In our last meeting, I pointed out, “We have separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches on both federal and state levels for a reason.” That reason was separation of powers.
But that raises a question, because our state and federal governments are apparently not accountable to the people. That’s because party nominations come between the people and their candidates. Parties pick the candidates for the people to choose from.
As Madison said, “In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others….”
Political parties allow elected officials a great deal of influence in choosing the candidates of their parties. The current Democrat presidential nomination system was designed for that purpose, with elected officials as “super delegates,” having more power than others. Party nomination short-circuits the separation of powers that our forefathers so carefully designed.
Parties choose candidates based on the good of the parties and their membership, not the electorate as a whole. The major parties nominate based on whether a candidate can beat the candidate of the other major party, rather than on how competent they would be in office.
How the minor parties choose their candidates doesn’t matter much, because those candidates usually can’t win. The party labels on the ballot become “winner/loser” labels, with two major parties as the only probable winners; they are often the means by which voters judge the candidates, rather than their stands on the issues. Radical and honest candidates are marginalized on minor party reservations, unable to affect policy, since they can’t get elected. If one somehow gets elected by a major party, that one is marginalized by the party.
So, while Oregon’s city and county governments have no structural separation of powers, our state and federal governments’ carefully designed separation is corrupted by the party nomination system. We can separate government powers on the local level with change in our local charters. On the state and national level, we can pass constitutional amendments to make all elections in each state non-partisan. States have control over who is allowed on their ballots; the state of Oregon does not have to accept party nominations.