for Obama come next November. You can call me a “faithless” voter in the primary, but there won’t be any contender in the Democrat primary, so why should I be barred from pointing out, via my vote, that at least 7 of the 9 candidates offered in the Republican party primary are complete douchebags and offering my (primary) vote to one of the only two remotely sane men in the field?

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        • plenty of blue dogs are actually decent “median” folks from their districts. And the new chap from Murtha’s old district (Critz) is about the same. They do exist, and I’m certain that the new guy from WY is about what WY is all about…

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      • Even if it’s entirely on the up-and-up, if I am a Democrat I am less than entirely thrilled with Republicans who plan to vote for Bush crossing over to vote for Joseph Lieberman. Especially when it opens the door for people to operate on bad faith.

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        • Voting for the candidate you prefer from the party you don’t doesn’t sound like a bad thing–after all, it just makes it more likely that the final nominee will have broader appeal, which isn’t really a bad thing.

          Voting for a candidate who is widely disliked to ensure that the opposing party has nominated an unpalatable candidate is obviously acting in bad faith.

          I’m not really sure which of those the Republican Lieberman voters count as.

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        • Especially when it opens the door for people to operate on bad faith.

          Strategic voting–aka bad faith–is actually an inherent characteristic of most voting systems. But people’s fear of bad-faith cross-over voting is supported primarily by very weak anecdotal evidence; there’s very little quantitative evidence that it’s often a serious problem.  That’s because each individual’s vote carries so little weight that it takes a large number of bad-faith crossover voters to actually have a real effect, and very few people are motivated to go out and cast a minimally effective vote for someone they really don’t like.  Of course dedicated supporters of either party will never believe it–I suspect tha’t because they are projecting from their own tendencies.

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          • I don’t disagree with any of this, but I agree with the partisans that bad-faith voting makes a mockery of the process even though ineffective. Thus, I simply don’t find it outrageous that they would not be fond of anybody coming into their primary and voting for a candidate specifically because of their (perceived) worthlessness.

            When it comes to crossing party lines to vote for the best candidate that you still wouldn’t vote for, my views are somewhat more nuanced. But I can understand why the parties would not be excited about the idea.

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            • I agree with the partisans that bad-faith voting makes a mockery of the process

              The more closely one examines how the process works, the harder it is to have that concern.  We have a civic ideal of that process, and then we have patterns of behavior that actually enable candidates and partisans to be successful in that process, and never the twain shall meet.  Election procedures are simply a set of rules in which competitors engage each other in the pursuit of victory–we don’t like to view it as a sporting competition, but it is, and always has been.

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              • Either bad faith voting can be effective or it can’t.

                If it can be effective, then the concerns of the partisans are legitimate on a very real level.

                Absent any effectiveness, making a mockery of the civic ideal is itself not irrelevant. If our individual votes don’t matter, their symbolic value becomes all the more important.

                With the exception of Georgia ’66, I’m actually not worried about a political party having their nomination hijacked and given to an unwinnable candidate. My primary tangible concern is that it provides outsiders with a chance to pollute the process, leaving one party believing that its nominee was selected by outsiders. Whether it’s true or not, it’s unhealthy. I can very much understand why a party would want to avoid even the appearance of taint.

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                • Wil,

                  My point is that “making a mockery of the process” is not really a meaningful statement.  It assumes enough of an ideal of the process (although not necessarily a perfect ideal), that it can in fact be degraded by bad faith voting.  I argue that the process almost wholly lacks the kind of idealness that we can meaningfully talk about its degradation through bad faith voting.  Bad faith voting, in fact, is among the least non-ideal aspects of the process.

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                    • Will,

                      But there are few, almost zero, good things about the process.  It is composed of bad things–or more precisely, of rules that incentivize bad things and do not incentivize good things.  Really, the only positive value of elections is that they have proven our best security for preventing tyrants from coming to, or if they fail that, from holding onto, power.  That’s it, sum total, but for my part that’s plenty good enough.

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                    • BSK,

                      That’s why I prefer the more technical term “strategic voting,” which simply means voting for a candidate other than one’s preferred candidate.  “Bad faith” has normative connotations about individual’s choices that I prefer to shy away from.  How they choose to use their single, infinitesimally effective vote, is not for me to judge.  Obviously not everyone agrees with my essentially amoral stance on the issue.

