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J. KARL MILLER: Two-party system might not be perfect, but it works

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:49 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 5, 2012

Periodically, our two-party system of Republicans and Democrats comes under attack as an outdated and cumbersome instrument of either gridlock or parallelism, depending upon the ideological makeup of the opposition. Naturally, during a presidential election campaign, the rhetoric is turned up several notches.

The two-party system has served the nation reasonably well for more than 200 years, ensuring that multiple voices may be heard on the issues of the day. The current two-party alignment of Democrats and Republicans was the result of the only third-party to achieve major party status.

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In 1854, a coalition of anti-slavery forces from both major parties combined with the pro-business factions of the Whigs to form the Republican Party. The Republican's first candidate, John C. Fremont, lost the 1856 election, while the second, Abraham Lincoln, won in 1860.

Although the arguments favoring establishment of a third major party or the adoption of a multi-party system continue to attract a volume of vocal support, there has been little movement toward that goal. Nonetheless, in addition to the Republicans and Democrats, there is no lack of political parties offering candidates for election.

Since 1900, we have seen Progressives, Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, Independents, Dixiecrats and Constitutionalists as some of the political entities. With the exceptions of Theodore Roosevelt, who received 88 electoral votes in 1912; Robert LaFollette, who received 13 electoral votes in 1924; Strom Thurmond, who received 39 electoral votes in 1948; and George Wallace, who received 46 electoral votes in 1968, not one of the minor party candidates has managed to accumulate any electoral votes.

As a matter of record, the only modern elections in which fringe party candidates influenced the outcome were in 1992 when H. Ross Perot's Independent Party candidacy threw the election to Bill Clinton and in 2000 when Ralph Nader's Green Party amassed enough votes in Florida to hand that state and the presidency to George W. Bush. In reality, one has a better chance of winning by purchasing a lottery ticket than by voting for a third- or fourth-party candidate.

The two primary criticisms of the two-party system could not be further apart. One alleges the parties have morphed into similar or even mirror images of one another, while the other cites that political polarization stands in the way of reasonable consensus. Those subscribing to the former obviously lack political acumen inasmuch as the parties are ideologically dissimilar.

As for the knock on the polarization that is inherent in a two-party system, it actually lends a positive aspect. While it is commonly assumed that bipartisanship is the Holy Grail of political governing, it is highly overrated. Bipartisan cooperation works well in  mundane governance — highway speeds, celebration of holidays and joint resolutions of praise — but effective government requires honest debate and disagreement.

The positive aspects of the two-party system are that it is a more stable and easily managed system and, more importantly, that neither party's ideology will be enabled to dominate. A move toward the center and moderation is all but guaranteed as both parties' candidates must appeal to the growing block of voters who identify as Independents, about 40 percent in 2011.

Additionally, it would range from difficult to impossible for a third party to match the organization and finances necessary to threaten the two major parties over the long haul. Take exception as you will, but it takes donors with deep as well as shallow pockets to finance elections and administrative/functional organization to do the business of legislation.

There are among us some who look wistfully at the European multi-party systems, alleging that adhering to two parties is inherently less democratic and provides fewer choices. A practical and realistic response points out that if two-party gridlock impedes progress, imagine the effect of three or more parties deadlocked, causing a hopelessly hung legislature.

Our two-party system is far from perfect; however, it has proven the most effective in an imperfect world. We have never been without a number of other political parties — is it not reasonable to assume that if elevation of one or more to competitive status would create a better mousetrap that it would have come to pass?

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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Comments

Tony Black February 1, 2012 | 8:05 a.m.

Karl, Do you not pay attention to politics? I'm sorry, but I don't consider all the partisanship and gridlock "working". Bills that accomplish nothing while the real issues languish is not "working". Rhetoric is not "working". When they start putting party aside for the good of the people, then it will be "working". Till then, not so much.
While we don't need 10 or 12 parties like some countries, we need more than 2. Too many people are forced to "hold their nose" and pick the lesser of 2 evils, when their true beliefs don't truly fit either party. But as long as money dominates politics, nothing will change.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller February 1, 2012 | 10:06 a.m.

Mr Black, Rather than hit me with the self aggrandizing "Karl, Do you not pay attention to politics?" instead, ask yourself why multi-parties have have not taken shape as alternatives. There is no lack of political parties and there are no barriers to creating new ones. Whenever a sizeable plurality of the electorate determines the need for more significant multi-party power structure, it will come to pass.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 10:14 a.m.

TonyB says, "...while the real issues languish is not "working""
_________________

You miss the point. *THE* reason for partisanship, gridlock, more-than-one political party is "NO" agreement on what the *REAL* issues are. Your statement infers there is agreement and you cannot understand why the other side is recalcitrant about something so obvious to you.

There is little agreement. Heck, you can read posts on this forum and detect that fact. What's obvious to me is not obvious to you, and vice versa.

So, I think your argument is starting from the wrong place, i.e., you begin with "There is agreement." You should start with the premise there is no agreement on many problems and, especially, with the solutions.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 1, 2012 | 10:26 a.m.

With all do respect, there are barriers for new political parties in the way of the massive financial advantage and incumbancies that the existing two parties have on any newcomers. I am a libertarian if you really examine the full spectrum, but I always vote Republican. As the special interest groups gain more and more power and influence within the existing two parties, I do see at least a third brewing. There are many of us out there that would gladly call themselves Republicans if it weren't for the fact that a loud minority called the religious right has too much influence in the Republican party. I would not be floored if someone from 100 years in the future told me we have four parties. Repubs, Dems, Libertarian, Socialist...

(Report Comment)
Tony Black February 1, 2012 | 11:04 a.m.

Point taken, Michael. I suppose I expect people to be rational and agreeable, but that is not human nature. Especially in politics.

