Voters commit this sin against democracy in election after election

Be proud of your vote. Don't throw it away...

Be proud of your vote. Don’t throw it away…

You may think the fact that Donald Trump being the Republican nominee is the worst case of serious dysfunction in the history of our representative democracy.

And you may be right. This may even be a greater indictment of the electorate than when voters chose Andrew Jackson over John Quincy Adams in 1828.

But there’s another shocking thing that occurs in election after election, and what really gets me is that too many of us accept it as normal. It’s mentioned in this story in The State today:

Most S.C. districts are drawn to favor the incumbent or that politician’s party.

Straight-ticket voting also takes a toll on the competitiveness of S.C. political races, observers say. About half of S.C. voters who show up at the polls on Election Day will push one button to vote for every member of a single party, regardless of who they are, instead of selecting candidates in every race….

The boldfaced part of that excerpt tells us that about half of S.C. voters shouldn’t be voting. Anyone who would pull a party lever (or rather, touch that option on a screen), thereby avoiding giving any thought at all to the qualities of the individual candidates, should lose the right to vote permanently.

That is an utter negation of the responsibility given us as voters. The option absolutely should not exist, and it’s a scandal that it does. Sure, people could still go through and vote for only the candidates of a single party, but at least they’d have to make individual gestures to do so, and that would create room for some thought to come creeping in. Maybe, just maybe, in one or two instances, reason might overcome partisan obstinance and cause the voter to think, “No, not this one.”

But since parties control our legislatures, there’s little chance of this problem being addressed as it should. Parties don’t want voters thinking for themselves.

So let me implore you, if you’ve chosen the party option in the past, please don’t ever do so again. Have respect for democracy, and for your rights and responsibilities as one of a sovereign people. Think, about each choice before you. Don’t throw your franchise away.

36 thoughts on “Voters commit this sin against democracy in election after election

  1. Burl Burlingame

    My partial solution to gerrymandering — have the federal election districts drawn up by the Census Department.

  2. Doug T

    I disagree with your argument against straight party voting. I will never vote Republican. Never. When the details were known about the NC voter ID law…any voter fraud that occurs is with absentee ballots. But white people favor absentee voting so it wasn’t touched. The Republican controlled NC legislature specifically targeted areas that would affect non-white voters. Not all Republicans are racists, but enough of them are to keep me away.

    Basic philosophies and beliefs are what determines my vote. There are more Lee Atwaters and Andre Bauers that make up the Republican Party than we know.

    I love it when the Republican candidate in Missouri or Indiana make racist or misogynist remarks and let everyone know what’s in their heart. The only difference between them and a lot of other Republicans they were stupid enough to say it out loud.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You mean, the way Hillary Clinton was “stupid enough to say it out loud” when she had her “47 percent” moment yesterday?

      As close as this election unfortunately is, something like that could lose it for her — lose it for the country, lose it for us all.

      And you know what one of the reasons for her loss will be? Party-line voting in states such as South Carolina. People who don’t like Trump, but don’t know how to do anything else but hit that R button…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And you know what makes it possible for her to say something that stupid, and for Romney to say what he did about the 47 percent?

        The very same partisan attitudes that lead people to say that they’ll always vote for one party, and never consider anyone in the other party. The utter disdain for the other that arises from thinking of one party as always superior to the other…

        1. Bart

          “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
          “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
          Albert Einstein

          Einstein apparently had the ability to foresee the future because in the upcoming election, both of his quotes fit both candidates equally. That is unless one actually believes Clinton or Trump are capable and worthy of occupying the Oval Office. But, the voters are the ones who fit his comments best – on both sides.

  3. Doug T

    Hillary was wrong. Half of Trump’s supporters aren’t racists. It’s more like 40 per cent. The other 60 per cent tacitly agree because they don’t repudiate him.

    Don’t know if it was 2004, 2008… 90 per cent of voters in the Republican primaries were white. 62 per cent who voted in the Dem primaries were white. The US is/was 67 per cent white. Republicans don’t mirror America, they mirror the 1950s when whites were in control and people of color, LGBTs, etc knew their place…in the shadows.

    Let’s take back our country….back to the 1950s! It’s a dog whistle to whites who think they’re losing control of the country. Even Paul Ryan describes Trumps remarks as “textbook racist” but doesn’t have the courage to not support him.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s right. Because neither he nor other partisans of both parties will allow themselves to vote for the candidate and not the party.

