Back to bossism Austin The Democrats’ reformed conventions have become entirely too democratic for this state’s would-be political bosses. “It’s a clear-cut issue,” said House Speaker Bill Clayton. “It’s a Bentsen bill.” Back to bossism! that is the meaning of the Bentsen party presidential primary bill. THE SIGNAL reform in the Democratic Party since 1972 has been the abolition of the “winner-take-all” unit rule and its replacement with proportional representation. In the old days, the Rayburn-Johnson-Shivers-Connally days in Texas, the unit ‘rule was used to wipe out anything less than majorities at each stage of the convention process. The Texas delegations to the national Democratic conventions came to be mere toys in the plays of the reigning politicians. Beginning in 1968, the McGovern reformers began calling for proportional representation from bottom to top in the convention system. One-person, one-vote, finally came to be applied in the Democratic Party, too. It is worth a moment to come to a full stop on this point. What really is involved in proportional representation? Democracy, nothing less. If you go to a precinct convention and your group gets so many votes for a certain presidential candidate Wallace, Bentsen, Harris, Yarborough, whoever you are entitled to be sure that your group’s strength will not be washed out by “winner-take-all.” You are entitled to know that you will not be discounted because the side you voted with did not get a majority in the meeting in which you participated. The same principle should apply in a presidential primary. The Bentsen party primary bill wipes out proportional representation and replaces it with winner-take-all, applying this gluttonous rule at the senatorial district level and then extending it by having the delegates so chosen in the senatorial districts themselves select, in proportion to their own numbers, the state’s at-large delegates. With Bentsen’s widely-publicized support and the open involvement of his top aides, the bill sets up a mechanism by which the candidate appoints committees which in turn designate his delegates. This would deprive all rank and file party members of any significant role in the process of choosing national convention delegates. Under the Bentsen approach, the political parties become shells to be used in the candidates’ games. Those candidates for delegate getting the highest vote totals would be elected. This is not a majority-take-all system; it is a plurality-take-all system which could wipe Observations out the wishes of 60 or 70 percent of the electorate in a senatorial district. Why not let the people vote directly for the presidential candidates instead of for their delegate slates? Why not allocate the delegates on the basis of the proportion of the votes that go to each candidate? The answer one gets from Bentsen’s people is that they figure they will come out best with “winner-take-all.” Whether they are correct is irrelevant. What matters is the fact that Bentsen, in what he takes to be his own interest, is seeking to destroy proportional representation and reinstate winner-take-all in the Democratic Party in Texas. The Bentsen presidential campaign is launched in his home state with this unprincipled attempt to prevent the selection of a Texas delegation that fairly represents the wishes of the Democratic voters of the state. Despite the power-press to get the bill whipped through, the distaste for it was so great in the House that at one point the Kubiak substitute providing proportional representation was adopted. At this point no one can tell what the Legislature will finally do. Governor Briscoe, pledged to Bentsen, said, “I could go along with winner-take-all,” brushing aside fair play as though he didn’t even understand it. The practical question may be whether Bentsen is willing to sustain the powerful backlash against him if his plan finally becomes, in substance, law. The s o-called “compromise” vended by Bentsen legislators, including the one passed by the House, are persiflage, reducing the evils of the plan fractionally. As long as the bill creates a mechanism that permits “winner-take-all,” Bentsen is associating himself with the abandonment of fair-play reforms for his own selfish political interest. He might as well make plans now to justify to the Democrats of the country his sponsorship of Texas legislation under which, as Jon Ford wrote, “a candidate could . . . get 100 percent of the delegates with a 40 percent or a 30 percent plurality in every district.” ANNOUNCING for President, Bentsen said he would also run for reelection as senator at the same time. There is a constitutional question here which should have been raised in 1959. When a seated senator runs for reelection and for President, he is depriving the voters of his state of the right of knowing that the candidates they are considering for senator will occupy that office if elected. One has to wonder whether the equal protection of the laws should not protect the voters of one state from this disadvantage, which is not suffered by voters of other states. One doubts that this Legislature will enact the bill to repeal ,this special “Johnson law,” but at the bully-ragging minimum the law should be expanded to permit people to run for any federal office \(such as time, just in case some Texas congressman might want to do it. One of the various outrages in the original Bentsen presidential primary bill was its failure to permit any delegates to run as “uncommitted.” Maybe the Legislature will repair this fault, maybe not, but the Bentsen bill as introduced meant that if only Bentsen and Wallace enter the Texas primary, you either vote for one or the other of them, or you have no way to vote. \(“Write-in voting for delegate candidates is not permitted,” says On Feb. 19, Lukin Gilliland announced the formation of the Austin chapter of the Ralph Yarborough for President Club. “Once again,” the young man said, “big money and big business are trying .to purchase the Democratic Party and name its nominee for President.” That is correct. Yarborough disavowed any role at all in Gilliland’s move, but did not stop it, either, and people in Austin have begun enthusiastically signing up. The Gilliland plan strikes me as a good one. No compelling progressive candidate has yet appeared on the national scene; that is why Bentsen has been able to flake off so many Texas liberals. \(We are finding out once again, at a great rate, who among Rallying around Yarborough looks now like the best available way for the Texas progressives to join their influence into the national progressive forces that will coalesce at the 1976 Democratic convention. With Bentsen cajoling the Legislature into a sophisticated reimposition of the unit rule at the senatorial district level, the time had clearly come for counter-strategy, and Lukin Gilliland’s just might work. R.D. 66 low-cost houses = $1 million = 1 Huey helicopter. Unfunded housing assistance in Arkansas = $100 million = 1 DD-963 destroyer. 257 apartments in New York City = $9 million = 1 Navy A6-E Intruder plane. from The Permanent War Economy, Seymour Melman. March 14, 1975 23
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