Mike Mentor is spot on. I vote democratic but I don't agree with several of the far lefts view points. But I disagree more with the right side. And there is a feeling, rightly so, that if you vote libertarian or green party or whatever, you waste a vote, because the big money backing the conventional candidates, and I use that term loosley, will prevail. That was my point to Mr. Miller. 3rd parties don't stand a chance as long as money rules elections. Or until big money gets behind a 3rd party.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black February 1, 2012 | 11:13 a.m.

An addendum: I don't support big money backing a 3rd party. Till we get the money out of politics period, it will be corrupt.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 11:20 a.m.

Tony: Yes. One person's "rational" is another person's "irrational", not only with identification of the problem but especially with the solution.

The political gulf is wide.

And, when you add in human qualities like ego, party financial health, ability to set the rules (i.e., power), narcissism, and the desire to keep your job....here we be.

Personally, I like gridlock. Such inaction eventually does become action, but it takes a long time (even decades) to get there. I'm fond of the "long time" part because it allows for further thought, planning, and compromise, instead of plowing full-steam ahead with no thought to unintended consequences. There are few governmental decisions that need to be made RIGHT NOW!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 11:22 a.m.

Tony: Regarding money spent in an election, who gets it?

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 1, 2012 | 11:35 a.m.

Messrs. Black & Mentor, One waits for "money" to be prohibited in our politics. (I know you are only referring to the "obscene" amounts) The other waits for religious right to be curtailed in their "influence" (doesn't state reasons or what influence). If you expect your selected third party to flourish after these obstacles are removed I suggest your satisfaction and the party will be "be a long time acomin'."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 11:39 a.m.

We spend more money on chewing gum than presidential elections.

How's that for assigning priorities for national problems?

Next time you see a chewer....browbeat him/her.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield February 1, 2012 | 1:02 p.m.

"Regarding money spent in an election, who gets it?"

The employees of KMIZ, KOMU, KRCG and the Tribune, to name just a few. The media love elections because the money spent on advertising is an enormous windfall.

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Ray Shapiro February 1, 2012 | 1:21 p.m.

The primary "job" of any political party is to get its candidates elected. Perhaps if the media was required to do public service announcements for third, fourth and fifth parties, we could purge the Democrat Party of its socialists/Marxists influenced infiltration, the Republican Party of its Tea Party infiltration and give some opportunity for those who want to focus in on a few key platform agenda items to compete.
Also, we'd have the chance for fiscal conservative/social moderates to have their own unique party.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 1, 2012 | 1:36 p.m.

Frank:
It's the Bilderberg's who conspire.
Also, for the record, former Republican presidential candidate, Senator McCain endorses Romney while his vice presidential candidate Palin practically endorses Gingrich.
As of now, it's between a Newt and a Mitt, with it looking better for the Mitt and bad for the Newt.
Don't know which sounds better, the presidential mitt or the presidential newt, but I certainly hope that president Obama is a one termer.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 1:43 p.m.

JimmyB: And signage companies, and writers, and those who put podiums together, and janitors, and hotels, and event coordinators, and florists, and rental outfits for chairs/podiums/bunting, and unions who have specific rules on who can unload and load, and truck drivers, and taxes on everything purchased retail, and restaurant owners and their employees, and lumber companies, and prostitutes, and.........

Many recipients are small business owners, especially the prostitutes (no tax collection here, tho).

Generally good for jobs.

Best to keep this in mind when skewering the money. I consider this a good side of campaigns. Circulates a lot of money in a real hurry.

But, of course, what we're really worried about is (1) the effect of advertising on folks that might vote NOT how we'd like, (2) being outspent, and (3) the quid pro quo.

I have no problems with the first, and my response to the second is "tough". I have serious problems with the third. That's why I'd like to see only proven, individual, US citizens contributing to ANY campaign, and I want a public and very strict accounting of who gave what and when. With limits/individual, which would stop one individual from collecting for many.

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Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 1:45 p.m.

President Newt?

President Salamander?

Kinda like Shrub?

Or Nobama?

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 1, 2012 | 2:03 p.m.

Since 85% of broadcast and print media vote Democrat, it is imperative that money be available to offset this unfair advantage. Perhaps when our colleges of journalism and media present a more balanced presentation of viewpoints, this will no longer be necessary.

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Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 2:12 p.m.

Don:

Well, there's a thought!

:^)

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 1, 2012 | 2:42 p.m.

To further elaborate on what Mike Mentor said challenging the Colonel's assertion that there are no barriers to create new parties, the existing major parties have thrown up roadblocks to new parties being formed. For example, Missouri requires collection of, I believe, 10,000 valid signatures for a new party to be put on the ballot statewide, something the Constitution Party did every two years until they were able to reach the required 2% in a statewide election to keep that ballot access for four years.

If I remember correctly, this requirement is separate from those required for Presidential candidates of the same party, which of course should be run in a private manner by those parties instead of using taxpayer-funded primaries.

Overall, third parties have it pretty well-off in Missouri when compared to other states. In Oklahoma, something like 75,000s signatures in about three weeks times is necessary to get anyone without a D or R behind their name on the ballot.

I would also question the Colonel's choice of words saying that Perot threw the election to Clinton. It was Bush's fault for not appealing to enough voters to put him in office over Slick Willy, not Perot's.

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Tony Black February 1, 2012 | 2:55 p.m.

I am sure there is money to be made on elections, otherwise we wouldn't have so many. But that's not the money that troubles me. I have no problem with that, other than the corporations are people, too theory, and foreign money allowed to influence elections. The money that troubles me is the lobbists that line the pockets of the politicians of both parties. If you can't buy an election, then you can buy a congressman.

I don't know who said it first, but I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 1, 2012 | 2:55 p.m.