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                    • I had an argument with my sister a while back (she was probably college age at the time) about something similar. She felt that people who voted based on their religion ought to be barrd fromdoing so. I argued that there was no illegitimate way to vote. I might find a certain ideology abhorrent (such as refusing to vote for a woman or a Mormon), but allowing sich diversity of thought is part and parcel of living in a free society. Such strategic voting is just another way of doing it. If a party is so concerned about it, don’t do an open primary. Though that is far from perfect… My formally-liberal and now heavil-conservative stepfather talks about getting two votes in NJ, since he never changed his political affiliation from Dem and votes for the weakest candidate in their primary and then his preferred candidate (almst always GOP) in the general. Please note that this anecdote is not meant as a commentary on a conservative doing this and only as a commentary on the inability to prevent such happenings, even in a state with closed primaries.

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                    • We have the right to vote for whomever we want, but all methodology is not equal and yes, I think some of it is in bad faith. Just because you can’t prevent something, doesn’t mean it’s okay or just as valid as other permissable (or at least non-preventable) behavior.

                      I recognize it’s a matter of perspective, but I don’t really have a problem with calling out people that use faulty methodology or (in the case of cross-primary voting) providing disincentives… however weak.

                      Truthfully, I like what my old state did with the automatic party registration. I’m not as big a fan of the Virgnia method because it means in a year like this I am not sure if I could vote in the GOP primary (which I have been voting in since 1998), depending on how I mentally parse the word “intend”. But I probably do prefer what Virginia is doing to a caucus system.

                      It’s worth remembering that while voting is a right, a primary actually isn’t.

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                    • BSK,

                      I’m in agreement, but I need to quibble this bit:

                      If a party is so concerned about it, don’t do an open primary.

                      The parties don’t get to set those rules; whether primaries will be closed, open, or blanket is determined statutorily.

                      Once upon a time it was up to the parties, because they are technically private organizations.  But over time the understanding of them began to emphasize that however private parties are as organizations, they are engaging in the public’s business, so now it is understood that primaries are not private activities run by private organizations, but public activities in which private organizations are involved, so they are subject to state regulation.

                      The push toward open primaries is, in my considered opinion, just the latest stage in the U.S.’s two-century plus old tradition of expanding democracy; beginning with the opening of the vote to non-propertied white males, to universal adult suffrage and identification of 18 years as being adult, and along with the shift early on from caucuses to conventions for choosing presidential candidates, then to the primary system (each stage bringing in more and more accessibility for non-elites), and the radical restructuring of convention delegates in the late ’60s early ’70s to ensure more gender/ethnic representation…that’s a long story made short, but ultimately I see open and blanket primaries as just a continuation of that, making participation more accessible to the general public.  That’s neither an argument for nor against open primaries, of course.

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                    • Will,

                      It’s worth remembering that while voting is a right, a primary actually isn’t

                      Yes and no.  You don’t actually have a right to vote in a presidential election, either.  Article II of the Constitution says, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…”  The method of selecting presidential electors is at the state legislature’s discretion, and it is only the inevitable political backlash should they eliminate popular vote that prevents them from taking the power on themselves–there would be no doubt about the constitutionality of such an action.

                      On the other hand, once they determine the process will be by popular vote, then we all have a right to equal participation in that process.  The same is true for primaries–there is no right to a primary, but once it is determined that there will be one, we all have a right to equal participation in it.

                      Of course that equal participation can be conditioned upon registering with a particular party, which can effectively (although not as a matter of law) disenfranchise, for that stage of the electoral process, non-partisans.  From that perspective there is a strong argument for open or blanket primaries, which would actually facilitate the problem you’re concerned with.

                      So it’s very much a pick your poison kind of issue.  The only effective way to prevent the problem you’re concerned about is to make it much harder for people to shift from participating in one party’s selection process to the other party’s, by, say, requiring registration much farther in advance (although currently 30 days, I think, is the legally maximum advance registration time, as a matter of either federal law or judicial decisionmaking, I’m not sure which).

                      I recognize you agreed that it’s not necessarily preventable, so that argument isn’t meant as an attack on a position you didn’t take, just a disquisition on the difficulties of the whole issue.

