Congratulations and thanks are in order to all the candidates who participated in the major party primary elections that culminated Tuesday.
The winners are deserving of congratulations, of course, but the also-rans deserve our thanks for participating in one of the most essential parts of our democratic system, sometimes at great expense in terms of money, time and effort.
Our elections and our system of governance are diminished when there aren’t many choices, so everyone who threw a hat in the ring was performing a public service.
And that raises one of the most interesting questions of the primary season — where was the Galveston County Democratic Party?
The party fielded candidates in only two county primary races — judge of County Court at Law No. 2 and Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3. It couldn’t muster candidates to compete for county judge, county commissioners court, district attorney, any of the district or at-law courts, or county administrative offices such as treasurer or clerk.
Granted, these are lean days for Democrats in Texas, but the county party needs to stop wandering in the woods and begin fielding local candidates even if they have little chance of winning.
The party should, in short, take a lesson from the history of the Galveston County Republican Party, which spent about 150 years in the wilderness but still put up candidates most years even though they probably were not going to win.
It’s interesting that the Democrats had more candidates up the ballot in state legislative and congressional races. What Republicans proved in Texas, however, is that you build political parties from the bottom of the ballot up, not from the top and middle down.
Primary elections are by definition highly partisan exercises meant to pick each party’s champion to carry its platform in the following general election. So, voters get shortchanged and the process is short-circuited when the races are settled in primary elections.
That was true in the years after the Reconstruction Era when Republicans were the outcast party and everything was settled in Democratic Party primaries and the opposite is true now.
The mere presence of an opposing candidate, even a weak one, on the general election ballot may be enough to keep the debate somewhere in the center of the political spectrum where most of us reside, and from drifting too far toward the ends.
• Michael A. Smith