Tammany Hall in Arlington, VA


I am a lifelong Democrat with many Republican friends whose right to disagree I have always respected (mostly).

Today Arlington County, VA held a Democratic Caucus for School Board.  Democrats in Arlington have had a stronghold on local politics at least for the 20+ years I have lived here; and Arlington has always gone Democratic in state and national elections.

Today when I went to vote in the primary I was asked to fill out and sign a pledge form.  I was told if I didn’t sign it, I could not vote.  In addition to complete contact information, cell phone, home phone, email address, the form had a passage that read,

“I certify that…I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party; and I do not intend to support, endorse or assist any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee or endorsee in the ensuing election.”

What country is this again?  Is not the voting booth a sacred, private right, a place we refer to as civic duty, and where citizens have the freedom to choose their elected officials?  This Tammany Hall-style pledge form basically said that if I wanted a say in which Democrat ran for School Board I would have to vote for whomever the machine told me to in the general election!

Am I the only one who finds that profoundly offensive?

There are many opinions on the subject.  Arlington has done this for years, other organizations from both major parties do it in other  places, and yes, it would be impossible to enforce.  Nevertheless, I am so offended that the party to which I belong would demand that I forfeit the right to choose in the voting booth in exchange for a vote in the Caucus!!!

I wonder if the leadership of the Arlington  Democratic Party thinks they would lose the election were it not for that form.  Do they boast 100% loyalty among voters since nobody can vote without signing the form?  Do they think that if my caucus choice failed to win the primary I would simply defect to the republican candidate instead of voting for the other democrat?

Party officials cling to what in my opinion are lame excuses such as using the pledges to thwart mischievous Republicans from manipulating the nomination process.  They also point out that it is not legally enforceable.  When Virginia Republicans tried this for a Presidential Primary they at least had the good sense to listen to the people and back off after widespread objections.  I suppose when you’re the party holding all the cards you are not subject to the pesky burden of listening to the people!  Well here’s hoping social media can change that equation!

I urge Arlington Democrats to speak out.  Tweet it, blog it, write letters, but find a way to object to this

These unfortunate party machine tactics will likely cause me to drop out of the Democratic Party of Arlington.  It will not change my personal political beliefs  but I will now give serious consideration to registering as an Independent and disassociating myself with the party as a way of registering my disappointment with this practice.

I read that the form has actually been challenged in court and upheld.  Obviously I’m not the only one who was offended, and obviously that sort of bad press does not deter Arlington’s Boss Tweed from strong-arming its members.

I did not vote today; however, a democratic school board candidate will be nominated with the support of all democrats who voted in the Caucus since they pledged to forfeit their right to vote freely in the general election.




  1. If you’ve found a way to register in Virginia as an Independent (or a Democrat or a Republican), please share it with me, eh?

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