Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Cost of Politics

The latest round of primary elections are over around the nation. Voting machines have been taken down, poll workers are taking a well-deserved rest, and everyone has a chance to catch their breath before the run up to the November Election. Most importantly, we all find ourselves grateful in ways that we cannot begin to explain for the end of the latest round of political commercials on billboards, radio, and TV. And while it appears that fewer than one in five registered voters executed their electoral franchise in the effort overall, we seem to have run up a considerable bill in the performance of this constitutional right and obligation. 

My question is ... why are we paying for it? Yes I know that elections cannot be held without candidates (though there are times when we wish it were so) and that such elections incur costs. I also understand that there are times when more than one candidate representing a political party seeks the same office. Great! Anyone who wishes to run for a political office is free to do so. That there might be a plethora of candidates seeking office could be looked at as a tribute to the desire for public service in this country (or a realization that a political career is a pretty good gig in a tough economy), and is something that should celebrated.  What's wrong with letting any eligible and capable candidates seeking election do so? 

Some will say that while all of this may be true, winnowing the number of candidates (particularly those of the two major political parties) is necessary so as not to dilute the few votes seemingly cast these days. Of course most of those saying so are representatives of the political parties taking advantage of the situation. Even if we concede that this is true however (which I do not), it doesn't justify billing the taxpayer for the costs of an internal party selection process. 

If the Democrat and Republican parties (which are independent political organizations and not constitutionally sanctioned parts of government) feel the need to hold such special selection processes to choose party representation, they should by all means feel free to do so ... and pay for them from their own pockets. It is not within the purview of government to interfere with such an internal process, nor to sanction it by picking up the tab. 

At a time when political parties have become as much an impediment to good governing as they have a method of achieving it, they certainly deserve no special consideration. At a time when government spending has become little more than a political football that these two teams toss around to score political points, wasting tax payer dollars to fund their drafts seems a violation of the rules. 

Political parties are not a Constitutional requirement, and the current ones are in fact only the latest in a long line of such organizations (now mostly forgotten) in this county's history. Assigning them special preference and paying for internal decision making processes seems not only contrary to the founding principles of this country, but outside the limits of government as defined by the documents used to establish it. 

The party politics of government is often one of the reasons for its high cost. Continuing taxpayer funding for these political qualifiers is a political cost however that's simply wrong.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Amigo Tim,

You know, I never looked at that way before, but you're right. the parties should be picking up the tab for their own internal selection process.

The problem, at least in the immediate future, is that neither of the 2 major parties seems capable of carrying out such a feat on their own.

So, maybe they should be allowed to build their own infrastructure for determining the selection of their own candidates; like they couldn't do any worse than the present system IMNHO..


Roland Hansen said...

Amigos Tim and Dave,
There is a real simple solution to taxpayer funded political party primary elections in determining the candidate for the respective political parties. Return to the political party caucus system.

mud_rake said...

In March, 2008 SCOTUS voted 7 to 2 to allow the state of Washington to procede with its new electoral structure, under which the top two vote-getters in the open primary advance to the general election, regardless of party.

In California, under Proposition 14, a measure that easily passed, traditional party primaries will be replaced in 2011 with wide-open elections.

The problem with asking political parties to fund the cost of primary elections will be caught up in litigation precisely because of the recent actions of these two states [as well as a handful of other 'open primary' states.]

The Fourteenth Amendment has some sticky stuff in it's Due Process and its Equal Protection clauses.

Another sticking point in considering non-government funding of primary elections is that there are often other local issues on the ballot beyond party primaries.

I'm afraid that the current, traditional government-funded election system will continue to roll along. Clearly there are much better 'targets' of tax-abuse than election funding that you or I could easily list in no time at all.

Tim Higgins said...


What you appear to be discussing however, is who gets on the final ballot which is a separate issue. If a local or state election wants to require a certain plurality and the legislature writes a law to insure such, by all means this is an issue of the court to determine. Whether we make the internal party candidate selection process of the Republicans and Democrats part of election process is something else entirely.

mud_rake said...

Tim- you concluded your piece with this statement: Continuing taxpayer funding for these political qualifiers is a political cost however that's simply wrong.

I thought that your point was that these 'political qualifiers' cost the tax payers extra money because of the elections process associated with them.

My point is that these elections are not strictly for 'internal party selection' but rather are associated with other ballot issues as well. Your point about "billing the taxpayer for the costs of an internal party selection process" holds true only if this is the sole purpose of that election day.