      Which is what I’m on about…

    2. Bill

      I agree with Doug T and disagree (again) with Brad. I may not always vote for the Democrat, but I cannot imagine voting for a Republican – certainly not in this state. In those (unfortunately many) races where a Republican is running unopposed, I will write in “Beezebub’s crazy uncle” rather than give my vote to another Repuglicon. Where Brad gets it wrong is when he focuses exclusively on “the qualities of individual candidates.” Parties represent policy or governing philosophies and when a candidate chooses to run under one or the other party banner, s/he is embracing that party’s philosophy. Since I fundamentally disagree with the Repuglicon Party’s contemporary governing philosophy, I cannot in good conscience vote for one of their candidates.

      Oh, and as for losing the right to vote permanently, the only people who should be subject to that are the ones who suggest it. ANYBODY who suggests taking away another person’s right to vote on grounds such as this clearly suffers from a withered appreciation of democracy and human dignity

  4. bud

    Disagree. Given the utter disgrace of the GOP today it makes zero sense to vote for Republican. This is the party of Trump. They need to be destroyed. You wouldn’t vote for a “qualified” Nazi or “worthy” communist. By your own admission you won’t vote Libertarian. So why should I vote for a party worse than Libertarian. Sorry Brad you’re dead wrong on this one.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t want you to “vote Republican.” I don’t want you to vote Democratic. I want you to vote for the candidate.

      Don’t you want the Republicans who know what a nightmare Trump is to vote for Hillary? I certainly do. But if they think the way you’re thinking, they won’t.

      1. bud

        What I want is for people to recognize what a nightmare the GOP is in 2016 and leave it. You won’t vote Libertarian. I won’t vote Republican.

  5. bud

    Let me elaborate a bit more. Brad sees the two major parties as comparable in temperament, issues and ethics. Trump is merely an aberration. I see the Republican Party as a significant detriment to the progress of this great country. Though flawed in many ways the Democratic Party is the only force that stands in the way of this abhorrent bunch from turning this country into a plutocracy where the wealthy game the system to pad there coffers and the rest of us anti up. No way I’ll vote GOP. They need to be destroyed. And the easiest way is the straight party button.

  6. Burl Burlingame

    Like it or not, Trump is the current representative of his party, and he is the type of candidate his party has evolved into supporting. The people in his party who don’t care for him date from an earlier age.

  7. Lynn Teague

    Interesting comments on gerrymandering today from Matt Moore and Shane Massey in The State. They seem to have some appreciation for the damage done by gerrymandering, which has become so pronounced that it has made it completely unnecessary for virtually all legislative candidates in South Carolina to listen to people who don’t already agree with them. It is a cycle of ever-increasing polarization: politicians pick voters who are likely to vote for them, who then pull the lever for the party that picked them. Then they only need talk to each other, and no one has to find common ground with the other. While neither of the commenters went so far, I’d say that it is doing massive harm to our system of government. In any case, I’m glad that they made the comments that they did. Which takes us back to Brad’s comments. All Republicans can’t be equated with Donald Trump, and in the real business of government there is immense difference in the impact that individuals have.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “I’d say that it is doing massive harm to our system of government.”

      Nothing, but nothing, does more harm to our republic than that. Party-line voting is bad, but if anything gerrymandering is worse.

      Of course, they’re related…

      1. bud

        Nothing, but nothing, does more harm to our republic than that. (Gerrymandering)

        And which party is doing the Gerrymandering? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the Libertarian.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          In this state, it’s the Republicans.

          And Republicans started really outplaying the Democrats at this game even before they were the majority. In fact, it’s a big part of how they initially became the majority.

          The death knell for Democrats in our Legislature sounded when Bob Sheheen was still speaker, in the reapportionment round that followed the 1990 census. Black Democrats, dissatisfied with the number of “majority minority” districts that Sheheen and the white Democrats were willing to create, formed an unholy alliance with the Republicans — and together, they were able to outvote the white Dems. The GOP gave them a few more black-majority districts. Of course, for each black-majority district you create, you create several unusually white (and therefore Republican) districts around it.

          And bingo, the Republicans took over after the 1994 election. And what happened to the black Democrats? Their caucus got a little larger, but they suddenly found themselves utterly powerless, without any influence with the new majority — a majority that was FAR more interested in following a strict party line than the old one had ever been….