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                    • I’m clearly ignorant to the history of the primary mechanism, so thank you for clarifying. I’m bothered by what VA has done here because it seems to undermind the process. As unenforceable as the pledge is, the idea that paeticipation in the political process is predicated on participating in a very particular way is bothersome. Personally, I’d prefer to make all the primaries open and let people participate as they may. While Will is right to worry about what incentives might arise, I would avoid such startegic voting for the very real possibility that the flawed candidate I support might actually win. If I could vote in both/all primaries, I’d choose the candidatenthat best represented my views, even if I was unlikely to vote for him/her in the general. i’d rather see two palettable candidates in the general than my preferred guy go up against someone I couldn’t stand to see in office.

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                    • None of the states do the state legislature thing thing or anything but the popular vote. Non-primary caucuses, though, are still regularly used. So the ability to go non-democratic here is less theoretical.

                      I consider the blanket primary to be problematic. I’m not sold on the jungle primary, but if we were looking to re-enfranchise non-members into the candidate selection process, that is the route that I would go.

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  7. Tod:

    As someone that grew up in Va., I can say that crossover voting does happen and some regard it as sport. I find this to be at odds with the great respect liberals claim to have for the democratic process and is surely illustrated by their actions in cities like Chicago. Also, I know this may seem a quibble but Va. is a Commonwealth not a state.

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  8. If racism were really dead, the Virginia GOP would allow the Black Panthers to determine who votes. They’re very good at it and have tons of experience.

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  9. So the thing that rubs me the wrong way about this is that they have it backwards. We have lots of things we ought to be loyal to – family, country (for the most part), church, friends, etc. But politicians and political parties ought to be swearing loyalty oaths to us – not the other way around. We owe them nothing at all and that’s the whole point.

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    • E.D.:

      You and Tod miss the point. All they are asking (in maybe a ham handed way) is for the person voting to be honest and not cross party lines to vote for an extreme candidate for a party they have no intention of supporting in the first place. I know asking folks to be honest and have integrity is out of fashion but that is all it is

      I guess if Dems want to read something sinister into it fine, but as a Virginian I can say that practice often occurs and I don’t think it benefits anyone.

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      • Why is this a matter of honesty? What if I want my first choice Republican to go up against my first choice of Democrat? Why does an arbitrary primarily system trump my democratic right to vote?

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  10. There are companies that spend tens of thousands of dollars and waste thousands of dollars’ worth of manhours to prevent hundreds of dollars’ worth of misappropriation of office supplies.

    This reminds me of that.

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  11. I find open primaries something of a hilarious idea in the first place.  It seems logical that the people choosing the leader of a political party should be, you know, people who actually support that party.  Here in Canada it’s taken as a given that you have to be a member of a party to vote in its leadership race.  Open primaries just seem way too open to abuse.

    Granted, choosing a presidential candidate in the US is a little different from choosing a party leader in Commonwealth countries (in the US, party solidarity is a lot thinner, and diversity of opinion within parties is generally a lot greater).

    On another note, relating to what people have said above, I agree that this move is almost certainly intended as a block against Democrats voting for Ron Paul.  Given that Virginia went blue four years ago and Paul and Romney are the only two candidates who managed to file their papers, I can see the Virginia GOP being worried.

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    • Well done, Katherine, and the Canadian perspective on parties is helpful here.  And yes, in Virginia, it’s likely about Ron Paul, esp since every other GOP candidate except Romney has his head up his or her ass, not even getting themselves on the ballot.

      And an ironic thing is that if you poke through the 2008 Dem primaries, Hillary Clinton and her political machine actually won a hair more votes than Barack Obama, but neglected the delegates to be scooped up in caucuses, leading to his victory and her defeat.

      And he deserved the victory for that alone.  If you can’t even keep track of your own party’s election rules, how can you run the country?

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      • They are; this helps the Party by enlarging the field and simulating turnout, which aids in fundraising, helps Romney by not having a single Not-Romney on the ballot for people to rally around, and helps me make my “Romney-McDonnell” ticket prediction more likely.  The only one it doesn’t help is Ron Paul.

        Btw this is delicious:

        On Wednesday, Gingrich cited fraud as the reason he didn’t make it onto the ballot, laying the blame on one of his campaign’s paid volunteers.

        “We hired somebody who turned in false signatures. We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud,” Gingrich said.

        AACCOOORRRNNNN!!!!  Wait, what? (I wonder if at least he had some decent pimp clothes)

        (and yeah, suing for something you never even tried to do?  *That’s* chutzpah!

         

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