So Wisconsin has survived another primary. The results offered little excitement. Almost every person running for office who had either incumbency or more money than the opponent was victorious, just like in general elections.
A century ago "Fighting Bob" La Follette created the open primary: Voters do not have to be affiliated with a political party; they can choose to vote for candidates of any one party in the primary. But if he were alive today, I think he’d change some of the details.
In La Follette’s day the parties had a voice in recruiting candidates as well as funding and staffing the candidates. Today the party is irrelevant and big money is the dominant player in the game. If you can get enough signatures and you have enough money (either your own or someone else’s), you can be a candidate for public office as a Democrat even if you are not a Democrat. That is absurd. The party should have some control over who can run under its banner.
This year, for the fourth time, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is running as a Democrat even though he is as far right as Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman. You don’t have to pass any honesty, loyalty, or competency tests, or disclose anything about the person who is funding your campaign, and can ignore the party platform. That’s why a new system is needed. How can a right-winger like Clarke, an NRA backer opposed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other regular Democrats in Milwaukee County, be allowed to run as a Democrat? Clarke won the primary, so now the choice for voters in the general election for sheriff in Milwaukee County is between two Republicans. Egad!
Further evidence that the system broken: Gary George, a convicted felon, was allowed on the ballot as a Democrat, without permission of the party — whoa, Nellie! The primary system needs to be revised.
It looks like Grothman, who is as conservative as Clarke, has won the Republican primary to succeed Tom Petri in Congress. Grothman was the guy who called the Capitol protesters “slobs.” He opposes affirmative action and Martin Luther King Day and tried to destroy Obamacare. No issues were discussed in his campaign, only the depth of his conservatism. He distinguished himself from others in the primary election by pointing out that he had sponsored 60 bills that were signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker. Who knows anything about those laws? Their content was not a factor in the primary. While I disagree with Grothman on virtually every issue, at least he did not pretend to be a Democrat and ran as a Republican, as silly as that sounds!
When we vote in primaries, we should know who is a real Democrat and who is a pretender. It's time to figure out a better system.
A parting shot: In Forbes' ranking of wealthy private companies in America, the largest privately held company is Cargill with 2013 sales of $136.7 billion. Koch Industries ranks second with 2013 revenues of $115 billion. Dell is third. Bechtel, the construction company that built the Hoover Dam and the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, ranks fourth. Mars, maker of Snickers and M&Ms, is the fifth largest. At No. 36, Racine's S.C. Johnson is the largest Wisconsin family business with 2013 revenues of $9.6 billion. Aren’t we happy that only one of these families is trying to take over our democracy!