          1. Lynn Teague

            Correct. Members of both parties in SC have supported gerrymandering. Every single member of the current General Assembly got there because their gerrymandered district sent them there, often with little or no effort on their parts. Once past the primary, clear sailing. Getting past that to produce more competitive districts that might lead to less polarized elections is not going to be easy.

  8. Doug T

    Bill states it very well…people run as Republican or Democrat because they believe in a certain philosophy. Going to and from work I literally zig zag across the streets of my town to avoid pot holes and bumps that are patches on top of patches, but good lord, don’t raise taxes to fix roads or bridges. Low taxes and less regulations. Senator Thom Tillis (R) wants the free market to decide if restaurants should compel workers to wash their hands after bathroom visits.

    And someone please explain to me why Obamacare is so terrible vs the uninsured driving up our medical costs by waiting until an illness drives them to emergency rooms? What don’t I see? But the Republicans are gonna repeal and replace with something better. Yeah, right…we’re still waiting.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It often comes down to this: “people run as Republican or Democrat because they believe in a certain philosophy.”

      And of course, that strikes me as nonsensical, because I find both parties to be bizarre aggregations of positions on completely unrelated issues, positions that to me lack coherence.

      To my mind, any thinking person would have to agree with Democrats sometimes, and other times with Republicans, and frequently with neither.

      I just find it utterly incredible that anyone could agree with EVERYTHING one party stands for, and disagree with everything the OTHER stands for.

      I frequently attempt a mental exercise in which I try to make myself comfortable with one side or the other. I tell myself, “maybe I’m a Democrat,” or “maybe I’m a Republican.” And almost immediately, I run into multiple objections that cause my mind to recoil from such an identification.

      Bud puts his finger on the problem, although perhaps inadvertently, in an earlier comment: “You won’t vote Libertarian. I won’t vote Republican.”

      Exactly. Because the difference between Libertarians on one hand, and the Democrats and Republicans together on the other, is like night and day.

      The Libertarian Party, content to remain a tiny, outsider player in our politics, is completely coherent and consistent. I can easily see how an individual with a certain, disaffected attitude could be Libertarian.

      And for me, with a very, very different outlook on life, voting Libertarian is almost inconceivable. They consistently disagree with me; I consistently and often vehemently disagree with them.

      But the Democrats and Republicans both aspire to majority status, and therefore have formed coalitions of interest groups with wildly different interests.

      Which is fine. That’s a good thing. I wholeheartedly approve of different people finding common cause; you can’t have a civilized republic without it. It means that I can often find much to like in individual Democrats and Republicans.

      But that also means that from my perspective, the idea of ALWAYS agreeing with either team is ridiculous, inconceivable.

      But many people do, through some sort of gymnastics of rationalization that are utterly beyond me.

      Worse, they go beyond that. They don’t just buy into one side, they have this compulsion to utterly and completely reject the other side, to declare it utterly contemptible, practically subhuman. And therefore it becomes inconceivable to them to ever vote for one of those “others.”

      And I’ll say it again: If Trump wins, it will be in part because of all those Republicans who think just the way Bud and Bill and Doug T. do, who absolutely cannot bring themselves to consider voting for someone who represents the other party.

      And that has tragic consequences for our country…

      1. bud

        I probably disagree with the GOP as completely as Brad does the Libertarian. So I don’t even consider voting for them. Brad easily sees that with his narrow minded view about the Libertarians but in an incredible display of obtuseness fails to understand that Trump is the face of the 2016 GOP. Heck I’ve accused Libertarians of being a cult. But on a couple of big issues, war and marijuana they are spot on. Offhand I can’t think of any major policy issue that I agree with the GOP. It’s just pragmatic to work to defeat them. I just happen to find Brads position illogical.

      2. Bill

        ” I find both parties to be bizarre aggregations of positions on completely unrelated issues, positions that to me lack coherence.” – Brad

        That’s only because you insist on looking at them as a collection of individuals — who, collectively, don’t represent anything in particular. But that’s a rather blinkered appreciation of political contests — based, apparently, on your insistence on the qualities of the individual above all else. Unless they are true independents (of which there are very few — including in the electorate), candidates associate themselves with one or the other party’s governing philosophy. Just because you refuse to accept the role that parties play doesn’t mean they’re meaningless.

