Open Primaries spokesman Paul Johnson serves up the false equivalence with a side dish of smug

28 Sep 2012 06:58 pm
Posted by: Donna

On a mutual Facebook friend’s page I asked former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson a question I’ve asked several supporters of the Open Primaries, aka Top Two. It’s a question that typically provokes one of two responses: the person gets snippy or they just ignore it. I give credit to Johnson for taking a stab at answering it, but his response reveals a lot about the mentality of the centrist establishment elitists behind this thing. I have cut and pasted our exchange:

Me: Paul, you have said more than once that extremists on “both sides” are contributed to the problems in this state. Can you please describe the extremism you see on the Democratic side? Please cite specific examples of positions taken by prominent Democrats in Arizona that equate with things like Birtherism and the belief that the UN is plotting to take over American cities. Also please cite examples of Democratic legislation proposed that rivals the birther bill or guns on campus. Thanks.

Paul Johnson: The party not in control rarely espouses more radical positions. Instead what they usually do is throw rocks. Many business and educational leaders were surprised before the proposition went to the voters to increase taxes to pay for education, that they had a difficult time getting Democrats to vote for a proposal that would have passed the tax increase by a vote of the legislature. Voting for the proposal would’ve made the democrats equally culpable to attacks by people who opposed the tax. So in the end, the real issue by one Party was how do you keep a majority by the other Party it was how do you get a majority. It is exactly this type of thinking that has dispirited many. But I would recommend to you if believe you views are part of the center, You will have nothing to fear in Open election where candidates are elected by Democrats independence and Republicans alike.

I love how he thinks I’m a centrist. And notice how Johnson doesn’t answer my question at all. He can’t because there simply aren’t any Democrats in the legislature who are the left wing radical equivalent of all the Kooks in the GOP caucus. But this is not the first time some business-y type in Arizona has glibly described the Democrats in the legislature as “rock throwers”. Must be a talking point among them. Johnson goes on to blather about Democrats balking at the sales tax referral two years ago. It is true that many of the Dems didn’t like the regressive nature of the tax and didn’t trust the GOP majority not to use the sales tax as an excuse to make deeper cuts to education from the general fund. But in the end half the Democrats in the House joined with half the Republicans to get the referral to the ballot. Bipartisan-ship!

Johnson seems to think that if Democrats took over the lege you would see a crapstorm of radical left wing legislation akin to what we’ve seen from the GOP majority for years now. He could, you know, look at the blue states led by Democratic legislatures and note the absence of crazy legislation but then he’d have to give up his cherished false equivalence. Then again, it’s likely that guys like Paul Johnson do see legislators not jumping to do the bidding of business interests 100% of the time without hesitation as extremism on a par with wanting to arm college campuses and believing that the President was born in Kenya.

Some of my fellow Democrats are saying they support top two simply because right wing Republicans hate it. I certainly understand the sentiment because it’s always fun to make wingnut heads explode. But you have to do it smartly, like by having Sandra Fluke speak in prime time, not in a way that undermines the Democrats. That said, while I do oppose top two because it’s a bad idea, part of me does want to indulge in some schadenfreude at the expense of some very smug rich centrists in Arizona should this thing lose.


  1. Comment by mike slater on September 28, 2012 7:09 pm

    Count me as a no on top two primary.

  2. Comment by Paul Johnson on September 28, 2012 8:14 pm

    Donna is a true believer and I truly appreciate that. For those who are interested here was the rest of the conversation:

    If in the end we keep the partisan system Arizona politics will simply stay status quo. I respect the right to differing opinions on Open Elections Open Government, it is a big change and it is worthy of debate. I would only encourage you to think beyond your passion for your party and instead think of what is best for the people they represent. Think about how working people, women, African Americans, Hispanics and the gay community have fared under the system we have now?

    Extremists have had a significant economic and social impact on our state. Partisan primaries with gerrymandered districts have allowed this extreme minority to direct our states action. In Arizona, 26 out of 30 districts are safe districts. For the next decade we will have 16 Rep districts and 11 Dem districts and no real competition in the general election. Less than 4% of the population who vote in those primaries that will select our leaders. These leaders who only have to appeal to these extreme voters will be, as they have been, more extreme than the general public.

    The open primary, while not a panacea, would allow EVERY voter the right to vote in every election. Elected officials would be forced to address Republicans, Independents and Democrats in every election. This will change the civility as well as the moderating the extremes. Like city elections sometimes the top two will be from the same party. Two Republicans were in the Russel Pierce recall. The moderate won. Had it been a Republican and a Democrat in that stacked district, the Extreme candidate would have succeeded. In stead of looking at who is right, this Open system allowed us to look at what is right. The Open Elections system will result in more moderate centrist candidates being elected office.

