The Party belongs to the People, not the Insiders!
What is meant when you hear “We have to have a united party!” Usually, it means when their candidate obliterates yours in the Primary because they smear your candidate mercilessly and spend ten times the amount of money, they want you to support their candidate in the General.
But it’s not meant to be applied in the reverse scenario, i.e., their candidate loses and yours wins. If you think I’m wrong, remember Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware? Both of these tea party candidates beat incumbents in Primary elections, and the party refused to support them afterwards. That’s party “unity” for you.
The Party establishment hates a contested Primary. They want their chosen candidate, period. You are not supposed to have a choice until the General Election. And that’s not really a choice at all, is it?
When pundits and party operatives use a nebulous phrase like “party unity,” you have to look a little deeper into the context of their statement. They are appealing to people’s natural aversion to confrontation and challenges. They want to stifle opposition by labeling challengers “troublemakers,” and “just doesn’t get along well with others.”
The question “How will you unite the party?” is a trap. What does it mean? Give the appearance that everyone is “united” behind a candidate in the General Election (some want us united in the Primary.) A better question is how do you handle dissent within the party? You handle dissent by establishing openness and fairness, not by pretending disagreements don’t exist. We have Primary elections for a reason: so the voters can choose who they prefer to be their candidate. Therefore, all candidates must be given a fair and equal opportunity.
The Party can play an important role in this by hosting candidate forums and other events to give the candidates, committee members, and the public, maximum opportunity to meet all the candidates in person, hear them speak, and answer questions. By being active in the Primary, the party will get more people involved, informed, and create good will among its members.
It is also good for the candidates, as it gives them the necessary practice they will need when they go on to the General, or run for office in the future. It energizes committee members by getting them more involved early on in the process. When committee members see that the party is making every effort to help all candidates in the Primary, ensuring a fair process, they are more likely to “unite” behind the Primary winner.
If the party does not play an active, neutral role in the Primary, committee people and voters know this gives an edge and an upper hand to the candidate with the most money, usually an incumbent. This is not necessarily the “better” candidate, or the candidate that would be chosen if voters learned more about each candidate. This contributes to voter apathy and disenfranchisement in the entire political process.
When the committee members and the public see the party making an effort to bring all candidates to the people in the Primary, it will help restore faith in the process, create higher (and more educated) voter turnout, make our candidates stronger, and over time, attract a higher caliber of candidate to run for office.
What could be better for the party and the people?