        “To my mind, any thinking person would have to agree with Democrats sometimes, and other times with Republicans, and frequently with neither.” – Brad

        That’s really quite insulting. There are plenty of (us) thinking people out here among the unwashed masses who reject one party over the other. The Republican Party of decades ago might’ve gotten my vote on occasion, but not the one we have today.

  9. Doug T

    ” I just find it utterly incredible that anyone could agree with EVERYTHING one party stands for, and disagree with everything the OTHER stands for.”

    You’re right Brad. But the differences are distilled into one thing for me: I notice the audiences at Republican rallies/gatherings. It looks like a klan rally sans sheets. I look at the audiences of a Democratic rally/gathering. It looks like America.

    And with that I’ll hush and thank you for maintaining such a great blog. I post seldom but read often. You have a very intelligent group that contributes here. I really enjoy reading this blog.

  10. Karen Pearson

    I have never voted by pushing one button to vote the straight party line, but more and more I find that I’m leaning more and more toward democratic candidates than republican ones. While some of the democratic candidates are of the “hold my nose and vote” variety, the republican is worse in my opinion. These days if my choice is not democratic candidate it’s one of the independents or green party candidates. I have been paying particular attention to what they say when addressing the faithful. Ms. Clinton’s reference to Mr. Trump’s followers as “deplorable” is mild compared to some of the poisonous pablum that’s being spooned out to their followers. To me, engaging in such viciousness is unacceptable and counts heavily against the person, since it demonstrates either laziness or a lack of knowledge on that candidate’s part.

  11. Harry Harris

    I think our strong tendency to favor party identity much more than we should is aligned with our label-dominated politics. Far too many of us respond to “liberal” or “conservative” or “pro-life” or “socialist” or whatever buzz word fits a politician’s agenda rather than looking at issues. We’ve let adjectives become nouns, diminishing the common DNA we share. Politicians have gotten us and the press to think in any narrow vein that might get them an advantage. When someone claims to be a “conservative, ” I’m asking just what he or she wants to conserve – or perhaps go back to. If a person declares pro life or progressive, I want to know what life they are “Pro” and how they might want to protect it or what, exactly they consider progress, and what policies might move us toward it. The parties provide a broad label, often hiding some real divergence in view and a large financial and campaigning incentive for adopting that label. I would argue that the Republican party, post Reagan, and especially during Obama, has trended strongly toward homogenized, label-driven positions in fear of some rigorous ideological and power-driven subsets controlling their direction. They and the Democrats have too many “third rail” positions that can likely sink a candidate who even appears to buck the party-line. As much as I dislike him personally, Bill Clinton was able to at least challenge Democratic orthodoxy and lead effectively. We as voters really need to become better informed and less intellectually lazy sheep.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Good points, Harry.

      And I wouldn’t just blame the politicians, although they are certainly culpable.

      Blame the media for being simple-minded, and wanting everything, but everything, to fit in a binary model. It’s as though sports writers had taken over political coverage. Everything is defined in terms of two teams, and no more than two, and it’s all about which will be the winner and which the loser. Democrats vs. Republicans, and to hell with the rest of us. Liberals vs. conservative, black vs. white, and so forth. If you’re not this, you are immediately labeled as being that — because you are only allowed two choices.

      This plays into the hands of the partisan politicians and affiliated interest groups. Media should be challenging and breaking up that ones-and-zeros paradigm, but instead they reinforce it. And I’m afraid it doesn’t even occur to most reporters, or their editors (who should know better), that that’s what they’re doing….

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And it’s sort of hard to blame individual politicians entirely for their own role in perpetuating the problem, because most of them were FORMED by the system, so it would be a major miracle for them even to perceive the problem, much less do anything about it.

      They are elected from districts deliberately drawn to produce representatives like them, so of COURSE they act the way they do. And of course they perpetuate the system.

      It’s sort of like the political equivalent of Original Sin… The individual is born into the situation and tainted by it, having had no hand in creating the problem to start with…

  12. Doug T

    Hi Harry. I’m not a lazy sheep. There are third rail issues. Why shouldn’t there be? Voter suppression and discrimination are third rail issues for me. No apologies. baaaaaaa.

    And to Brad’s point, we should vote for the candidate? 99.9999% of us do not know enough about the candidates except they choose their party based on their beliefs. That’s pretty much all we know. Most of us don’t attend Kiwanis or Rotary meetings where we gossip, um discuss people.


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