[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process (Primary Thoughts)

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Mon Jul 2 15:08:31 PDT 2012

Fred and Juho,

Fred Gohlke said:
> re: "... given the assumption of equality, the party leader is
>       formally on a level with any party member.  Each has a
>       single vote at each step of the primary, including
>       nomination."
> Absolutely!
> This leads to the obvious question of "How?", but asking it may be
> premature.

Yes, I think we should postpone that till we look at the democratic
context.  We'll have to use our imaginations because democracy assumes
an equality and universality that has yet to be realized.  Meanwhile
the party is a fact, and it seems to rest (at least in definition) on
a contrary assumption, that of *non*-universality.  I wish therefore
to begin by imagining away that assumption.  What happens to the party
when its primary decisions may no longer be restricted to members, but
must be opened to universal and equal participation?
> re: "Each has the same primary electorate.  It is therefore likely
>       that each will make the same decision and sponsor the same
>       candidate."
> Why is that likely? ...  It would seem that each party would start
> with a different core and initially propose different candidates.
> Thereafter, the decisions of the party members would be influenced
> by the non-partisans.  The influence would almost certainly be
> toward the center because each party can be expected to already
> harbor the most extreme advocates of the party's position.  However,
> the degree of influence would change rapidly with time and
> circumstance, so the result cannot be certain.

When you say "start with a different core", I'm unsure whether you
mean a core of deciders, or of decisions.  Either (if enforced) would
violate the assumptions of universality or equality.  The parties may
be different from each other (in their histories, if nothing else),
but henceforth they may not make decisions about the sponsorship of
candidates without opening each step of the process to anyone who
wishes to participate.  When voicing the first nomination for party P,
the lowliest member of a competing party Q has an equal opportunity to
that of P's leader.

An ultra-left party would normally be expected to start with a left
leaning nominee, but exactly this expectation no longer applies.  All
leanings from the center are now equally likely, where the center is
defined collectively by those who choose to participate, and the
effort they expend.
> re: "The next step in its (democracy's) evolution could easily
>       see their (political parties) elimination."
> Oh, my!  Oh, my!
> I must question the use of 'easily'.  There has been nothing 'easy'
> about your work over the past umpteen years - or my own - (he said
> with a smile).

In that sense, my claim of "easy come, easy go" is woefully wrong. :-)

As an engineer, however, I must say there are things worth salvaging
in the party machine.  This is maybe another reason to dismantle it
with care.  It sounds strange, but the party introduces an element of
morality that is missing from the state electoral system.  The state
system tells us who *shall* be elected to office, but it fails to tell
us who *ought* to be.  This failing is something I know you already
appreciate, but I want to emphasize that it's a moral failing.  A
power is exercised without a right.  It is what we would expect from a
tyrant, not from an institution of democracy.

The party is the opposite of this.  Rather than offering facts, the
party offers norms.  It says, "You may elect anyone you wish, but here
is who you *ought* to elect."

This is a moral contribution (in form), which is exactly what we need.
Mind you, the actual content is almost always wrong.  So we still need
to take the machine apart, if only to fix it.  But it *was* aimed in
the right direction, roughly speaking.

Fred Gohlke said to Juho:
> ... As I've said before, parties always "seek the power to impose
> their views on those who don't share them."  They don't always
> succeed, but when they do it's catastrophic.  The threat of
> domination is always present in a party-based system.

Juho Laatu replied:
> As well as in a party-free system.

But imagine for a moment that the following is no longer possible:

 (a) a *primary* electoral system
 (b) one that sponsors candidates for *public* office
 (c) where voting is restricted to *private* members

Specifically (c) is no longer possible.  Whenever a decision is made
in support of a candidate for public office (or would be candidate),
that decision is open to universal participation.  Further those who
do participate are treated equally.  Their votes are not weighted, or
anything like that.  In such a world, what *other* form of political
domination could take hold?

I would argue that domination is no longer possible.  For better or
worse, we would be free.

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 416-699-9528

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