There has been debate recently about changing the primary system in the District of Columbia and nearly all of it from those outside the Democratic Party who feel disenfranchised. There is a simple solution and that is for them to register as Democrats. But clearly that doesn’t satisfy them.
I would make one change to the current closed primary system and that is to hold a run-off election when no candidate reaches a pre-determined percentage of the vote. But that actually ends up uniting the party around one candidate and some who want open primaries in D.C. may not like that as it will make it even more unlikely than now to elect anyone other than a Democrat. The District is a Democratic town because the majority of the people living here believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and are willing to stand up for them.
In today’s political world there seems to be some cache in telling people you are an independent. I haven’t quite figured out why not having your political views public and associating with the party that represents them makes you cool but some think it does. There are two main political parties in the nation, Republican and Democratic. When registering to vote in D.C. you have the option of registering in those two or the Green Party, Statehood Party, register no party (independent) or list some other party.
In D.C., which is overwhelmingly Democratic, provisions have been made in our home rule charter for two at-large Council seats to go to a candidate other than a Democrat. So over the years we have had members of the Statehood Party, Republican Party and independents holding those seats. Council member David Catania first got elected as a Republican. When he decided to leave the Republican Party he chose to become an independent so he could keep his seat. Nothing stopped him from registering as a Democrat other than either he didn’t believe in the principles of the party or it was politically expedient that he didn’t have to give up his seat (one allocated for someone other than a Democrat).
I am a proud Democrat and have been since first registering to vote in New York City. An activist in politics from a very young age, there is pride in the party I have chosen and an unwillingness to see all the work so many party activists have accomplished potentially be undone by those not in the party choosing its candidates. Democrats have fought for years for the principles of the party we support and have battled to ensure that our party supports and stands for the human and civil rights of all people and progressive policies. Today there is not much similarity between the two major parties. They represent very differing views of the world. So that makes me question this desire of some unwilling to stand up for one of them and rather declare themselves independent, which doesn’t indicate at all what they believe or what principles they are willing to fight for. It rather seems a copout.
An independent who wants to vote in a Democratic or Republican Party primary chooses to let others fight for the principles of the party and then after the debate is all over say, “Here I am and I now want to choose who will be the standard bearer for what you have fought for and believe”.
When my party chooses a candidate in its primary not to my liking I am still free to support another party’s candidate in the general election. It hasn’t happened often but in 1994 I supported and volunteered countless hours for Carol Schwartz, when she ran as the Republican candidate for mayor.
Recently we have seen a candidate in Ward 1 drop out of the Democratic primary and change his party affiliation to independent. He declared he wanted to give the people of the Ward more choice in the election. If he couldn’t connect with the voters in the Democratic primary, what makes him think he will connect with them later?
This debate will continue but I hope that for the foreseeable future we maintain a closed primary system in D.C.