Are you a Republican or a Democrat?
Well, actually, David, I’m not either one. I’m an independent.
Oh, really? How’s that working out for you? When’s the last time an independent won a major political office?
Okay, you’re right. Joe Lieberman won a Senate seat as an independent in 2006, but he was really a Democrat. He’d served in the Senate as a Democrat since 1988. In 2006 Connecticut Democrats voted to replace him because of his support for our troops and our Middle Eastern policies, but the voters returned him anyhow. He’d always been a Democrat, and he remains a registered Democrat.
No, I’m talking about a true independent. Someone unaffiliated with either party who won a major office as an independent. Can’t think of one? Neither can I.
Well, okay, David—I didn’t really mean I vote for independents. I vote for the man, not for the party.
All right, let’s examine that statement. I’ve heard countless people make it through the years. Let’s see if it can hold up logically.
If you’re not actually voting for an independent, then you’re either voting for a Democrat or a Republican, right. Yep, that’s right. I don’t support either party—just the candidates I think are best.
Sounds admirable, but how does that work out in practice?
Let’s say you voted for a Democrat named Joe Blow for Congress. You’re not a Democrat yourself, but you thought Joe was the best man in this particular race.
What happens when he gets to Washington? The first thing that happens when he gets there is that the parties hold meetings to decide on their leaders. Joe will meet with the Democrat party. In that meeting, his colleagues elect Nancy Pelosi as their leader. She will become the House Minority Leader. If this had been 2008 or 2010, she would have become Speaker and controlled the entire legislative agenda of the House.
But David, I didn’t vote for her. YES, YOU DID. When you voted for Joe Blow, you voted for her leadership. Joe might have tried to support some alternative candidate in the party meetings, but when she won, he had no choice to support her. Your vote helped to support her and her agenda, whether you intended to do so or not.
By voting for Joe Blow, no matter how conservative he might be personally, you voted for the party thinks the solution to all our problems is to take money away from those who earn it and give it to people who didn’t earn it—minus a healthy percentage to support the bureaucracy that distributes the money.
If you believe that’s the right solution to problems, fair enough. You have the right to your opinion and the right to express it at the ballot box. But don’t tell yourself you vote for the man and not to support the party’s agenda.
Or let’s say you voted for Jane Doe, who happens to be a Republican, for Congress. You don’t really believe in holding down taxes and spending, strengthening our borders and our military, defending the right to life of unborn babies, but for whatever reason you decided to vote for Jane.
When she got to Washington she caucused with the Republicans. Her party selected John Boehner to be Speaker of the House. Their agenda includes cutting spending, lowering taxes, protecting the border, beefing up the military, defending the right to life. And Jane, like Joe in the example above, will vote with her party.
No, you didn’t vote directly for John Boehner to be speaker. You didn’t vote specifically for the Republican agenda. But you helped put a woman in office who would.
Again, if you believe in that agenda, fine. Stand up and say so. But don’t kid yourself that your support of the Republican candidate doesn’t support the party, its leaders and its agenda. You supported all these things by voting for her.
Wait a minute, David. Aren’t you oversimplifying this? There are issues where I agree with the Democrats and others where I agree with the Republicans. I can’t see supporting either party’s candidates all the time.
Okay, you do have a point—up to a point. I certainly don’t agree with either party all the time. In fact, the officeholders within each party have their own differences. But the fact remains that, on balance, the Democrats believe in higher taxes and more government spending and more governmental regulation of private enterprise, and the Republicans believe in lowering taxes and loosening government regulation in order to free private enterprise to do its job and lift the economy and provide the people with opportunity, and lowering government spending to allow the first two a chance to function.
Although we cannot agree with either party in every case, if I believe what’s best for the country is to restrict economic opportunity by tight controls and high taxes and let the government support the victims of those policies with greater public spending, I should always vote Democrat. If, on the other hand, I believe it’s best to unleash the power of the people by lowering taxes, reducing public spending correspondingly, and loosing the marketplace from repressive government regulation, I should always vote Republican.
And let’s be careful about supporting third-party candidates, too. Let’s say you are a liberal and support a liberal agenda. You realize the Democrat Party is much more liberal than the Republican Party, but their candidate and platform this year aren’t quite liberal enough to suit you. So you decide to vote for the Green Party instead.
Is the Green Party going to take votes away from the Republicans or the Democrats? What do you think? Nobody voting for the Green Party was going to vote Republican anyhow. A Green Party candidate is going to take votes from the Democrats. Intended or not, this candidate is going to help the Republicans win the election.
Conversely, if you voted for H. Ross Perot in 1992, your beliefs most likely were closer to those of the Republican Party than the Democrat Party. Yet his candidacy took votes away, not from Bill Clinton, but from George H. W. Bush. By drawing nineteen per cent of the votes, he allowed Bill Clinton to win the election without winning a majority of the vote.
Before you decide how to vote in the next elections, bear these facts in mind:
Ø Your vote helps further the cause of the party your candidate belongs to, whether you personally support that agenda or not.
Ø A vote for a third-party or independent candidate almost always backfires and helps the party you least wanted to see win.
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Great explication. I particularly liked the discussion of the effects of voting for a third party candidate.
Presented clearly. Cleared up some of my nebulous thinking. Appreciated this column. Keep up the fine work. Love, Wife