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On the way to November

The flurry of American primary elections came just in time to remind everybody that the free world depends on the voters in South Succotash as well as the leaders conferring at the summit. Indeed, earlier in the week, voters in West Germany's Hamburg state elections had sent Chancellor Schmidt a message by voting down his Social Democratic Party for the first time. Nothing so dramatic happened in the United States. But key results suggested that voters in both the Republican and Democratic parties resisted appeals to ideology and considered candidates on their merits as a whole in the local context. Thus is the democratic energy generated that transmits itself from the grass roots to the grand tours of summitry.

''It looks like Millicent's magic was just too much,'' said arch-conservative Jeffrey Bell after losing to Millicent Fenwick for the Republican senatorial nomination in New Jersey. But the point is not magical; it is that Representative Fenwick has gained a reputation for articulate firmness and fairness. GOP voters evidently realized she would give any Democrat a run for the money.

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On the other coast, San Diego's Mayor Pete Wilson received the GOP nomination for senator from California. He is known both for backing Reagan economic policies and effectively, pragmatically applying them at city level. He defeated, among others, Barry Goldwater Jr., who the voters apparently saw would be an easier mark for Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic senatorial candidate.

Another California mayor, Thomas Bradley of Los Angeles, gained the Democratic nomination for governor. If he wins he would be the first black candidate elected to a US governorship. By having brought himself this far from a policeman's beat, Mr. Bradley proved that democracy is still alive and well.

So, too, did Democrats in Montana when they resisted one of those organized right-wing opposition campaigns and renominated Sen. John Melcher.

And in Arkansas one of the most promising younger Democrats, Bill Clinton, was given a second chance at the governor's chair he was voted out of in 1980. With his efforts to bring alienated American voters back to the polls, his willingness to look beyond immediate problems to fundamental reforms, he has been an example of the political talent that can so often be found far from the so-called centers of power.

Many others could be cited. Through such people in all the democracies are the links forged from the anonymous voting booth to Bonn and Versailles.

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