Diligent voters are now the “angriest mob”, per Paul Johnson

16 Feb 2016 01:21 am
Posted by: Donna

johnson top two
Paul Johnson, Open and Honest Coalition

It used to be, not long ago, that voters who never missed any election were known as “good citizens”. But as the country has become more polarized and increasingly ungovernable, thanks entirely to one party (the GOP) being overtaken completely by rabid reactionaries, there is an increasing tendency by the Serious People to blame the voters for what they sat back and allowed to happen for decades*. This has certainly been the strategy of the people behind the Open “Primary”** initiative (AKA Top Two) in Arizona, which is currently getting signatures for the 2016 ballot.

The Arizona Republic has relentlessly promoted Top Two for years now, running numerous favorable articles and editorials on it since the first version (which failed) was introduced in 2012. Last Saturday, there was this softball interview with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a main backer of the initiative.

Why did the Open and Honest Coalition form?

The existing system discriminates against the 1.2 million voters who choose to not affiliate with a party, the largest group in Arizona. All taxpayers pay for primary elections, but independents are barred as candidates from those ballots and forced to choose a party ballot which they have already chosen to reject. Arizona had a 30-year record-low voter turnout in 2014 because voters aren’t given the freedom of choice.

Over $15 million in “dark money” was spent in 2014, principally on negative campaigns, which also hurts voter turnout. We must require disclosure of dark money and change the architecture of Arizona’s election system.

There was no push-back on any of that, including Johnson’s claim that Arizona’s record low turnout was due to “lack of choice”. California has had “open” primaries for two elections now and, lo and behold, also a record low turnout in 2014!

But it was at the end of the brief and decidedly less-than-hard-hitting interview that Johnson really lets you know (emphasis mine) the contempt he has for the people who currently vote in primaries.

If we don’t reform our election system where are we headed?

The American experiment, as we know it, will end. Public confidence in our political system is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of massive amounts of undisclosed money being poured into the American political system. As people lose faith, more will register as independents. Candidates who scream the loudest and incite the angriest mob will be elected by fewer citizens. The result will be a loss of faith in the republic.

There is a certain amount of anger in the American electorate, but it is most assuredly not evenly distributed between the parties, as you can see here:

anger election

I can’t speak to the possibly elevated anger of Arizona Republicans since I’m a Democrat but I can say that the “angry mob” of Democratic voters in Arizona have a history of nominating mild-mannered and moderate candidates to important offices. In 2014, those included the notably non-rageaholic Fred DuVal, Terry Goddard, Felecia Rotellini, and David Garcia for the statewide offices in addition to several legislative candidates such as Rep. Eric Meyer, who are not renowned for screaming.

Of course, it’s not that anger is always wrong! Those of us outraged by the constant attacks on public education and other necessary government functions by the GOP majority in Arizona are right to be! If you are not outraged, as the saying goes, it is because you are not paying attention. But I doubt that the people who currently vote in primaries in Arizona are primarily motivated by anger and it is dishonest of Paul Johnson to characterize us as an “angry mob”.

There are arguments, of varying degrees of veracity and logic, in favor of the Top Two initiative. The one Johnson is making about it somehow attracting less “angry” voters who will restore “faith in the republic” has no evidence for it and is insulting as hell to people who regularly vote, as good citizens have done since the founding of our republic.

*Especially galling since one of the Top Two backers is none other than Chuck Coughlin, who ushered in the election of Jan Brewer and the rest of the GOP slate in 2010 on the back of the racist SB1070.

**”Open primary” is a misnomer, since the major change the initiative makes is to the general election, when the majority of voters show up, and they would be faced with a very diminished “choice” on their ballots.

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