Primaries Point Up
At this time in any election year, presidential primary contests are held in state after state, and many people regard them as of no consequence. It’s fairly easy to anticipate who will get the nod from a given political party, especially in the case of the incumbent. For many people, the result is indifference toward the entire election process. They already know how this story is going to turn out, so why bother going to the polls, no matter what the elective office or the contest being decided?
We tend to take many things for granted, among them the process by which we determine who our elected leaders will be. It is well to remember, especially now, that this nation was founded on the premise that man is a reasoning, thinking being who is capable of governing himself. Until the Founding Fathers made representative democracy a viable political concept, ordinary citizens were regarded as sources of revenue for whatever person or institution to which they swore fealty and paid tribute. That they had a right to have a say in making the laws that ruled their lives—and the person who headed the government that made and enforced those laws—was unheard of.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution gave the populace a voice in their destiny for the first time in human history. And for the first time, too, peaceful succession of governing bodies came to be regarded as the norm. Even today, in most of the world, peaceful change in government at lawfully mandated times and circumstances is all too rare a phenomenon.
The primary elections in which delegates are chosen to attend their respective parties’ conventions and vote for the candidate chosen by the people who elected those delegates are notable for many things, one of which is the absence of bloodshed. In the United States, we change from one administration to another without missing a beat and with no disruption in our daily lives. In some other places, they count bodies, not votes. Often, a regime changes through bloody riots that are stage-managed in order to bring in a new ruler intent on enriching himself and tightening his grip on the people he tyrannizes. If elections are held, they are so much window dressing for the head man to cover his tracks and proclaim to the world what an honestly elected leader he is. Meanwhile, the head man’s henchmen are quietly—or publicly, whichever best intimidates the most people—eliminating whoever had the temerity to oppose him.
Peaceable, orderly change in government is one of the great gifts America offers the world. We who are so fortunate as to live in the land of the free should not hesitate to show our appreciation by going to the polls in primaries and general elections. The democratic process belongs to all of us, but we will keep it only if we participate in it.