Monday, September 14, 2015

Ain't No Party

Yeah, people used to nominate the candidates who had served the party for a long time, you know, the Hubert Humphreys or Bill Clintons or Ronald Reagans, George Bushs. And party service and service to the party was an essential element of getting the parties' votes. But now on the Republican side, half the Republican voters are supporting Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who are either against the party are totally outside the party. And a lot of Democrats are supporting Bernie Sanders, who's a different kind of candidate but who is sort of an independent. And so they're not honoring the party, they're honoring the individual, and that's a bad thing, I think.

Parties are very effective coalitions, sometimes illogical coalitions, but coalitions of people that create majorities. And you need majorities to get things passed. You need governing majorities. And only a party can do that. Individuals can't do that. Individuals can just make statements. And so what's happening in our more individualistic society is we're supporting individuals and not parties, and I think that's going to make the country even more ungovernable.
David Brooks "Week In Politics: Outsider Presidential Candidates, Joe Biden On 'Colbert'" National Public Radio
Normally, I find that David Brooks is the lesser partisan of the two regular guests on NPR Friday "Week In Politics" segments. So I was somewhat surprised to hear him basically say that the voting public should be honoring the political parties, and that party structures were the only way of getting things done. In part because this strikes me as much more in keeping with the European model of parliamentary democracy, but mainly because that's not really the way in which our system was intended to work. The whole point behind the district structure that is used by the House of Representatives is that people in (relatively) close geographical proximity to one another vote for someone whose job it is to take their particular concerns to Washington. And that person is supposed to represent those people and their interests when it comes time to vote. Just because two people happen to both be Democrats or both Republicans doesn't erase the differences that arise when they live in communities far apart from one another. Congressional votes aren't supposed to be strictly partisan affairs - they're intended to allow the desires of the people (albeit second-hand) to direct the governance of the nation. And if that means that Bill 25 passes with a nearly completely set of votes than Bill 24 did, wonderful. That's a republic in action. The coalitions that Mr. Brooks speaks of are made up, in their entirely of individuals, who chose, with every vote, whether or not to go along with one crowd or another. And so if people chose to vote for individuals based on personal fit rather than party affiliation, I don't see at all how this is a bad thing.

I'm not really in the camp of either Trump, Sanders or Carson. But I don't see the people who are enthusiastic about them as violating some sort of partisan responsibility. They're voting for the people who they understand best represent their interests, not yet with their actual votes, but with their support. And that should be a signal to the parties that the people they claim to represent aren't all that thrilled with the job they've been doing. Voting is the way that elected officials are held accountable, and to say that party leaders should effectively dictate who voters may choose to carry out national policy seems to be calculated to strip away that accountability. And in doing to, it plays into the hands of the people who say that voting is worthless because the choices presented are all false ones. This, I do see as a bad thing.

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