    Think about the damage the partisan system has done our states brand in the past few years: The biggest issue in 2008 was the economy. Our state responded with a birther bill, an immigration bill, guns on campus, they rejected federal dollars for unemployment, and rejected Medicare dollars even when hospitals agreed to provide the match, costing us over 80,000 high end jobs. We cut schools, Universities, passed a unconstitutional immigration bill, they turned down a bully bill because it included gay children. Polls said the public was overwhelmingly on the other side. But the Legistlature isn’t elected by a majority. They are elected in gerrymandered districts by low turnout primaries with no competition in the general election. If we keep the partisan system take this to the bank, it will just stay the same.

    The Open Elections Open Government initiative has been endorsed by over 50 state business leaders and the majority of business organizations including Greater Phoenix Leadership, The Flagstaff 40, Southern Arizona Leadership, the Tucson Chamber, Tucson Hispanic Chamber and other business organizations. These are leaders who have work with the Legistlature and who risk much to oppose the leadership who are in vehement opposition to this measure, as our their extremists members who fear this will end their control over the majority of the state.

    But also look at groups your party says they represent: Open Elections is picking up endorsements from Police, Fire, and other Labor groups, environmental groups, groups involved with supporting women’s reproductive freedom, Chicanos Por La Casa, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber.

    I know when one has already spoken against a measure it is hard to retract. But i would explore you to think about what the existing system has resulted in for Arizona, what it had meant to education, healthcare, women, children, business and jobs. Open Elections is not a panacea, but it is at least a start.

  3. Comment by Donna on September 28, 2012 10:13 pm

    Paul, that’s a lot of words containing no answer to my question of who the “extremist” Democrats are.

  4. Comment by Appleblossom on September 29, 2012 10:53 am

    The open primary, while not a panacea, would allow EVERY voter the right to vote in every election

    What is the point of having a primary then?

    One election to RULE THEM ALL.

    Oh and answer Donna’s question because I want to know as well who the extremists are in the Democratic Party and how many of those are in positions of power.

  5. Comment by Suzanne on September 29, 2012 11:56 am

    Paul, I think the Democrats were more enlightened than extreme. It appears that while Republicans were telling the public that the 1 cent sales tax was going to fund education with police protection as a side note; that turned out to be wholly untrue! Very little of the 1 cent sales tax went to fund education.
    Extremist Republicans are very good liars as well. Brewer has flat out said that even if voters approve a continuation of the 1 cent sales tax, there is no guarantee that the KOOKY legislature will not cut even more education spending from the general funds.

    I think there was a lot of hope that Independents would moderate the KOOK factor in our state politicians. Mike Slater proves otherwise. He has said that he is Independent and he votes straight Republican party ticket every election. For the past 50years Republicans (with many extremist) have been at the helm of Arizona government and Independents have made no difference in moderating the KOOK factor in Arizona

  6. Comment by mike slater on September 29, 2012 2:14 pm

    Suzanne, I left the Republican party 10 years ago because some of the candidates were not conservative enough for me. John McCain comes to mind.

    It’s a myth that all Independents are all somehow moderates.

    I’m perfectly happy with the Arizona state government.

  7. Comment by Liberal Democrat Friend of Bruce Ash on September 29, 2012 3:27 pm

    Hey, if open primaries is so awesome, why not just have a proportionally-elected legislature? Instead of voting for candidates, have people vote for a party platform– then Paul Johnson’s “Don’t kick undocumented immigrants out (but don’t make our cheap labor eligible to vote either)” Super Moderate Independent Centrist Party will be on the ballot, instead of the candidates who get the most votes (Sylvia Allen and Al Melvin)

  8. Comment by Timmys Cat on September 29, 2012 11:51 pm

    Whoo-wee that boy does go on. That’s one heck of a lot of tap dancing around a question.

    You will have nothing to fear in Open election where candidates are elected by Democrats independence and Republicans alike.

    When a professional politician says there is nothing to fear, best be wary at the least. Something is up with this
    whole thing that bugs me. It’s the candidates can run as any party thing.
    You gotta know this will be gamed with ringers and fake PACs pouring money into their campaigns to dilute the competition for the candidate chosen by business interests.
    I simply don’t think it’s been thought through as to what a can of worms it will open.
    You got your answer, Diva. When a statement is made without any proof, nor is any attempt made to provide proof, in my book that pretty well means that statement is a lie.

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