@Frank
If I described the problems with the religious right we would go all blue screen in no time. Let's just agree to disagree on the social issues of which I feel a limited government should have no interest in...
(I don't feel the self important need to tell others who should sleep with who, nor what they should or shouldn't eat or smoke while they are doing it, nor how to handle any health related results of their doing it and don't think our government should either...)

Ray says, Also, we'd have the chance for fiscal conservative/social moderates to have their own unique party.
Welcome to the Libertarian Party Ray!

You guys are on to something with this whole Newt thing. Here I was thinking Mitt was the only one with a chance to unseat Owebama, but if we work the Newt angle we might get a few of the liberal cause du jour activists to jump on the save the Newt campaign and pull some radical lefties unwittingly to the right. Just convince them that this creature has made Washington DC its habitat for years now and now some city boy's are going to force the poor newt out of his natural habitat...

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frank christian February 1, 2012 | 3:24 p.m.

Tony B. - "The money that troubles me is the lobbists that line the pockets of the politicians of both parties. If you can't buy an election, then you can buy a congressman." This quote seems to be heard more often when liberals are about to lose an election. We have laws against both the crimes you refer to. Instead of the concern about money and lobbyists why not concentrate on the election of honest Congressmen? They are still around as are honest candidates for President, etc. If I get another "they all do it" sermon, I'll know you are just another one concerned that Democrats might lose their control of our money and lifestyle.

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frank christian February 1, 2012 | 3:41 p.m.

Ray - The way I get it, Bilderbergs were just first in Europe. CFR was instigated here and started the Trilateral Commission with Europeans and got into Japanese banks. They destroyed that government and its economy. This may be what is happening in China. Are you familiar with the book of 1976, None Dare Call It Conspiracy? I note about every reference to it by Google is recorded as the "infamous" book. I think it was a best seller back then and the authors were distributing a paperback edition free of charge. "Velly Interlesting!"

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 1, 2012 | 4:09 p.m.

Mike M. - "city boy's are going to force the poor newt out of his natural habitat..."

Newts idea, Contract With America was signed by all R' candidates in that election and by all but a couple of incumbents. They made a lot of great changes in our Government and the ones they didn't change failed by D's in Senate or Clinton's veto. He caused things to be done that people are now crying "can never be done". Like, balance the budget without raising taxes. I believe Romney will slow our decline, but Newt and an R' controlled Congress will stop it and turn us toward the sunshine again. How about Newt and Rick Santorum for 8, then Santorum for 8?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract_wi...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 4:42 p.m.

TonyB: Do you believe unions should be considered people in the same way corporations are?

How about Move-On.org?

Just trying to understand your "corporation" statement.....

(Report Comment)
DG Cayse February 1, 2012 | 7:10 p.m.

Excellent comments.
Question - Is it time to discard the Electoral College for of Presidential election?

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 1, 2012 | 7:24 p.m.

I think Enron, Lehman Brothers, and MF Global were effectively executed. Many thousands of people felt the pain too.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 1, 2012 | 7:41 p.m.

DG asks, "Question - Is it time to discard the Electoral College for of Presidential election?"
_____________________

(1) Only if you never want to see a presidential candidate west of the Mississippi, except for the west coast.

(2) You will also have to change the notion that this is a constitutional republic. What you are asking for is a pure democracy independent of the states. Our founding fathers feared democracy at the federal level for good reasons.

(3) You would be putting a majority of voting power in a small geographical portion of the US...where you might not live. Year-after-year, your vote will mean squat.

(4) Currently, a president cannot be elected without state legislatures. It is the legislature that is ultimately responsible for electing delegates. I'm happy, tho, that all state legislatures have delegated their responsibilities to voters; they can take it back, however. Hence, all state constitutions may have to be rewritten.

(5) If you can convince the Congress of the US to your way of thinking, and 38 states go along, you can get your wish.

(6) As for me, I do NOT want to get rid of the electoral college. It provides many post-election ways to resolve disputes of which you may not be aware. I was unaware of them myself until the 2000 election.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 1, 2012 | 7:50 p.m.

I do not want Santorum anywhere near the Oval Office.

frank had asked earlier for reasons as to why the religious right is dangerous--well, Santorum is a good reason. Even if his economic and tax policies were the greatest thing ever, he's completely deluded by his religious fanaticism. The costs of having him in office far outweigh the benefits.

As for our two-party system, IMO we're aiming too low. These issues have answers, and the answers don't care about our opinion. I doubt it'll happen any time soon, if ever, but I'm all for getting rid of political parties altogether. We should be focusing on the issues themselves, not party loyalty.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 1, 2012 | 9:51 p.m.

"Question - Is it time to discard the Electoral College for of Presidential election?"

The only ones that are interested in an answer to that question in my minimumal experience with U.S. Constitutional law have been those wishing for the communal, consensus of opinion reason for decision making. That change in our method of election would of course. destroy our representative republic. Clinton & Gore tried to overcome the system by swearing in thousands of new citizens in N.Y (50,000 at a time in Yankee Stadium), Miami, Chicago and L.A. before any of our investigations, FBI etc were complete. Democrate Bob Beckel now on Fox News daily, reportedly tried to buy electoral votes (unexpectedly, is legal) for Gore. Hillary Clinton has publicly expressed a need to "discard the Electoral College".

I would seem to me, only those wishing to change our way of life, feel the need to change our electoral system.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 1, 2012 | 11:32 p.m.

Morality within the framework of the Constitution and the oversight of congress and the courts. Yes, Santorum is a dangerous man....as opposed to????

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 2, 2012 | 2:16 a.m.

I'm curious as to which part of the Constitution gives government the authority to ban contraception.

"One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Anyone who says this has no business running a country, much less a developed country, much less one of the top countries in the world.

