Party affiliation is like having a brand name

Party affiliation is like having a brand name

By Seth Grossman

(Reprinted from June 1, 2011 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

?Primary a Hurdle ? Primary challenges for state Senate and Assembly seats in two local districts have forced Republican and Democratic candidates to pay closer attention to the June 7 primary rather than focus all of their efforts on the general election.?

? The Press of Atlantic City, April 25

Like our daily newspaper, most Republican and Democratic Party leaders look at next Tuesday?s election as a distraction and a waste of money. To them, the only serious elections are in November, when most people vote.

Last year Democrat Ed McGettigan, the Atlantic County clerk who prepares the election ballots, even proposed getting rid of primary elections paid for by taxpayers.

After all, both the Democratic and Republican political parties are private, nonprofit corporations, just like most businesses, churches and condo associations. Like the United Way, McDonald?s Restaurants and the teachers union, the Republican and Democratic parties franchise organizations in which hundreds of separate local, county, state and national organizations have permission to use the Republican or Democratic brand name of the franchise ? if they comply with their agreements.
The franchise organizations of the Democratic and Republican political parties, like most nonprofit corporations and associations, are run by written charters, constitutions or bylaws. According to these documents, party members choose committees to run the organizations every few years, and these committees choose a chairperson, secretary and treasurer to run the party organization on a day-to-day basis.

The mission of most business corporations is to make a profit for the owners. Most charitable corporations serve a particular charity. The one and only business of both the Democratic and Republican corporations is to pick candidates to run for public office ? and then do what is needed to get them elected.

You don?t need a political party to get on the ballot as a candidate for public office. Just ask someone like Willie Norwood of Atlantic City, who is a losing candidate for some public office every year.

You don?t need a McDonald?s or Wendy?s franchise to open up a hamburger restaurant. But if you want to sell hamburgers to, or get votes from, thousands of people who know nothing about you, you need a well-known brand name, expensive advertising and a team of experienced and trained marketing professionals. It takes years of hard work and lots of money to build these things from scratch. But you get them instantly from an established franchise.

What does it take to be a voting member, leader or candidate for one of these private Republican or Democratic franchise corporations?

Years ago, it was hard. You had to apply for membership and pay dues ? just like for an exclusive country club. Members of the Republican and Democratic parties then chose their officers and candidates at closed private meetings or conventions held at hotels, social clubs or taverns.

Party leaders like Nucky Johnson often paid people from out of town to pack these meetings, while qualified local voters were kept out. Liquor, cigars, cash and even women were often passed around to win votes. Votes were often taken openly by show of hands, with strong-armed thugs staring down anyone who opposed party leaders.

To end this abuse, the ?progressive? movement of the early 1900s got the government to take over this process by running the secret ballot primary elections we have today.

This explains why any registered voter can instantly become a full voting member of either the Republican or Democratic party without joining any club, going to any meeting or paying any dues. You simply show up at your regular polling place next Tuesday, June 7 and tell the official which party you want to join. Once you join a political party this way, you can vote that day by secret ballot for whoever you want to be the leaders or the candidates of your chosen party.

When you join the Republican or Democratic Party you have no obligation to support the party in any way or vote for any of its candidates in November. And if you are unhappy with the party you join, you can quit that party at any time and join the other party simply by giving 50 days? advance written notice to the Board of Elections.

Most people call themselves ?independents? because they refuse to vote in the primary elections of the Republicans or Democrats. But doesn?t that make them dependent on those who do vote, and determine our choice of candidates?

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and on 92.1FM 8-10 a.m. Saturdays. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.

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