Primary or convention? What’s the best way for political parties to pick a winner?
In Virginia, the Republicans opted to go for a convention this spring. About 39,000 people went to the trouble to make their voices heard. The Democrats chose to hold a primary. Almost half a million people (488,000) voted.
Conventional wisdom indicates that the more participation you have, the more the outcome will favor fresh faces and go against the old-boy status quo.
However, the Democratic primary chose Terry McAuliffe, a white guy who has already been governor once, for the top spot. It gave us Mark Herring, seeking his third term as attorney general. The only new blood came in the form of Del. Hala Ayala, the nominee for lieutenant governor. Ayala is the daughter of a Salvadoran and North African immigrant father and an Irish and Lebanese mother.
The GOP, employing the 21st century version of the smoke-filled room, nominated Glenn Youngkin for governor. Youngkin is a white private-equity guy with lots of cash and little political experience. It nominated Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor. She’s a Jamaican immigrant and former member of the House of Delegates. For attorney general, it chose Jason Miyares, a state delegate whose mother immigrated from communist Cuba in 1965.
So, if you’re keeping a diversity scorecard, that’s two oldish white guys and one multi-racial woman for the Dems, one slightly younger white guy, a female Jamaican immigrant and a man with Cuban roots for the GOP.
The people have spoken, and most (or at least enough) of those half-million Democrats went to the polls and voted for the status quo. The Republicans, with about one-twelfth as many Virginians weighing in, went for diversity.
Of course, it isn’t that simple. If you’re in the driver’s seat, there is a tendency to ask, “Why change?” And the Democrats definitely have the wheel now, with the GOP relegated to the back seat with “2009” stamped on their foreheads. That’s the last year they won a statewide election. If you’re 0-for-12-years, you tend to think about going in another direction.
It also is giving in to stereotypes to assume that a person’s ancestry dictates his or her political bent. A diverse GOP ticket probably would turn out to be more conservative than the aged white one offered by the Democrats.
Can a smaller group of committed Republicans pick a winner better than the more, uh, democratic Democrats?
November will tell.
The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star