In eight and a half years on Twitter, until yesterday morning I had never posted anything that has generated this many Likes, Retweets, and Follows. I honestly didn't expect the reception that this one received. It's not kerjillions, but it's still a bit of an ego boost. I did expect that people would misinterpret my statement, simple as it is, because of the way people plug messages into their own frames of reference whether they fit or not.
The Tweet was conceived as a pre-emptive response to something I've observed in elections past. A whole week into this year's midterm early voting primary season, I haven't yet seen any selfies on Facebook of friends smiling as if they've accomplished something, sporting their I VOTED stickers, rehashing that horrid cliché about "doing my civic duty." However, when I have seen these selfies, they're from smart, earnest Progressives who cling to the absurd notion that the Democratic Party is an avenue for their ideological aspirations rather than a dead end.
Yes, participating in small-d democratic activities in general is, in my view, a civic duty—i.e., one's duty as a citizen. Voting in a primary election, however, is only a duty to one's political party, not to one's nation, state, or community. It's debatable whether voting in the big-d Democratic Party's primary elections is a democratic activity, given that DNC attorneys have successfully argued in court that their party is not bound by law to respect the will of its voters.
So far, at least, I haven't seen any replies defending the Partisan Duopoly, and for that I'm grateful.
Some of the folks replying to yesterday's Tweet have insisted that primary elections are as important as general elections, if not more important. They're entitled to that opinion, and I am entitled to disagree. I'm still trying to figure out the replies that say essentially not voting (in a primary) is how we get four years of Trump! Srsly?
But my Tweet doesn't say don't vote! It doesn't even say don't vote in primaries. I don't believe that it even implies that message—or, at least, I didn't intend to imply it.
If you consider yourself a Democrat or Republican, if you have an interest in having your party put forward the best candidates, go ahead and cast your primary vote. But don't call it a "civic duty" and expect me or my fellow Texas Greens not to snicker in response, and don't you dare try to peer-pressure folks into joining you.
Fewer than half of registered voters in Texas participate in primaries: 30% turnout for Republicans and Democrats combined is considered high, and turnout is considerably lower in primary runoffs. This is hardly shocking or even surprising, given that fewer than half of registered voters identify with either of the corporate parties. Plus, turnout even in the quadrennial Most Important Election of Our Lives!!!!! barely breaches 60%.
The Green Perspective on Primaries
As a Green in Texas, I would prefer that my Progressive comrades abstain from the big-party primaries. Greens and Libertarians do not conduct primary elections in this state: The law doesn't allow it for parties that don't poll at a certain level in statewide elections—and even if it did, primaries cost the parties more money than GPTX has ever had. The smaller parties nominate candidates via local, county, district, and state conventions.
As a Green in Texas, I would also prefer that folks of the progressive persuasion abstain from major-party primaries so they can sign Green candidates' petitions or participate in Green conventions.
At the other end of this scale of voting habits, I have a number of friends whom I respectfully call "principled abstentionists." These folks refuse to vote even in general elections because doing so legitimizes an anti-democratic system. I see their point, even if I disagree with it. On one point I do agree with them, though: As I've said more than a few times on this blog, democracy is much more than voting. (If you can't effect change by voting, take to the streets—and risk violent repression at the hands of police because the US is sooooo not a democracy). A few replies to my Tweet acknowledged the importance of protest for issues that merely voting cannot address.
Post–HB 2504 Reality
In the Lone Star State, if you vote in a primary election, you are barred from active participation in any other party. That includes signing a ballot-access petition for any third party or any third-party candidate. In fact, since the passage of HB 2504 in 2019, the reverse is also true: If you sign a petition for a candidate to submit in lieu of filing fees, you are barred from voting in the next primaries three or four months later. If you're caught voting in a primary after signing such a petition (which you've likely forgotten about), you could face a misdemeanor charge.
SIDENOTE: Signing a ballot-access petition does not restrict or dictate which candidates or parties you choose in the general election. In past petition drives I have seen way too many potential signers decline to sign because they thought that signing would obligate them in some way, even after we strenuously insist that it does not. By law, we're not even allowed to compile signatories' names and addresses into a mailing list.
What I find absolutely gobsmacking is that a lot of habitual Democratic voters to whom I have explained all of the above just don't get it. It's not from inability to understand it but from unwillingness. These are the same folks to whom I can give all the reasons Ralph Nader did not cost Al Gore the 2000 election (or Jill Stein did not throw the 2016 election to what's-his-name) but who still insist that it all comes down to Nader getting more votes than the difference between Gore and Dubya Bush.
If these folks know anything about HB 2504, which passed both houses of the 86th Texas Legislature on party-line votes, they likely see it as a Republican ploy to make life difficult for Texas Democrats. (NOTE: This is based on personal observations and conversations, and it is not intended to put words in anyone's mouth without their consent.) They reach this conclusion in part because the bill, as submitted and as passed, allowed the Green Party to keep its ballot line through 2026, which Texas Democrats perceive as an existential threat. I exaggerate only slightly.
On that subject, here's hoping the Greens can make enough noise to get a 2% polling for one of their statewide candidates this November, which would extend the party's ballot access through 2032 (at which time climate disruption will probably start rendering large portions of the planet uninhabitable, but one can dream, eh?).
(ADDENDUM 23 Feb: Here's the part that I omitted when I first published this post.)
In addition to the aforementioned selfies, I also see encouragements to vote in the primaries in the email advisories and newsletters that I receive from non-profit advocacy groups. (I'm on at least a dozen such email lists.) They never specify which primary, of course, because that would jeopardize their 501(c)(3) status; they sometimes recommend doing some research on the available candidates before casting a ballot.
Nevertheless, from the Green perspective, encouraging participation in primaries is problematic in a state like Texas, where Democrats and Republicans hold primaries and other parties do not. The recommendations are tantamount to an endorsement of the Duopoly. If they want to be truly non-partisan, they would say something like either vote in a primary of your choice or attend a third party's precinct and county conventions the following week.
Even the League of Women Voters in Harris County—a group that knows damn well that Libertarians and Greens nominate their candidates via the convention process—has signs out on roadsides telling people to vote in the primaries. Their website has helpful hints and important dates for the primaries, but no information about Green and Libertarian conventions. Hey LWV, you can do better: reach out to the smaller parties so you can publish our important dates.