The Illusion of Choice

Does your vote really matter anymore or has our election system degraded to the illusion of choice? In my opinion, State and Federal elections have been an illusion for years, but this election is one of the first times its been really noticeable to the public. The problem is twofold. First, the public believes only a major party candidate can win so most vote for who they perceive to be the lesser of the two evils. Second, the major parties are private so the public has no right to participate in their nominating process.

Washington State has made this even worse with the Top Two primary. Our state has institutionally eliminated choice from the general election. Yes, there is a choice between two candidates, but this windowing system effectively forces the choice to be one of the candidates from the top two political parties. As a result, the major parties control the debate. Issues they agree on can’t be discussed.

But anyone can participate in a parties primary right? Not true. The political parties have the first amendment to protect them! While the first amendment protects everyone’s right to free speech, it also protects the political party’s right to choose its own candidates by whatever process it deems appropriate. Thanks to the Washington Clean Indoor Air Act these meetings no longer take place in a smoke-filled back room, they are only open to party leadership. Generally this should be the party grassroots. In Washington State, most parties hold meetings of Precinct Committee Officers to endorse candidates but in some cases it might be a much smaller group.

For example, the King County Republican Party chooses its candidates via an Executive Committee, which largely consists of appointed members. The Democratic Party has superdelegates, which are elected officials. Both parties are setup to perpetuate the status quo. This is where the “establishment” comes from and when voters see it, they try to rebel by choosing the outsider candidates.

Now Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both exposing the establishment and using that brief glimpse into the internal workings of the major political party to drive voters their way. This can only happen when a large portion of the party grassroots disagrees with the party leadership. Donald Trump has succeeded, and will soon be the new establishment. We have yet to see what will happen to Bernie Sanders.

One of Donald Trump’s biggest aids was actually Ron Paul. The some factions of the Republican Party was merciless in driving his supporters away from the party, and these very rules gave Donald Trump the foothold he needed. Now that the voters are seeing behind the primary, will the same thing carry over to the general election? The Libertarian party is gaining ground. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee of the Democrats, this will likely be a record breaking election for them.