Also, he does not think we have a right to privacy, which on its own should be raising all kinds of red flags among Republicans. "Yeah, I'm all for small government, except that I'll install myself in every bedroom out there, because consensual sex is clearly a matter of national security. Funds well spent, if I may say so."

Obviously this article is heavily slanted, but with good reason:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lan...

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 2, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.

frank christian wrote:

"He caused things to be done that people are now crying "can never be done". Like, balance the budget without raising taxes."

Of course, at that time, both income and capital gains taxes were higher than they are today. The budget was balanced because of fortuitous economic activity combined with higher taxes. Our lower tax rates (particularly on capital gains), in the absence of greater economic activity, merely run up record deficits.

A Gingrich presidency (or any other one for that matter) will continue to rack up record deficits if the economy does not recover. Recovery is much more a matter of consumer sentiment than anything government can do directly. If a change in party causes people to feel better about spending again, then that might help the economy recover, but it is a mistake to think government will play any more than a peripheral part in such a recovery.

DK

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller February 2, 2012 | 8:43 a.m.

Mr Schultz, You asserted that the major parties have thrown up roadblocks to new parties being formed, citing as proof Missouri's requirement for 10,000 valid signatures to place a new party on the ballot statewide. Realistically, that is really no barrier at all--after all, a political party that cannot garner 10,000 signatures statewide has little relevance in the political arena.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 2, 2012 | 8:47 a.m.

Mark F. it seems, must persist. Why is it not possible for one to discern clear differences in history of a decade of governmental activity? The "higher taxes" were Clinton's effort to "reduce the deficit". May have done that for two years. As with all these scams, we will never know. The "fortuitous economic activity" was created by the R' prescribed tax cuts!

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports...

"The Clinton defense is superficially plausible, but it fails under closer scrutiny. Economic growth was solid but hardly spectacular in the years immediately following the 1993 tax increase. The real economic boom occurred in the latter half of the decade, after the 1997 tax cut. Low taxes are still a key to a strong economy."

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 2, 2012 | 9:39 a.m.

@Jon
Is it a full moon? We are singing the same song today. Let's enjoy it. It won't last ;-)

I don't see how a conservative person that really does espouse small government can support anyone that runs on the religious right, "morality", platform. (Unless, that is your only choice running against a liberal of course. Which, brings us back to, yes, we do need more choice in the way of a conservative party that has not been hijacked by religion which should have no place in our government.) The calls for government to be involved in matters that a small government should have no business in are in direct contradiction to the idea of small government in the first place. It makes as little sense to me as continuing to pay people to sit around and pop out babies...

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 2, 2012 | 10:02 a.m.

Every fascist, communist, government ever formed has first condemned religion. Founding fathers of United States of America, promoted it. Would someone like to describe the effect these three have had on humanity since 1776?

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 2, 2012 | 11:15 a.m.

The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It's the very first amendment...

Before these upstart amendments appeared in our history we had a thing called the declaration of independence which contained the phrase, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I think you have some contradictions to overcome if you are going to make laws that infringe on my pursuit of liberty and happiness solely because it goes against your particular religious beliefs. This aside from the problems of trying to decide which religious zealots get to make the rules based on which religion. I guess Frank would not have a problem with a law that said you could not kill a mosquito, or any other living creature for that matter, as I believe (for the sake of this argument...) that every living creature is a reincarnation and the soul contained in that creature might be my great grandparent...

All that and we still have not made it to the part about why we want to increase the size and costs of a government that would have to enforce any of these laws.

Outlaw condoms and only outlaws will have condoms!!!

(Report Comment)
susan e February 2, 2012 | 1:11 p.m.
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frank christian February 2, 2012 | 1:18 p.m.

You have stated you are not inclined to divulge the specifics of your complaint with religion,but it must be noted that the intrusions you do mention are worthy whether religion had anything to do or not. Incest and polygamy, both can create hazards for an individual and are better not allowed in any case. Animal Rights are certainly not a thing of Christian religious folk and I don't know of any ban on condoms except among Catholics toward each other. There was quite a stir when government passed laws providing money to pay for public education and the price of condoms while our public schools were teaching the use and providing free distribution, so our children could be "safe" while engaging in unrestricted consensual sex.

Weren't most of these laws regarding "morals" which you detest, passed before the "religious right" united to try to protect the attack on our morals? Jerry Falwell organized the Moral Majority and helped get R. Reagan elected, but the Congress' before and after that were D' controlled until 1994. Religious Right were influencing D's, I guess.

I think you are misguided in your condemnation of religion in our politics, but, I like you, do not purport to Republican, am as you know, Conservative. Republicans are our only hope.

(Report Comment)
susan e February 2, 2012 | 1:21 p.m.
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John Schultz February 2, 2012 | 2:31 p.m.

So Colonel, is it just a speedbump instead of a road block? How about this 1993 law that the legislature has consistently failed to fix year after year?

http://www.ballot-access.org/2012/01/28/...

Or this attempt to modify existing state law that is only detrimental to minor parties?

http://www.ballot-access.org/2011/05/11/...

Also don't forget that many state boards and commissions require Republican or Democratic members. Belong to a minor party or are an independent? Sorry, don't need you.

Minor parties are also denied some of the same privileges as the major parties, election judges if I recall the state law correctly.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 2, 2012 | 2:35 p.m.

susan e: You are required to identify yourself fully in this place. Your full name, please. Otherwise, we'll have to report your comments, which will be deleted.
__________________

Mike Mentor says, "The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The word "religion" causes raised hackles and interferes with the discussion.

What if it said, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of [a method for fishing], or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

What would those words mean to all of you?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 2, 2012 | 3:06 p.m.

No zealots in the White House.

Of any stripe.

Secular zealotry is just as bad as religious zealotry.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders February 2, 2012 | 3:28 p.m.

