Sunday, May 18, 2014

Parties, Nominating Conventions, And The Unitary State



"Patriotism if you must, but –please! – no parades” -- George Bernard Shaw

The Democratic nominating convention was merely a dot placed over a predestined “i”. Despite Jonathan Pelto’s occasional pokes at Governor Dannel Malloy, no one in the state seriously entertained the notion that Mr. Malloy would not emerge from the Democratic nominating convention as the party’s chosen gubernatorial candidate. Within the Democratic Party, there will be no room during the upcoming elections for liberty to stretch its legs. Opposition will be sternly repelled. The Republican Party convention, held this year in the sprawling Mohegan Sun Casino complex, was a different matter.

Prior to the opening of the convention, a Hartford newspaper had already agitated for the abolition of party conventions. The paper favored primaries as the most “democratic” method of selecting candidates for office; conventions were a little bit too bossy for the paper’s tastes. The same paper has advocated opening party primaries to all and sundry, regardless of political affiliation, possibly because the paper regards political parties as useless excrescences.

This is the Shavian view of patriotism applied to political parties. “Patriotism, if you must,” said George Bernard Shaw, “but – please! – no parades.” Party politics, if you must, but – please! – no party conventions. And no political parties either, if you please. Who needs parades when one has Shaw? Who needs political parties when one has the editorial board of (insert the name of your favorite paper here)?

This silly position is on a par with saying, “News if you must, but no news outlets, please!” He who wills the end wills the means. You cannot have patriotism without public expressions of patriotism – that is what a parade is.

The Hartford paper cited former Republican U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, who once famously characterized himself as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl,” as supporting the paper’s views on party conventions and political parties.  Over the years, the editorial views of the paper and the eccentric political notions of Mr. Maverick have melded in such a manner that it is virtually impossible for a reader unused to the serpentine ways of Connecticut politics to disentangle the view of Mr. Weicker and those of the Hartford paper. They have become one and the same – which tells us all we need to know concerning the nature of politics and reporting in progressive Connecticut.

The real back story – even the real story about the Republican Party nominating convention 2014 – is much more interesting and entertaining than has been represented in Connecticut’s left of center media. It is true that the Democratic Party convention was a loud sleep-inducing snore, primarily because that nominating convention really was redundant. An edict from the Hartford paper successfully abolishing the 2014 Democratic Nominating Convention would have left Democratic politics precisely where it was before the Democratic delegates took their seats; and, of course, there will be no Democratic primary, and little on the Democratic side for media outlets to report. Sorry, no parade this time.

Here is the puritanical Shavian political universe, right before our eyes: no dispositive nomination convention, no primary, and no need for either. Indeed, in the unitary state, one party, like Aaron’s rod in scripture, swallows all the other parties. Now, that is a story worth covering. In the unitary state, there is no need for patriotism, or parades, or party conventions, or parties -- or news outlets, except as messaging relay centers.

Here is the Rubicon Connecticut is preparing to cross. Once we cross and burn our bridge, we will find ourselves, having arrived on the other side, in George Orwell’s Brave New World, where patriotism has been relegated to the dustbin of history and there are few manifestations of independence, liberty or creative thought. In a world in which everything has been decided by a unitary and permanent political oligarchy, there will be but one parade to march in. It should be noted that the word “patriotism” is here used to indicate a revolt against the established order. When Samuel Johnson said that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” he may have had in mind such “patriots” as Thomas Paine and American revolutionist Sam Adams.


In the unitary state, one need only obey to express one’s solidarity. Parties and political factions in which inconvenient ideas are manifested will have been abolished. And in a state in which there is only one subdued and co-opted media, there can only be one thought – shut up and march in the only remaining parade.

3 comments:

peter brush said...

advocated opening party primaries to all and sundry, regardless of political affiliation
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It surprises me pleasantly that whoever it is that controls the political process, either legislature or political parties, have not imposed open primaries on us. Not that our Republicans are prone to principled conservative positions, as yet able to articulate the virtue of constitutionally limited government, but it is organized around certain practical positions opposed to those of the radical social engineers, the Dems.
The left really does believe in openness, per se, really does believe that the happy society is one that perpetually challenges every (Western Civ) orthodoxy. The problem the Courant has is that it prefers multiple points of view to keep the established Dems honest, but it can't tolerate a party that disagrees with the principle of "openness," or that questions how we can afford the open society the Dems are imposing.
Robert Frost said writing "free verse" is like playing tennis without a net. Open (free) primaries are like playing tennis with both players on the same side of no net.

Daria Novak said...

As a delegate to the 2014 CT GOP convention I am happy to report I saw competition among candidates. We have a ways to go but, unlike the Democrats, we are not forced and don't walk lockstep with the state party organization. We think for ourselves and then choose to support the Republican Party.
It may be a little messy, but whoever said the republic would be free from challenges and contentious souls! We, in the GOP, have opinions and want the best candidates possible. The system by which we elect them can improve, but I am certain we are a more open Party than the CT Democrats. Since only a 15% vote total is needed to automatically move from the convention to primary cycle, I do question why we spend on a convention run by the GOP state party organization when we end up having a primary every election. We are 1 of 3 states doing this and it doesn't make much sense.

peter brush said...

competition among candidates
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There is no doubt competition, but for those of us out here trying to govern ourselves by choosing suitable representatives it is virtually impossible to determine what the competition is about. Foley doesn't appear to believe in anything so he fits right in with the traditions of the Republican Party's Nutmeg Branch. And how is his open-mindedness compared to McKinney's or Boughton's? God only knows, and at this point maybe even He believes that explication of public policy by politicians is closed-minded, exclusionary, and triumphalist; not to mention politically risky.