I refuse to be an ‘idiot.’ I’m joining the ranks of the involved


This is my front yard. As of Monday night, for the first time in my life, my yard features a campaign sign for a political candidate. In fact, it boasts two.

I’ve decided not to be an idiot any more — in the ancient Greek sense, which meant someone who was not involved in public life. As I noted the other day, Bobby Kennedy once summarized the ancient meaning as “One who is not involved in politics.”

Well, with these two signs, I’m stepping out of the ranks of idiots (which my career as a journalist forced me to be, at least in a sense), and joining the polites — the involved public citizens.

James Smith is the best candidate for governor by far, and Micah Caskey is easily the best candidate for his House seat, if not the best running for any House seat this year. They are the two people I most hope to see elected this year, for reasons I’ve gone into in the past and will elaborate upon again, I assure you.

By erecting these two signs, I also take a stab at resolving a dilemma.

A couple of weeks ago, Micah Caskey, standing on the State House steps, asked me to vote for him on June 12. Specifically, he nodded toward James Smith — whom he knows I like for governor — a few feet away and said he hoped I wouldn’t be voting in the Democratic primary, because he needs my vote in the Republican.

The fact that I have to choose, and can only vote for one of the two people I want most to elect on primary day, is a gross injustice. But it’s one I have to confront.

Normally, I take a Republican ballot. Not because I’m a Republican, any more than a Democrat, but simply because of where I live. If I don’t vote in the Republican primary, I get no say in who represents me in most offices. If I lived in Richland County, I’d probably vote mostly in Democratic primaries — especially this year, with that solicitor’s race. We have to choose carefully: Our primary vote is critical because far too often, it’s the only time we get a real choice.

That we have to choose one ballot and miss having a say in the other races that are contested in the primary (but not in the fall) is wrong, a denial of our rights as citizens. It thoroughly disenfranchises us. But those who make the rules refuse to see that.

At least this way, whichever primary I vote in, I’ll have done something for both of these fine candidates. I just wish I could vote for both of them…

13 thoughts on “I refuse to be an ‘idiot.’ I’m joining the ranks of the involved

  1. Doug Ross

    One solution would be for the state to be removed from the primary process. Let the parties decide the rules for their primaries — and let them pay for them, too. Then you could likely vote in both if you wanted to.

    There is no valid reason for state funds / resources to be used to support the two major parties candidate selection process. The ballot in November is the only one that should be state funded. Which names get on the ballot should not be a government function.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, that’s backwards. If you let the parties run the primaries completely, they’ll CLOSE the primaries completely, allowing only those who can prove party loyalty to vote. Since these are usually the only real elections now, we the people must control them. Otherwise, our democracy is dead…

      1. Doug Ross

        Well, then change the law that prevents voting in both primaries. Isn’t that simple to do? Oh yeah, the PARTIES don’t want that to happen, right?

        We should not have to pay tax dollars for the two monopoly parties to select candidates where the typical voter will never voter for one (or both) of them. Let the parties reimburse the state for the cost of holding the primary elections — or else also allow every other party the same equal access to run their primaries as well. Can the Libertarian party participate in the primary process?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Oh yeah, the PARTIES don’t want that to happen, right?”

          You got that right. That’s why I want the rest of us, through our state government, to hang onto any control over the process that we have.

          Parties want to draw libertarians like you and independents like me out of the picture, and I refuse to let them do that…

          1. Doug Ross

            What control do we have exactly?

            And I still don’t hear a valid reason why all citizens should pay for the process of selecting a nominee for a particular party.

            We also should remove party affiliation from the ballot. You know who won’t allow that to happen? The two parties. They rely on ignorant voters and gaming the system to keep the two parties in control.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “We also should remove party affiliation from the ballot. You know who won’t allow that to happen? The two parties. They rely on ignorant voters and gaming the system to keep the two parties in control.”


              The control we have is that we get to vote in whichever primary we choose in a given election. In other states where they have party registration, you’re stuck with voting in the primary of the party you registered for. If there’s only one candidate running in “your” primary and there’s a lively contest between better candidates in the other, tough. You’re shut out.

              The ideal would be to leave out parties altogether, as you suggest. Have a unified primary, with the top two vote-getters going on the general-election ballot, and don’t allow party to be mentioned on either that OR the general election ballot. If you, for whatever reason, want to vote for the Democrat and you don’t know which one IS the Democrat without it being on the ballot, you probably shouldn’t be voting…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                As to this question: “And I still don’t hear a valid reason why all citizens should pay for the process of selecting a nominee for a particular party.”

                I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as the process that decides who’s going to be on the ballot. No one should be shut out of that process. And if the parties were in charge of the primaries, the rest of us would be shut out…

                1. Doug Ross

                  Do the Libertarian, Green, and other parties have access to the same process and resources for nominee selection? I don’t know but I assume they do not.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Nope. But I’m not sure how that works. I suppose they nominate their candidates at conventions or something, and then get them on the ballot somehow. I’m not sure whether there are reserved spots on the ballot for them, or whether each has to go through a petition process each time.

                    Anyone know the details of that? Since those parties have not been factors in elections I’ve covered, I don’t know…

              2. Claus2

                Brad why don’t you just tell us who to vote for? All of us ignorant people don’t understand politics the way you do, so please type up a list of those candidates we should vote for so we can print it out and take it with us to the polls on election day.

                That’s the only way you’re not going to constantly argue with and belittle those of us who disagree with you. I’m at the point where I’ll purposely vote opposite you just to cancel your vote out.

  2. Karen Pearson

    I’m all for keeping “parties ” out of it. We’re far too far along the way of voting for party instead of person. The candidates are forced to go farther and farther left or right in order to win a prime spot in their own party. This response encourages each party to go become even more “liberal” or “conservative.” Which means that in the next election the division becomes even greater, and ultimately excludes one side or the other from any possible voice in the ruling party. The ability of government to function disintegrates. Then we all stand around and decry our representatives because they can’t get anything done. This is madness.

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