As evidenced by this thread, the Colonel is obviously right. The divide and conquer tactic of polarity politics works extremely well.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 2, 2012 | 3:53 p.m.

@Frank
Jon mentioned Santorum as one he would have problems with and then gave a quote where Santorum talked about the dangers of contraception and that contraception is not o.k. I agreed that this would be a good example of where one persons Catholic beliefs have no business in his policy making. (Again, given a choice between Santorum and Obama, I would still go with Santorum because the likelihood of him getting a "ban the condom" platform in to law would be much lower than Obama continuing to pass out our money to super rich political cronies and calling it a stimulus.)

I was trying to speak specifically on this issue because I feared if we broached the subjects of abortion, legalization of drugs and some of the more hot button religious/moral questions this could explode and that is not what this thread was about. I don't have anything to hide, just trying to stay somewhat on topic. Which is, IMHO it seems as though the ends of the spectrum on both sides are getting louder and more extreme and the far religious right and the socialist left are minorities that I hope don't end up making policy for what should be the more mainstream R's and D's platforms and the more they do the more we will need a third and fourth; oh who am I kidding, forget the socialists, a THiRD party for Libertarian like beliefs of small government.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 2, 2012 | 4:09 p.m.

Dadgummed Christian zealot politicians.

Were some of his words legal for a President? First Amendment stuff?

http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/obam...

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 2, 2012 | 4:21 p.m.

The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It does NOT say that congress can pass no laws affecting moral issues. Virtually our whole criminal code is about moral issues. You can't murder, steal, rob, rape, commit fraud and many other things without the threat of sanction by law. If the government can make no law which might affect religion, then we must eliminate any law which could affect the ten commandments.

The Obamacare law aspect that deals with the exercise of churches in providing services they deem as contrary to their principles is affected by that part of the First Amendment which states "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Contraception is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution is meant to be a limit on government by expressing strictly what they are allowed to do. It was always meant that if the federal government did not have a power under the Constitution, then those decisions were left to states.

What has not been and someday likely will be decided is if life begins at conception. If SCOTUS ever decides that life begins at conception, then the unborn who have been murdered in this country at the rate of 3,000 per day for the last 38 years will at last have the right to life, in that they can not be executed without due process of law.

Santorum has not said contraception should be outlawed or banned. He was said that the federal government should have no role in it. That should be left to the states. We can say the same of many other issues.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 2, 2012 | 4:23 p.m.

Seems I remember this argument 50+ years ago that if JFK was elected, the Pope would be telling him how to run the country. It was bogus then, and it's bogus now.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 2, 2012 | 4:47 p.m.

@Don
Yes, we walk a fine line between societal morality and morality based on a particular religious belief. It isn't easy, but we must be diligent. I would have no problem with the 10 commandments being displayed in court houses if they dropped the first four.

I give you these 10 (the tablet with the first four drops to the court house floor and breaks...)

ummm...

6 commandments !!!

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller February 2, 2012 | 4:55 p.m.

Mr Schultz, your questions re "Also don't forget that many state boards and commissions require Republican or Democratic members. Belong to a minor party or are an independent? Sorry, don't need you. And minor parties are also denied some of the same privileges as the major parties, election judges if I recall the state law correctly" are merely beating a dead horse IMHO.

My column referenced 3rd and possibly 4th parties possibly achieving major party status. Rewriting the election laws to include participation of minor or in some cases "fringe" parties is unwarranted and ain't gonna happen. I do respect the views of Libertarians and Constution Party members; however, I can only refer you to the last sentence of paragraph 6 of my column.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 2, 2012 | 5:01 p.m.

MikeMentor gives you 6 commandments.

Ummm...sumbody's been watchin' "The History of the World" with good ol' MelB.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 2, 2012 | 5:32 p.m.

frank: "Every fascist, communist, government ever formed has first condemned religion. Founding fathers of United States of America, promoted it. Would someone like to describe the effect these three have had on humanity since 1776?"

Depending on your definition of "Founding Fathers," there is ongoing debate even today as to their religious affiliation, so the matter is hardly settled. A few of them were notably irreligious, and some even condemned religion outright, or at least clericalism.

-John Adams dabbled in deism and humanism, and apparently stated that Christianity had "lost its way" in certain respects.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams#...

-Benjamin Franklin described himself as a deist at times, although he went back and forth.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Fr...

-Hamilton appears to have been a devout Christian for most of his life, except for a period of 15 years where he was indifferent toward his religion, even making fun of it in public.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_H...

-John Jay was a devout Christian, but also extremely anti-war due to his beliefs (unlike Santorum, eager to go war with China just to flex our muscle, making threats to Iran, etc.).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay#Re...

-Thomas Jefferson: just read the article.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jeff...

-James Madison warned against "Ecclesiastical Bodies" encroaching on the Constitution. He also opposed a bill that would have authorized tax support for Christian ministers.
http://candst.tripod.com/tnppage/qmadiso...

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 2, 2012 | 6:11 p.m.

(Before anyone accuses me of drowning you with text, please note that the above post is long due to format, not quantity.)

I forgot to mention this earlier, but yeah, there's also the fact that atheists today are among the most despised people out there. It was the same situation back then, except that you could actually get killed for heresy. Remember Obama apologizing endlessly for his quip on people "clinging to their guns and their religion?" If criticizing Christianity in public today is career suicide for a politician, imagine what it was like back then. Hard to make any strong claims about the Founding Fathers' views on faith for this reason.

Don: I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again: We do not get our morals from religion.

As for abortion:
-Any half-intelligent pro-choice advocate will agree that life begins at conception. When life begins is not the issue.
-The word "murder" is defined by law, and abortion is not murder. It wasn't murder even back when it was illegal.
-Note that it's not just a matter of outlawing abortion. If you have an actual plan for how we should go about it, I want to hear it.

