Buck the big dogs and back top-two primary
Editor’s Note: The published version mischaracterized the Koch brothers’ involvement. This version has been corrected.
When the Oregon Democratic Party vows to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow opponents of Measure 90, “including the Oregon Republican Party,” you can be forgiven for fearing you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole in Wonderland. But it did just that Aug. 19.
The party backs all six other measures on Oregon’s Nov. 4 ballot, including ones to legalize pot, grant driver cards to undocumented workers and mandate labeling of genetically modified food components. But it staunchly opposes adoption of a top-two primary system like the ones serving to re-enfranchise millions of voters in our neighboring states to the north and south.
What’s more, it’s being joined not only by the Oregon Republican Party, but also by the AFL-CIO, the Oregon Education Association and Right to Life, and the Koch brothers could well be next, based on their past open primary opposition. Even Wonderland author Lewis Carroll would be pressed to conjure up a stranger set of fellow travelers.
In a nutshell, the big party folk and their financial enablers are happy with the status quo because it’s so neat and clean. They gerrymander districts to maximize party locks and minimize tossups, then rain money on the tossups come November.
It works for them, but does it work for you? We join virtually every other Oregon newspaper in asserting that it does not.
Measure 90 would list all candidates on the same ballot in May and allow all voters a shot at them. Parties would be allowed to make endorsements and candidates to list those endorsements beside their names, but political affiliation would play no other role. The top two vote-getters would square off in November, even if it pitted Republican against Republican, Democrat against Democrat or Pacific Green against Libertarian.
The Democrats assail Measure 90 as a “radical,” “complex,” “confusing” and a costly “magnet for political mischief.” In support, they cite the fact California will have 19 single-party runoffs on its November ballot; Washington, 10.
But we see these results as an unqualified positive. It means voters of all political affiliations and persuasions will have meaningful choices in districts where, otherwise, there would not have been.
In the process, they will strike a blow for centrism, moderation and independence, serving eventually, perhaps, to break the two-party grip that has ground our nation’s political machinery to a virtual halt.
As of July, Oregon Republicans were outnumbered 663,197 to 650,407 by voters affiliating with so-called “minor parties” or eschewing affiliation altogether. Thus, Oregon’s current closed, two-party primary serves to disenfranchise almost one-third of the electorate every May.
By producing only a handful of truly contested general election races, it also serves to disenfranchise a majority of the electorate every November, including tens of thousands of Republicans and Democrats. After all, what say does a Republican really have in Multnomah County or a Democrat in Harney County?
Adopting a top-two primary like those pioneered by California and Washington would reinstate choice in both our primary and general elections. The opportunity to thumb our noses simultaneously at the likes of the Koch brothers and AFL-CIO merely makes the prospect all the sweeter.
Take a stand for participatory democracy. Vote yes on Measure 90.