Voters serve up a feast for political junkies

opinions

June 10, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Tuesday’s primary elections served up food for political rumination:
How will extremists fare in November? Watch Nevada’s senate campaign. Sen. Harry Reid, majority leader of the Senate, will face Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, who won the Republican primary.
Going George Bush one better, Angle has called for the privatization of both Medicare and Social Security.
With an eye on the gyrations of the stock market, years of low interest rates and a financial future impossible to read, a great many seniors and those about to enter those ranks may wonder what on earth she’s been sniffing: if Social Security had been “privatized” when Bush campaigned on the idea it would have been a disaster.
As for privatizing Medi-care, what could that mean but letting seniors pay for their own health care? Really? Medicare was created so that the elderly no longer had to choose be-tween eating and going to the doctor. Privatizing Medicare would mean do-ing away with Medicare. Period.
Angle also advocates less rather than more regulation of Wall Street financial institutions and wants to do away with the departments of Energy and Education.
Citizens in the other 49 states should tremble with fear and astonishment if Nevada sends Ms. Angle to Washington with her Alice-in-Wonderland to-do list.
If the far, far right carried the day among Nevada Republicans, money did its thing in Arkansas and California.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln survived in Arkansas be-cause way too much out-of-state money was spent by labor unions and liberal advocacy groups attacking her and urging the election of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, her opponent.
Sen. Lincoln was on the endangered list for supporting the health care reform bill and the economic recovery measures. She beat Halter because he had so much special interest money spent on his behalf and, chances are, because he was seen as more liberal than Lincoln. Remember, Arkansas elected Mike Huckabee — head spokesman for the religious right — its governor in 1996 and kept him in office until 2007.
CALIFORNIANS are accustomed to high-dollar poltical campaigns. And perhaps it takes millions of dollars to reach and persuade 36.5 million people. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina obliged.
Whitman won the Republican nomination for governor by spending about $71 million. Less than 1 percent of her eBay wealth, to be sure, but a huge amount of money nonetheless. She defeated Steve Poizner, state insurance commissioner, who invested a mere $24 million of his own money in his losing campaign.
Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Pack-ard, became the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat Democrat Barbara Boxer will defend in November. Fiorina left Hewlett-Packard under a cloud. She also spent her own money lavishly to defeat two opponents in the primary. She gives Sen. Boxer multiple targets for fall’s campaign arrows.

THE MOST interesting vote in Tuesday’s elections also came in California. Voters there adopted a constitutional amendment by referendum which re-vamps the way local, state and some federal candidates will be chosen in primaries.
The closed primary system under which party members pick party candidates will be junked, California’s new primary elections will be open to all voters and all candidates. The two candidates receiving the most votes for an office, regardless of their party affiliation, will then run against each other in the general election.
Only the presidential primaries were left out of the reform.
Under the closed party primary system, far left voters tended to dominate Democrat primaries and far right voters picked the Republican candidates. The open primary reform was sold on the argument that it would restore power to voters in the middle who tend to vote more for moderates on the basis of their perceived qualifications than for those with ideological platforms.
California will give this radical change a chance to float or sink.
If it’s still above water a few elections from now, Kansas and the other 48 states should give it a hard look.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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