Anyway, I don't want to derail the topic too much, so we can take the abortion discussion over to the Susan Komen/Planned Parenthood article if anyone's interested. It's definitely on-topic over there.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 2, 2012 | 6:25 p.m.

Karl: While it's true that "fringe" parties have little chance of success, your later posts seem to agree with what others have been saying: There are indeed legal roadblocks that prevent third parties from becoming legitimate contenders.

If it's unlikely that they'll ever establish any sort of foothold in our government, there's no reason to oppose the rewriting of election laws to get their names on the ballot. Might as well remove the obstacles and let them fail on their own--then at least they won't be able to blame "the system" if and when it happens.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 2, 2012 | 8:54 p.m.

M. Mentor -"Yes, we walk a fine line between societal morality and morality based on a particular religious belief."

Was wondering before you wrote this: Where do you suppose we found Any base for morality in this country?

Also thought that convictions such as those you display, may have been taught in a public education received after 1960 (hang on,if I'm wrong you can tell me). These seem to be the folks that can refer only to events occurring soon before that date or soon after. In my experience that is when these "problems" with our country commenced.

I had thought of telling you that before then people were content with any of the steps taken toward morality and not concerned with the intent of our "founding fathers". Was thinking of an example when, how fortunate, here comes Jonathan!

Few before the late fifties had any problem with our founders "intent". All the crap (Jon may claim the best collection), matters not. The fact that our "rights" were attributed to God's grant is not in dispute and the only one to verbally deny that, that I have heard say it, is American citizen,avowed socialist, billionaire, Geo. Soros. "Our rights should not be inalienable, we should be able to change them." We can assume that he does want religion in our government, either.

Your thought, to deny our children the opportunity to read and think about the 10 Commandments if posted on a class room wall, only if the "first 4" were not included, imo is ridiculous and is a major part of our problems with crime in every category today as well as the increase in earlier years that I have included.

I might in closing mention, atheists are only noted in today's family life because of the complaint that one made or the law suit that one was able to pursue with the free assistance of ACLU. That they are despised is another of Jon's extreme "reaches".

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 2, 2012 | 11:08 p.m.

frank: We have morals because of our evolved brains, as evidenced by the fact that other social animals also dislike in-group violence, theft, killing, etc. Also, the Bible is a youngster when it comes to "moral code."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anc...

And let's not play any word games. The 10 Commandments weren't intended to be mere moral guidelines, they were meant to be the law of the land. What's the punishment for breaking them? Here's a pastor to tell you all about it, citing chapter and verse:

http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthrea...

(note that working on the Sabbath is a worse crime than murder and theft, assuming he's portraying things accurately and not pushing an agenda)

______________________

"That [atheists] are despised is another of Jon's extreme "reaches"."

http://www.gallup.com/video/148106/Ameri...

In case you can't/don't want to watch the video, this is a June 2011 Gallup poll that asked adult Americans whether or not they would vote for an otherwise well-qualified ______ presidential candidate.

-5% said they wouldn't vote for a black candidate.
-6% wouldn't vote for a female candidate.
-7% wouldn't vote for a Catholic candidate.
-9% wouldn't vote for a Jewish candidate.
-10% wouldn't vote for a Hispanic candidate.
-22% wouldn't vote for a Mormon candidate.
-32% wouldn't vote for a homosexual candidate.
-49% wouldn't vote for an atheist candidate.

Full PDF here, with historical trends and all:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/File/148112/O...

Here's some more:
http://www.soc.umn.edu/~hartmann/files/a...

In 2003,

-39.6% of Americans said that atheists are the group that least represents their vision of American society. (26.3% said the same about Muslims, 22.6% about homosexuals)

-47.6% said they would disapprove if their child married an atheist.
(33.5% in the case of Muslims, 27.3% in the case of blacks)

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 3, 2012 | 8:09 a.m.

"And let's not play any word games."

"atheists today are among the most despised people out
there."

To support that statement we are given "umpteen" statistics, none of which show that atheists are "despised". They do show where they stand in acceptance with the American people. Also shows where they stood in 1958. 77% would not vote for an atheist. Remember? Christians can forgive the sinner. Maybe if you took a hike,,,,,?

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 3, 2012 | 7:47 p.m.

And here come the word games. You're hung up on that one word even though I just gave you a poll that shows more Americans would vote for a gay candidate than an atheist one.

"Where they stand in acceptance with the American people" is exactly what I meant when I said they're despised (as in, of all "fringe groups," atheists are the ones accepted the least by the American people). Your quibbling over my use of hyperbole doesn't affect the numbers, nevermind your own tendency to blow everything out of proportion.

"omg that filthy liberal thinks that our taxes should go to help others. Clearly he supports persecutions, death camps, genocide, etc. He would love nothing more than to become the next Stalin."

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 3, 2012 | 10:12 p.m.

The 2-party system is a sham. Politics is just gaudy entertainment these days. There's only one real party on Capitol Hill: The Money Party. It just looks a little different front vs. back.

We need viable 3rd and 4th and 5th parties, direct voting, and instant runoff. That would shake things up a bit.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 3, 2012 | 10:53 p.m.

"We need viable 3rd and 4th and 5th parties, direct voting, and instant runoff. That would shake things up a bit."

Until the unionists and ACORN soldiers piled Their voters on
their buses herded them to the polls with instructions on which squares to mark. Then everything would belong to the democrats, as usual.

Can't win? Change the rules, that has worked for Democrats for years!

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 4, 2012 | 6:17 a.m.

To support that statement we are given "umpteen" statistics, none of which show that atheists are "despised".

Frank, liberals interpret ignored as despised.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 4, 2012 | 4:08 p.m.

