Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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

Voting for a candidate supports that candidate’s positions

Jerry Stratton, November 1, 2009

Over at Ace of Spades HQ, Ace is trying to convince people that New York 23 was a special case, and that most of the time, you should vote along partisan lines rather than on principles or issues. That’s a recipe for exactly the situation Republicans have found themselves in for the last couple of (several?) years.

The problem with deciding that your key issues are less important than party identification is that the party will quickly recognize that it doesn’t need to serve you. At its worst, you end up with a bunch of voters continuing to vote for more and more candidates who don’t support them on a key issue, until finally the party itself doesn’t support them and that party sees a sudden, precipitous drop at the polls. It isn’t really sudden, it just looks that way: people who once held their noses to vote for “their” party have fallen away from the party and no longer identify with it.

You end up in the same boat as fiscal conservatives are in now: they kept voting for less and less fiscally-conservative Republicans until a critical mass was reached where the electorate no longer saw Republicans as fiscal conservatives. Without fiscal conservatives to vote for in either party, their decision-making switched to different issues, they no longer identified specifically as Republican, and control passed to the Democrats. Republicans tried to be better Democrats, which left even less choice to voters, and in a situation where they could vote for a good Democrat or a bad Democrat, Democrats won.

Fiscal conservatism was no longer a choice to base a vote on, because Republicans had crossed the line into no longer being fiscally conservative. You can argue all you want that Republicans are “more” fiscally conservative than the Democrats, but as far as the electorate is concerned they might as well be “more dead” or “less pregnant”. The Republicans crossed the line from “are” to “are not”, and degrees of separation no longer mattered.

Yes, absolutely, sometimes you have to choose someone who is 80% with you rather than 100%. Sometimes you’ll have to decide which issues are more important to you. You’ll even need to take into account that some candidates have a better chance of winning the election than others. But your support needs to be for people who are with you on important issues, rather than people who are less against you. Politicians will try very hard to make you keep lowering the bar.

Never vote for party. Even when you vote for party, you don’t vote for party. You vote because there is some principle that your vote will advance. Every vote you make is a vote in support of what that candidate stands for. Politicians can’t see your feelings or your reservations. All they see is that you’re willing to vote for this candidate, and this candidate holds these issues. In aggregate, they look at what issues win and what issues lose. Any issue you ignore is one politicians can ignore, too.

Politicians are naturally fickle. They get caught up in the day-to-day maneuvering of Congress and decide that compromise in the name of “getting things done” is more important than the principles they once stood for. They’ll compromise even when they don’t need to just for the sake of it. Senators seem to be the worst: Ace brings up the 1994 Brady gun ban as an example of something to ignore1. The gun ban was dead. Activists relaxed; and then a nominally pro-self-defense Republican resurrected it in the name of compromise.

When your vote is a compromise, you must ensure that the compromise moves debate towards your stand, and not away from it. If you want to make a difference as a voter, identify your key issues; and vote in a manner that supports your stand on those issues. Anything else tells politicians that those are not, in fact, key issues for you. That’s the bottom line.

  1. Ace appears to be forgetting the order of events: he attributes the Brady Bill’s passage to Columbine—but the Brady Bill passed five years before Columbine (and to state the obvious, didn’t prevent it).

  1. <- Marijuana guidelines
  2. Gerrymandering NY 23 ->