Putting Your Faith in the Political Party

I saw this tweet from a liberal Philadelphia blogger a while ago, and I have to admit that it’s interesting to ponder. Granted, unlike the blogger who would appear to view it as a good thing to have the most senior (aka most entrenched and least accountable) members of the political parties choosing their candidates, my thoughts about this are a bit more like, “Oh my Lord, hell no. No way, no how would I trust any political party leadership to be the only source of my choices.”

Now, I realize that many third party supporters would argue that happens already. Except that it doesn’t happen at all for House members. Even in special elections where party officials pick the only nominees to appear on the ballot, the voters still get to decide on the actual person they vote for in the end. They see a name running for Congress and they actually make their decision to vote on whether to send that exact person to represent them in the House or Senate.*

I’m appalled enough by the button on Pennsylvania voting machines that allows people to blindly vote by party instead of making the effort to even look at what is on the ballot, but this is like an extreme of a voting tradition that Clayton Cramer described in the comments to that post:

In the 19th century, big cities in the East were so awash in illiterate immigrants that the Democrats made sure that party symbols were on ballots.

I think what baffles me is that I don’t understand why some people want to encourage such extreme low information voting. I’d like to encourage people to be more involved in civic life, not make it so that they don’t have to give a passing thought to any issue or election.

*The electoral college, obviously, is a situation where you’re voting for different people from the party who are not actually on the ballot, but I wouldn’t be opposed to putting the names of the pledged electors on the ballot alongside the candidates seeking the presidency. In fact, I would encourage it as a matter of both transparency and promoting civic literacy.

9 Responses to “Putting Your Faith in the Political Party”

  1. Ian Argent says:

    I want to say that NJ puts the elector names on the ballot in small type as well as the candidates names, but I could be wrong.

    • Bitter says:

      I believe that some states do. Pennsylvania does not, as illustrated in the linked sample ballot that I posted.

  2. Andy B. says:

    This post reminded me that some years ago we had a very political Republican coroner in Bucks County that used to frequently express the opinion in public that what was desirable was a strong party, that people should vote for without regard to who its candidates were. I don’t completely recall his logic, but even 20 years ago I thought it was extremely archaic. But it was a prevailing logic when the “straight ticket” button/lever/block was codified for Pennsylvania ballots.

    That said — if there was some way to poll and thus quantify it, I think it could be shown that’s what gun owners have been doing for years now. As long as a Republican candidate hasn’t really shit in church (metaphorically speaking) on the gun issue, he will be given the benefit of every doubt, and articulate gun owners will make excuses for any shortcomings, that the candidate probably couldn’t think of himself. How different that is from voting a straight ticket, I don’t know, but I don’t think there is much difference.

  3. Bryan S. says:

    The shame is, that many gun owners also dont realize that the gun issue is not a straight party line item. Look at the FOAC guide from the last election… We endorsed a fair amount from both (major) parties.

  4. Jeff says:

    “I think what baffles me is that I don’t understand why some people want to encourage such extreme low information voting.”

    They do it because low information voters are more likely than not to vote for their candidates.

  5. Ymal Brucker says:

    The “independent” voter is the most DEPENDENT of all. On election day, he has a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. He has no say in the platform, policies, or promises of the candidates. Further, in a metropolitan area, there may be 200 or more candidates on the ballot. To vote for the “best” person in each race would require an unthinkable amount of research, attending rallies, studying brochures, etc.

    Further, after the election, the “independent” voter has no influence with the elected official – or any of his fellow party members.

    No, the best strategy is to pick the party that best conforms, overall, to your beliefs and support that party’s candidates. While not as powerful as in days past, the party organization does have SOME control over the candidates. It is, after all, in the party’s best interest to not contain some dufuss who will taint the entire slate.

    Remember, the VERY FIRST vote a congressman makes is to elect the Speaker of the House. In Washington, it matters not whether you’re a liberal or conservative, pro- or anti-gun. What counts is what side of the aisle on which you sit. And it is the Speaker who decides committee assignments and even which bills make it to the floor for a vote.

    • Andy B. says:

      Ultimately the independent voter has exactly the same influence any other voter has — no more and no less. That is, the ability to say “I have something you want — a vote — and here is what I expect you to do to get it.”

      As I have commented here several times, there is no greater political irrelevance than being identified as a constituency that can be taken for granted, and my argument above is that, a few petty excursions to endorse “other” candidates notwithstanding, gun owners for a long time have been a dependable Republican constituency whose votes can be had for next to nothing. Generally that is what has been delivered in return.

      That undercuts the efforts of outfits like FOAC, who doing some research and providing endorsements for worthy Democrats, must know that their influence in doing that is minimal, because to have influence would mean breaking people out of their established habits and assumptions as low information, pro-gun but partisan voters.

  6. NotClauswitz says:

    Here in the One-Party Gerrymandered state of California we hardly have a choice. Often the only choice is to vote for a Democrat you like or against a Democrat you hate. The Political Masters choose whether to run one Democrat against another in cage-match elections, to see one bloodied or another party-enemy trounced. It’s ALL inside-baseball and out of the public eye – and that’s how Washington DC has become to me.

    • Andy B. says:

      Relatives of mine who grew up in the Soviet Union have told me that despite having a one-party system, most elections were actually contested in a similar way to here. There WERE differences between nominal Communists. (For example, the Communist Party in their republic was one of the early leaders in the movement for independence from the Soviet Union.)

      Here we arguably have the choice between communists or fascists, both of which deny being what they are. We are so much more enlightened than the Soviets were.