Primary Election Reflections
- 31 May 2014 by Author 0 Comments
Primary Election Reflections
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 05/25/14
Primary election turnout has been declining in Idaho over the past few decades. In 1980 primary election turnout for the state was over 41%. By 1994, it was down to 33%, and by 2004, down to 27%. This week’s primary election voter participation rate was a scant 25%. And frankly, Idaho’s closed primary is not helping.
But Idaho is not alone. According to the website Fairvote.org there are only 18 states left that have what are considered open primaries where party affiliation is not required. In the other 32 states, a voter must declare a party affiliation to participate in that party’s primary in a closed or “semi-closed” primary.
Ben Ysursa, Idaho’s Secretary of State, while lamenting the low 25% voter turnout on Tuesday, said, “I wish we could get more to turn out, more to participate.” He then made a comment that was both profound and yet simple, “Participation is the essence of democracy.”
Just last month researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page from Princeton University, argued that we no longer have a “democracy.” Parenthetically, we never have technically had a democracy, but rather a constitutional republic, but the researchers’ point is understood with our reliance upon democratic elections. Based on 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981-2002, they argue that we have slowly transformed into an oligarchy with “wealthy elites” wielding most of the power. “Well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters,” they concluded.
With rising influence of the affluent and well-connected, and declining democratic voter participation, whose brilliant idea is it to “close” primary elections, making it even more difficult to be involved? Disenfranchisement has been done historically based on property ownership, race, and literacy. Those egregious injustices have been corrected, but now we’re arguably disenfranchising nearly half of Idaho’s voter base because of something even more spurious – partisanship! Restricting voter participation is not only antithetical to our founding principles, but also arguably anti-American.
On the lighter side, this primary season was not without its entertainment value. Everyone who tuned in for the gubernatorial debate on Idaho Public Television may have been forgiven for believing they’d accidently tuned in to Saturday Night Live. Harley Brown, a biker who showed up for the debate in his leathers (I’m just glad he didn’t turn around!) and a couple of huge cigars in his shirt pocket, was full of politically incorrect one-liners, “I’ve got a master’s in raising hell,” and, “What, do you think I’d be a Democrat? Their proctologist called, and he found their heads.”
More entertainment value was provided courtesy of Walt Bayes, who would make a phenomenal skinny Santa Clause. “I killed a woof,” he said, and “I think half of the Republican Party is Democrats and half of the Democrat Party is communists.”
As if to not be outdone, a local candidate was spewing his more invidious and ludicrous one-liners. “One vote for a familiar republican, Kelley Packer, will strengthen the resolve to continue killing babies,” he declared on Facebook the morning of the election. And the next day, after he’d lost to that darned aforementioned candidate, he proclaimed,“[She] did the best with what she was given? [sic] She was given the Constitution and she violated it. She understands the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and she ran unborn children under her pagan wheels.”
Yes folks, that was our own Lance Earl from Rockland in a couple of his casuistic rants against ardently pro-life Rep. Kelley Packer. I think the last time I’d heard something so vapid and disingenuous from anyone in politics was, “I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go,” and “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” But the disturbing thing is, many voters actually took him seriously. How anyone with that kind of specious reasoning, disingenuous misrepresentation, and acerbic temperament could be taken seriously is beyond my comprehension! Sometimes individuals within the political system validate the Peter Principle after they’re elected, and sometimes before an election. His validation fortuitously came before.
So be watching for a new travelling roadshow featuring Harley Brown, Walt Bayes, and Lance Earl coming to a town near you. But beware the latter! And don’t feel badly if you miss the show, as I’m sure it’ll show up on SNL, and I’m sure he’ll make a podcast of it!
On a much more serious note, it’s now “open season” on property owners in Pocatello. With the failure of the Nondiscrimination Ordinance repeal Tuesday, landlords will start being displayed like hunting trophies in local attorney offices. From now on, if a potential tenant is denied rental housing, for whatever reason, they can claim it’s due to their sexual orientation and the landlords will have to prove that it wasn’t. Good luck with that! If I owned rental properties in town, I’d be sorely tempted to liquidate them.
And caterers, event planners, photographers, even professionals of various disciplines can become targets. Decline to handle an event, or decline taking on a new client, and all they have to do is claim they were discriminated against because of their orientation, and a new trophy is added to the attorney trophy case. If you’re feeling a little less free this week, especially as a business owner, there’s a good reason, as a select 1.5-3% of the population has become the cause célèbre of an ardent and vocal minority that has the rest of the traditional values populace cowardly and mawkishly acquiescing to the tyranny of that minority.
And this is not a “civil rights” issue like racial discrimination, because it is completely self-defined, based on proclivity and behavior. All one has to do to qualify for protection under this ordinance is claim to qualify. Civil rights issues cannot logically be based upon what one merely claims himself to be, without creating inequality under the law.
George Orwell said, “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” That is precisely what we are witnessing now, as those who accept and promote normalcy, the orientation which perpetuates the species and forms the anthropological and biological foundation of our culture and civilization, are publicly excoriated for having the temerity to publicly express it.
Those who opted to not participate in the primary election this week forfeited a bit of their democratic right and duty as citizens. Considering the increasingly onerous burdens, fiscal and otherwise, on our republic, one can’t help but wonder what it will take to wake them up sufficiently to warrant their involvement.
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at email@example.com.