Party Transparency: Isn’t there an elefant in this room?

A shiver, well at least a small one, goes down my spine every time I see transparency and claims about fairness mixed in with party politics. There are two big issues running around, the first being superdelegates, the back-room deals, and uncertainty over the fairness of a confusing multi-level delegate-based system to choose party candidates. What bothers me here is that registered Democrats choose to be registered Democrats. Unlike in government transparency where if you live here not only do you not choose to be subject to U.S. law but you also have no other alternative governments to choose from, in politics you are free to choose any party or start your own.

I’m not so heartless to not think that it’s unfortunate that the decision-making process to choose the national candidates is as opaque as it is, but why isn’t anyone talking about why people actually aren’t free to choose alternative parties? That’s the elephant that ought to be in this room. In commerce, when things are unfair for a lack of options we cry monopoly and get things rectified by the FTC. In politics, why isn’t anyone complaining of the same?

The second issue is the so-portrayed disenfranchisement of Michigan and Florida Democratic voters on account of their states flaunting the national committee’s directive over primary dates. Do we penalize the voters there for the actions of their state party leaders? I don’t see how the voters are being penalized. The voters elected their party leaders to make the decision over the primary dates: It’s too bad their elected leaders did something stupid once in office (as elected officials often do, right?). Clearly the public acquiesced to the decision in any case. What’s the recourse? Besides switching parties, citizens can vote to fire the elected officials when the next election comes around.

But where’s the elephant? It’s difficult to fire party leaders when they control the candidate selection process. Do I vote Republican in the next general election, going against my core beliefs, because the incumbent Democrat goofed on a non-governmental issue? Probably not. There obviously won’t be a serious Democratic challenger either, and certainly not one who is going to use this as a campaign issue if he wants any support from his party.

For good reason there are few legal restrictions on how parties operate internally — after all, free and fair elections means freedom from government oversight. But without rules imposed from above, there needs to be freedom of choice. That’s the real issue here, not transparency and accountability.

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