Posted by Zach Handler on September 16, 2015 at 12:37 PM
My Open Primaries Story
Ever since I was a teenager, I was very passionate about politics, and I have always identified as progressive. Moreover, I always had thought the best way to express that was by supporting Democratic candidates. As a high school student, I told the field director of a campaign for a Democratic U.S. Senator that I was in college so that I could work as an intern.
After graduation, I even took a semester off before college to work for an organization that was supporting Democratic candidates. I was disgusted by the policies and rhetoric of my U.S. Congressman Todd Akin (you know-this guy), George W. Bush, and other conservatives. I felt the best way to fight them was to support the other team. Go Democrats!
At first, it was very exciting to see things from the inside. Working fundraising events and getting to rub shoulders with bigwigs in the political establishment made me feel important. However, as time went on I felt further and further disconnected and disillusioned by the very people who I had long admired.
I have a specific memory of enthusiastically introducing myself at an event to a “progressive” Democratic state senator who clearly could not have cared less and dismissed me to talk to someone he considered way more important and connected.
It seemed that when the crowds and cameras went away, the politicians I had placed on a pedestal “turned it off” and seemed to be the same self-interested jerks I thought I was fighting against. I found the “us vs them” attitude which was overly prevalent in party politics to be inherently un-progressive.
Once a person has been indoctrinated to one side it is very much frowned upon to have any objective criticism of anyone else on that side, as you are risking not being seen as a team player. It was even more frowned upon to say anything-at-all positive about people on the other side as you risked being seen as a traitor. I decided that I was sick of drinking the kool-aid and I was done. Politics, one of my greatest passions in my life, had fizzled out—or so I thought.
As an adult, I focused on other areas of my life outside of politics until I was given an opportunity to work with the structural political reform movement. For someone who had a college degree in politics and had worked on political campaigns, I have to admit, my knowledge about structural reform was quite limited.
I really had no idea how independents were locked out of voting in primaries and that this was supported by both parties. I had no idea that rigging the electoral map through Gerrymandering was supported by both parties. I had no idea that shutting down independent voices from the PCEA to the FEC was supported by both parties. Indeed, my time working on these issues has been eye opening.
I know many millennials, like myself, are passionate progressives, but have said “enough is enough!” and have rejected membership into the parties along with their disingenuous politicians. That is why I share this story. Unfortunately, those who reject party membership, in most states, are giving up their right to participate in the primary for doing so (where 95% of elections are decided).
I have come to the conclusion that democracy is just not a progressive issue, but it is THE progressive issue of our time. I know how many of you are frustrated with the system, and have given up like I almost did. I invite you to join me in the fight for nonpartisan elections and structural political reform!