Pretty convenient that apparently Christians just "ignore" atheists now, when any other time all these Christian politicians and religious leaders run around screaming that they're being persecuted for their faith. Hell, Ron Paul is perhaps the only Republican candidate NOT using the "loss of American values" schpiel as a campaign platform.

Yep, Christians in the US, aka the ~75% of the population overwhelmingly represented at every level of government, is being persecuted by the ~6% "ignored" segment, for whom 50% of Americans wouldn't vote if one of them ran for president.

Rush Limbaugh's brother even wrote a book about it:
http://www.amazon.com/Persecution-Libera...

Perhaps I should reiterate: For all the contempt conservatives hold toward gays, the numbers say they would rather have a gay president than an atheist one. Just adding the numbers up, a gay Hispanic Catholic has about as much chance to be elected as an atheist.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 4, 2012 | 4:50 p.m.

@"Pretty convenient that apparently Christians just "ignore" atheists now, when any other time all these Christian politicians and religious leaders run around screaming that they're being persecuted for their faith."

I don't know who you've talked to that convinced you that believers "despise" anyone.

True beleivers do not "despise" anyone. If they cannot feed into negativity that is against Christian belief - such as negative acts of tale-bearing, lying, or hurting others - then they will love those people through Christ at a distance and let the Holy Spirit deal with the person.

I think if you ever have a chance to talk to a true believer, you will find agape love - a Christ-like love that is unconditional.

I am a believer. I do not claim to be perfect, but this one thing of which I am very sure, one of my best friends does not believe in God and I cherish her friendship and don't even want to consider what my life would be like without her in.

Some of my family is also gay. I do not hide the fact, nor do I make excuces for it. I love them unconditionally.

I know many, many believers and they are the most open, caring people you will ever meet.

It is a myth that believers despise athiests or hate anyone who does not believe just as they do.

Right here in Columbia, you will find open fellowships that welcome any and all.

It is impossible to love Christ and despise anyone. The two things do not even go together in eternal life's flowing waters of God's love into a believer's heart.

In fact, if you cannot love someone who is so into hurting you in a direct way, then you love them through Christ and distance yourself.

Sometimes that is all you can do, to keep the peace and not be involved in doing what the person who has hurt you (or would continue hurting you as he/she always have) and in a effort to not involve others in it and hurt them, too.

Apostle Paul has some very timely Scriptures on avoiding tale-bearing and strife. That is what a believer would do - but, under no condition, would a true believer "despise" anyone, nor would a believer give anyone a label.

There is level ground at Calvary, and that is where the believer is based.

Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, struggling, success-attained - all are accepted as the same in the Body of Christ and to other believers.

It is the socially pretentious that does what you say in your post, and some of them, unfortunately find their way into some of our assemblies of worships of all doctrines.

Do not confuse a true beleiver with them.

Big mistake the world makes sometimes, looking on, to judge Christians in this negative light, and egging that myth on.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt February 4, 2012 | 9:34 p.m.

Ignoring the No True Scotsman, the people you're calling "true" believers are actually people who read the Bible very selectively. I can almost guarantee you that Fred Phelps and the rest of the "extremists" out there know more about the Bible, and also take it way more seriously. They're not "distorting the faith," they're simply showing everyone what it's like to REALLY believe.

Just look at all the people who insist that the 10 Commandments are the source of our morality. Someone who says this probably hasn't read the rest of Exodus and Deuteronomy very closely. In addition, the couple of verses in Leviticus they often use to discriminate against gays is surrounded by mountains of barbarism and insanity that has no place in civilized society. (Take a gander at Leviticus 20. For evidence of God's love, take a look at Leviticus 26:14-35)

Even if we limit ourselves to the New Testament for the sake of argument, I've yet to come across a good explanation for why the "perfect society" envisioned by Christian conservatives today directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus. Jesus may as well have been a socialist, yet God-fearing Christians everywhere act as if the word "socialism" is blasphemy.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 5, 2012 | 6:11 a.m.

@"Ignoring the No True Scotsman, the people you're calling "true" believers are actually people who read the Bible very selectively. I can almost guarantee you that Fred Phelps and the rest of the 'extremists" out there know more about the Bible, and also take it way more seriously. They're not "distorting the faith,' they're simply showing everyone what it's like to REALLY believe."

Okay, to not select any one portion of your post, but to respond to all of it, a paragraph at a time:

True believers not only read the entire Bible, but they read it cover to cover, many times over. Then they are reading passages all through worship service, or if they want to seek guidance, for example, what Jesus says in realtion to having an adultry relationship, and the beleiver would want to steer clear of any of that by the Words of Jesus.

Not only that, but true believers seek out Bible seminars, revivals, Bible Studies, and you will find them on campuses in houses for prayer and worship and even in Bible classes the universities/colleges give as part of electives for students.

If you could see inside their homes, you would see them praying over their meals in thanks, see them at the bedside of their children kneeling with them in nightly prayers, see them in even devotionals, as well as rising early for early morning devotionals in either Scriptural or music prayer worship. You would even seeing them waking in the middle of the night, lifting their whispered prayers to Heaven, if they are awakened and feel compelled to worship or talk to God.

God is alive and never sleeps. You don't even have to call Him; He is there. He is always on call, 24/7.

When you are quoting Fred Phillips or any other human, then that would be secondary to a true believer, and would be considered opinion only.

The New Testament is not a contradiction of the Old Testament, but a fullfillment of It. You will find foreshadowing prophesy in the Old that comes into reality in the New. You can read Revelations and mark events that are happening in the world today in prophesy.

When you quote man, be ever mindful that the true believer looks to the Book, lives by the Book and looks to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of Life. There are those who look to man as the final source, but true believers look to Christ.

That is the difference in the ones that you speak of and the true nature of a true believer.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 5, 2012 | 6:29 a.m.

