Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why I'm not Voting Straight-Ticket Democrat

Some of my favorite bloggers (Jim McDonald at Making Light and John Scalzi and Chad Orzel, who links to the other two) are urging people to vote straight ticket democratic, in an attempt to cause a shake-up in the Republican party, which is desperately in need of new leadership.

I share their aims but I'm not going along with their program. Because as one commenter at Making Light said, they don't live in Chicago.

Chicago shows what happens when the Democrats start taking your vote for granted. Specifically, in this race, we've got an incumbent governor who is under federal investigation for giving state business to certain companies in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks, and hiring unqualified people for state jobs either in return for campaign contributions or simply to build a network of cronies. Not to mention the fact that his policy decisions on things like toll roads and pensions have been plain stupid. And we've got a candidate for county board president who is the son of the man who won the Democratic primary. Two weeks before John Stroger won, he suffered a stroke. His family covered up the seriousness of the stroke until after the election, allowing voters to think he would recover enough to take office. They revealed his true condition at the last possible minute for changing names on the November ballot, and then arranged to get Todd Stroger's name put on instead. They have the clout to put names on the Democratic ticket at will because John Stroger has for so long been a very important cog in the Democratic machine in Cook county. I have no doubt that the kickbacks and hiring scandals and cronyism are even worse at the county level than at the state level, and that the Stroger family is a part of them.

So I'm not voting for either of them. But not only am I not voting for them, I am voting for their Republican opponents, both of whom are running on platforms of reform.

See, I have this theory about how the two party system works. It's based on the idea that the most important function of democracy is to allow the people to throw out a bad government without a revolution. To me this seems very difficult to do in a multi-party system. Either you've got three or more parties in a winner take all election, which means that a minority is enough to elect a generally unpopular person (ie, Ralph Nader helps get Bush elected) or you've got a proportional representation system, where, even if the bad government leaders lose their majority, they can keep part of their power by joining a "coalition."

By contrast, in a two party system it is possible to vote against someone, not merely for someone. And that's what I'm going to do. I'm a big fan of checks and balances, and two equally powerful parties act as checks on each other, ideally. I want to keep them roughly equally powerful. And they're not, around here -- I think that's the root of the problem.

Which is not to say that there are only two points of view on every issue. Just that, in the US, I think the multiple perspectives should be hashed out within the parties. The long list of candidates with the spectrum of ideas should appear on the primary ballot. And the elections which actually choose someone for office should be (and are) run-offs between the winners from the two long lists.

That's my philosophy. I like the two party system because I believe of all systems it makes it easiest to "throw the bastards out." So I'm voting to restore the balance of power in Illinois, and throw some bastards out.

But at the national level -- straight Democrat.

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