Your time is valuable — my time is valuable.  Let’s cut to the chase.

SB 902 introduced by State Senator Mark Obenshain is a bill that proposes party registration in Virginia.  Sounds good… and probably has the best of intentions behind it.

One small problem with party registration?  It’s a halfway house to primaries being the only method of nomination — in short, an effort to kill conventions.

Killing conventions in Virginia will be a two step process.  First, one has to make sure the primaries are closed in order to effect a party nomination method.  Once such a bill is passed?  The second shoe drops — a bill that amends the Code of Virginia to ensure that conventions are no longer an acceptable method of nomination, thus reinforcing the Incumbent Protection Act (i.e. elected officials get to choose their method of nomination) with two additional layers of protection: (1) primaries are cost prohibitive for grassroots candidates, and (2) such a bill would strip the state party infrastructure of a cash flow that by rights ought to be riding on the hip of the grassroots — not the consultant class.

Conventions are money makers for state and local parties, and they allow the grassroots to select their own candidates free from outside contagion.  Primaries are typically left to the highest bidder…

Once upon a time, I would have considered myself a supporter of party registration.  That changed after a conversation with a member of the House of Delegates, who argued that government neither needed the additional data point on citizens nor did we wish to become the People’s Republic of Maryland — where Republicans are routinely excluded from government grants, projects, and other resources by a Democratic-run bureaucracy.

SB 902 is a knife at the heart of our conventions and the conservative grassroots.  Let’s keep the full array of options available to a Republican Party that clearly needs to grow — and if we have the confidence of our beliefs?  Open primaries are a far better way to “grow” the party than closed ones… so if the concern is that primaries are superior to conventions — and they may very well be in some instances — then one would prefer a primary system as free market oriented as possible, yes?

Otherwise, it is window dressing for that most mystical of objectives for anyone in power: control.

  • Jeanine Martin

    Good post. You are right. Party registration means the end of primaries.

    • Don’t tell me we agree on something, Jeanine! Will wonders never cease…