This week I begin a series called Dispatches from Somewhere Else. Based on my on-going experiences as an everyman in New Jersey politics, these Dispatches review the hollowness of our process and leave it to the reader to make a judgment on the state of our “democracy”.
I am a candidate for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate, an office the GOP establishment has not been able to win since 1972. It’s the worst record of any party in the continental United States.
Dispatches from somewhere else.So here I am, running for the United States Senate, to be a member of the body that approves Justices to the Supreme Court and treaties with foreign powers, only to find that the vetting process resembles those ad hoc committees formed to screen prospective tenants in a down market high rise.
Vetting process, what vetting process, my academic friends ask? They remind me that 100 years ago, the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution established the direct election of Senators by popular vote.
Not so fast, this is New Jersey, and New Jersey isn’t like the rest of America.
You see, New Jersey has never quite warmed up to the idea of holding an unimpeded popular vote on anything. First, there is the filter of the party primary, but as this is New Jersey, the party bosses go one step further, they have something they call “the line”.
The party bosses get to assemble the actual government ballot in a way that benefits the candidates they select. Then they go another step further, by actually labeling their candidate as the “approved” Republican candidate. Try doing this to an official ballot in the rest of America and you will end up in jail. But New Jersey really isn’t America, it is somewhere else.
The “line” is a thumb on the scale that gives an advantage to one candidate over others and what is worse is that it uses a government ballot and a government polling place to deliver that advantage on behalf of a political boss. And all this electoral corruption is paid for by the taxpayers!
This year I entered the so-called “selection” process with open eyes. My supporters include some very experienced people who told me up front that Governor Christie’s people would never allow someone who supported Ron Paul to be the nominee. They told me that the Governor still wants to run for President and that he fears a challenge from Senator Rand Paul.
And it happened just like they said it would. At the very first “screening”, held under the banner of the Union County Republican Committee, the Governor’s top political operative — lobbyist and private prisons advocate Bill Palatucci — attacked my candidacy for having opinions different from those of the Governor.
Now I supported Chris Christie when he ran in 2009. His campaign thought well enough of what I had to say to include it in their campaign literature and direct mail. But the reason my opinions are thought well of is that they are my honest opinions and when I disagree with someone, even someone who I generally support, I will not be intimidated into silence. And the reason for this is simple. After most of my family was slaughtered in the Holocaust, what was left of us came to the America of the First Amendment. I believe in the America of the First Amendment.
So the party boss of Burlington County called me into his office for a meeting and said he was a conservative like me and supported me over Pro-abortion Mr. Goldberg. He said to me that he told Goldberg he should try running for a local office because he didn’t know enough to run for the United States Senate. The boss agreed that Goldberg was the weakest statewide candidate put up by the GOP in anyone’s memory.
When it came time to award the line, the Burlco boss had his Freeholders campaign manager do the legal paperwork and it all appeared done. But then he must have got the call because just hours later it was announced that the line had gone to Mr. Goldberg — exactly what I was told to expect.
It’s been like this for the whole process. The county boss in Somerset told me that the county boss of Ocean was a good conservative who was going to make sure good conservative me would have his line — but then the call comes and the line went to Mr. Goldberg. It’s what I was told to expect. In fact, the only place where I got the line was where every registered Republican had the chance to ask questions of all the candidates and then vote for the candidate of his or her choice. I won that line.
Is it any wonder why people don’t believe a word these politicians say? Any wonder why turnout is down? Why the party’s membership is weak and the party so old? Why young people won’t have anything to do with the GOP? Any sociologist will tell you that people don’t participate in rigged systems. You have to give up some power to grow activists. If they sense that they don’t matter, they won’t participate. This is why so many county chairmen are paid lobbyists and not principled activists.
More on that in the next installment of Dispatches from somewhere else.
PolitickerNJ reporter Mark Bonamo will appear on the WBGO Journal radio program tonight and on a weekend public interest television program.
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