Limit Partisan Elections

By Graham Glover

American political parties stand-off

Last week my home state of Florida held its primary election. In addition to nominating a former Republican governor as this year’s Democratic nominee for that same office, several other candidates were elected or nominated for a variety of national, statewide, county, and city offices.

Although my wife and I currently live in Georgia, we were inundated with several mailers, phone calls, and emails over the last few months from those seeking our vote (the reward for being a super voter and a military absentee voter…). Many of those candidates looking for our support tried to appeal to us on partisan grounds. For those running for governor, Congress, and the state legislature, this make sense. In these races it’s easy to understand why partisanship matters. Typically, a candidate’s party identification gives the voter a decent idea about the positions they will take on any number issues. For national and most statewide offices, these positions can be rather substantive and matter a great deal (though I wish more candidates and elected officials wouldn’t feel compelled to support every position of their party elite). Partisanship is almost a must in these elections. And even when partisanship goes to the extreme during these campaigns, it is a healthy component of our democratic republic and ideally, a means by which debating the issues works best.

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But, like many, I’ve grown increasingly tired of our nation’s obscene partisanship. Over the last several election cycles it has reached levels that I think are unnecessary, counter-productive, and downright annoying. Accusations of being a RINO or DINO (Republican/Democrat in Name Only) are commonplace. Compromise is a 4-letter word among our party elites. Moderation is offensive and practically non-existent. Unbridled devotion to all things Republican or Democrat seems to be the new ideal.

The irony is that many voters share these frustrations among our politicians, yet remain steadfast in electing candidates who are extremely partisan in their politics, thereby exacerbating the problem that they complain about (reminiscent of the voter who hates Congress but continually reelects their Congressman).

I’m not suggesting we should get rid of political parties. As already noted, they are a necessary part of our political process. Eliminating them could be much more troubling and problematic. But with the November elections fast approaching and the partisanship surrounding them sure to rise as Election Day draws near, I’d like to suggest one way to begin curbing our obscene partisan devotion and divide is to eliminate it from our local elections. There is simply no compelling reason for our county and city elections to remain overtly partisan. Granted, there can be substantive differences in governing philosophies among those running for the county commission, school board, and city commission. Yet in local campaigns these differences are often couched in the national party platforms, which are concerned with issues that typically have little to do with county and city governing. These issues may help educate us about a candidate’s partisan leanings, but national issues seldom consume the time of local governing (this is especially true of our local constitutional officers). In a country that is as deeply divided as ours, we could do much to lessen our divide if our local elections weren’t consumed by our rampant partisan differences.

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Is this a bit naïve? Maybe a little idealistic? Perhaps. But why must everything in politics be about our identity as a Republican or Democrat? Is there no room for a politics absent of partisanship? Does one’s partisan affiliation really matter for those seeking to give back to their community by running for a citywide or countywide election?

It’s a small step for sure. Indeed, many municipalities already have non-partisan elections on the local level. But for those among us who are tired of the constant partisan bickering and the incessant partisan campaigning, this is a way to begin chipping away at a problem that Democrats and Republicans recognize, but neither is willing to do anything about.

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