Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

I voted against it when I voted for it

Jerry Stratton, September 15, 2010

One of the complaints against Delaware Representative Mike Castle is that he voted in favor of moving an impeachment bill forward to impeach President Bush. Castle’s supporters are saying that, no, he voted in favor of moving it forward in order to kill it.

Which sounds silly, but in fact it could be correct. The normal thing to do with a bill if you want it to succeed is to move it forward to the committee that can work on it. The normal thing to do if you want a bill like that to fail is to move it forward to a committee that can bottle it up.

This is along the same lines that voting against a bill is something supporters do when a bill is losing, because it gives supporters the option to bring up a motion of reconsideration later and vote yes. They’re killing their own bill to keep it alive, so to speak.

But when “yes” means “no” and “against” means “for”, how are voters supposed to know where their representative stands? And if the resolution was passed out of committee, what would Castle’s excuse be? “I was trying to game the system, but I failed?”

So now we have CYA votes where a representative would have voted one way but was allowed by their party leadership to vote another way to confuse the voters; and we have votes to move a bill forward that are really votes to block a bill. And we have votes to kill a bill that are really votes to resurrect a bill.

I actually tossed this post into my canceled articles folder for a few hours. It isn’t as though any of this is new; the reconsideration trick is part of Robert’s Rules of Order. And I’m sure these tricks have been used in favor of things I support as often as they’ve been used in favor of things I don’t.

But maneuvers like this have evolved into ways to provide plausible deniability to incumbents. The politician can vote, and then claim to support or oppose a measure depending on public opinion three years later. These are also ways of saying that you need professional politicians to understand politics, because a normal person can’t just look at their representative’s votes and know whether the rep is in fact representing them.

A normal person certainly can’t be expected to take part in politics. They might vote the wrong way and not even know it!

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