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Talking Back

Brett Barry
By Brett Barry
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 3, 2004
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Independents, Arizona's disenfranchised

The day has finally come for Arizonans to join in the presidential election process. Today, thousands of Arizonans will go to the polls to cast their votes for the Democratic candidate they want to replace George Bush in November. It is one of the greatest opportunities for Americans to make their voice heard in the political world. However, there is one segment of the Arizona population whose voice will not be heard today. They will be discriminated against for their political beliefs, and they will be denied the opportunity to vote for their candidate of choice. What's going on? Someone get Jesse Jackson here in Arizona to stop this injustice!

What group of people is it that will be turned away from the polls today? The independent voters of Arizona.

That's right. If you are not registered in one of the political parties, you will not have a say as to what choices you'll have come November. That is not fair or right.

Arizona is just one of the many states to have this partisan-encouraging form of election. It is called the closed primary.

You should vote based on your conscience and beliefs, not by a politician's political affiliation.

Why should you and I be forced into aligning ourselves with one of the two poles of our American partisan system? Personally, I don't think that either party is, in itself, a representation of my beliefs - though I do know for whom I will not be voting in a certain election in November. Each party has some representatives whom I trust and believe in. And conversely, there are plenty of politicians on each side who I completely don't trust.

The trick to this democracy thing is to elect those you believe will make the country a better place. You should vote based on your conscience and beliefs, not by a politician's political affiliation.

I truly believe that our country would be a much better place if we followed our original president's precedent to avoid any semblance of partisan politics. Washington believed that parties "are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people ... to usurp for themselves the reins of government - destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

However, if we must have political parties, then we should at least make the primary elections open so as to make the process more democratic.

Having a closed primary caters to the party elite within the Democratic and Republican parties who want to see their polar agendas amplified. In an open primary, the general public can vote for the candidate who best represents it; with closed primaries, the independent public is force-fed a pair of candidates that the majority of the population did not want to see in the general election.

Now some of you may think open primaries provide a way for people of other parties to try and "sabotage" the opposition's chance of election in November by voting for an "unelectable" candidate of the rival party. First of all, that is a ridiculous conspiracy theory. Second, with open primaries, people tend to vote for those whom they believe in. How else could someone like John McCain beat Bush in New Hampshire in 2000?

He was not an "unelectable" candidate; people just responded to his ideas and principles. He won New Hampshire because he had the support of the independents and crossover Democrats. He was way behind in votes by registered Republicans; almost all of the core Republicans were terrified at the prospect of McCain representing them.

It was obvious that he could attract more middle-of-the-road voters than Dubya, but he did not represent the ideals of the Republican elite. So, despite his appeal to the general public, he was beaten by Bush in the closed primaries because the party elite wanted Dubya.

Opening Arizona's primaries would allow us to actually vote for whomever we believe is the best candidate - without being forced into declaring allegiance to a political party. I want to vote, but I'm not going to obtain the right to vote by joining a party I don't believe in. As Alexis de Tocqueville said, "There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle." Opening the primary election allows us to vote for the person we actually want without joining a party we don't want.

Brett Berry is a fiercely independent sophomore majoring in regional development. He can be reached at

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