@"Just look at all the people who insist that the 10 Commandments are the source of our morality. Someone who says this probably hasn't read the rest of Exodus and Deuteronomy very closely. In addition, the couple of verses in Leviticus they often use to discriminate against gays is surrounded by mountains of barbarism and insanity that has no place in civilized society. (Take a gander at Leviticus 20. For evidence of God's love, take a look at Leviticus 26:14-35)"

Yes, you can read the 10 Commandments, and you can take them to heart - and then read the New Testament when Jesus includes what is call the "First Commandment" and that moves the other 10 down to 2-11 then.

We do not pretend to be God, and we do not speak for God. We just know that God is a just God. We also know that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is no LITTLE sin. Sin is sin, in the same way that, whether you steal a penny or a milion dollars, you are still a thief; or, if you tell a little fib (situational ethics) or a big lie (slander/libel on man's terms), you are still a liar. Man will develop many little gods (notice the little "g"), but God is the Final Judge.

The New Testament teaches us that judges and authority figures (our very police and judicial system) stand through the Grace and Authority of our God - and that we are to respect them and answer to them - even if we have not done anything wrong and we are a suspect or might be taken in for arrest. We are to submit willing. They are our safety/security and are provided by our Loving Father, that is what believers know to be true.

We are to walk according to man's law, and then obey God's law. There is man's law, but God's law is above man's law.

Every person in earthly law and justice, for every decision made, will be answerable to God for that.

The Scriptures teach that.

So, if someone has judged another wrongly, then God will be the Final Judge of that.

Often, the thought will enter the mind, "At death, everyone believes in God - because they will come face-to-face with Him."

In the Word, we are taught that a person wanted to come back to earth and tell of what had happened after death and warn his relatives and loved ones, and the reply was given him, "They have had the Word, ministers and other believers of evidence that God exists, and they yet did not consider the existance of God, so - no - they would not consider what you have to say, either."

God allows free will - choice - a true believer chooses to read the Word over and over, from cover to cover and many times over - and draws on the strength of fullfilled Promise through It all.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 5, 2012 | 7:04 a.m.

@"Even if we limit ourselves to the New Testament for the sake of argument, I've yet to come across a good explanation for why the 'perfect society' envisioned by Christian conservatives today directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus. Jesus may as well have been a socialist, yet God-fearing Christians everywhere act as if the word 'socialism" is blasphemy.'"

Jesus does not have a label. His arms are open to all. God loves the terrorist who would call you a "U.S. devil" and murder you on sight, as much as He loves the most devout of His true believers.

When you read the New Testament, pick up on Paul in Acts. Read when he was Saul, prior to his becoming a true believer. Note the difference in a public display of religious ritual only, and when the real belief moment sets in, and how the person is changed. Read how Saul/Paul goes from persecution of others (even to the point of cheering on the stoning of a true believer and going into homes of worshippers and dragging them out for malice) and then how he becomes martyred for his belief in God.

Go to the Old Testament, and find David, the shepherd boy who fells a giant with a sling shot while the mighty armies of Isreal were trembling from fear in full armor and weapons - and yet the boy David stepped out with one stone and sling shot and brought the mighty Goliath down. Then read how David sinned in an adulterous relationship with the wife of one of his chief officers, how he tried to trick the chief officer into thinking the adulterous baby was his, and how the chief officer slept in the dooryway of David and did not go in unto his wife, so then David sent his chief officer into the front lines of battle where he was killed (murdered by David's command) and then David took the chief officer's wife as his own. Read of David's remorseful heart, how he prayed to God for forgiveness, and how David was not only forgiven, but God called him "the apple of His eye" and "one after My own heart." David became a trusted, obedient servant to God, the King of kings.

Please keep in mind that believers are not perfect, just forgiven. We will err, and we will go again and again to seek guidance and ask for a better way shown us so that we will not stumble. We learn from our mistakes, and God forgives those mistakes, as a God of Second Chances.

(Continued in next post.)

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 5, 2012 | 7:05 a.m.

(Continued from last post.)

And, we all know that this is not a perfect world, no matter how hard we try to make it as good as we can for all concerned. Life is not fair. We learn that early on. We also know that it will never be what happens to us that "makes us or breaks us," but how we choose to react to what happens to us. We are not responsible for what someone else does to us, but we are responsible for how we react to what happens to us - what we allow ourselves to be involved in.

That is what separates the boys from the men,the girls from the women, the immature from the mature.

The Scriptures teach us that we reach out to Christ with a childlike faith, in the beginning of trusting/believing in Him; that we are as babes on milk; then we grow learning to eat "stronger food." That is to say, the more we are grow in Him, the more more mature we become in Him.

You may meet a believer in any stage of that growth. None of us will be perfect on this side of the curtain of Life; but we reach and we try and we trust.

To be in the company of true believers is one of the most comfortable, most joyous spots you can find yourself.

They will not judge you, label you or treat you other than part of "the family of God."

I wish you well.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 7, 2012 | 7:31 p.m.

The trouble with a bunch of smaller parties on the ballot is that there are actual printing costs, and time at the polls for people to scan the ballots. Where would you draw the limit at what is reasonable before somebody should be on the ballot at taxpayer expense? 10,000 members? 1,000? 200? 3?

Doesn't write in cover the means by which smaller parties can participate, and at no additional cost to anyone?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 8, 2012 | 9:56 a.m.

Reaching 1% in a statewide race (current requirements are 2%) seems pretty fair to me. That accounts for people who are not necessarily members of the political party, but believe in their goals or platform, at least over other political parties.

I don't think there is much expense in printing one more party over a smaller set, nor in the scanning of the ballots. But if the goal is to save money (and I'm OK with that), make parties fund their own primaries instead of forcing the state and counties to do so.

(Report Comment)

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