Why I Don’t Just Admit I Am A Democrat

Got an e-mail from someone who’s apparently been reading my archives to figure out my political views. It was a hostile e-mail, but at the heart of the e-mail is a legitimate question, which I will paraphrase as such:

You say you’re politically independent but you vote like a Democrat. Why don’t you just admit you’re a Democrat?

The answer is: Well, because I’m not.

Three points here:

1. Being a Democrat, in the most obvious sense, would mean being a member of the Democratic Party here in the United States. I am not a member of the Democratic Party currently, nor have I ever been, unless you count the five minutes in 2008 when I checked the “Democrat” checkbox so I could vote in the the 2008 Ohio presidential primary. By that standard I may have been a member of the Republican Party as well at one point, since I believe I voted in a GOP primary once in Virginia (I can’t remember if that required a statement about my party; suffice to say I think closed primaries are silly). From the first time I could vote, I have registered as an independent.

Reasons for this: One, on a practical level, it cuts way the hell down on the amount of political junk mail I get. I find most political mailings obnoxious and insulting to my intelligence, not to mention a waste of trees, so the less that I have to see, the better. Two, on a philosophical level, I think political parties are a bit of a menace. I don’t know if I would actually be happier with our political system if political parties didn’t exist and all political candidates had to fend for themselves without a national organization riding herd on them, but I do know that I would be willing to live in the universe where that was the case, to see how it worked out.

2. I don’t have a party, but I do have political views. If I lived in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England or most of what used to be called Western Europe, those political views would probably get me tagged as a member of the major local conservative party. Here in the US, they currently align most frequently with the Democratic party, our ostensibly “liberal” major political party. But 40 years ago, they probably would have gotten me tagged as a moderate Republican. This to my mind suggests there is wisdom in not aligning with actual political parties, and instead establishing one’s own political ideals and then finding which candidates most closely align with the one ideals, and political goals.

3. I have (and do) vote for political candidates other than Democrats, and don’t automatically vote for Democratic candidates. I’ve noted before that when I lived in Virginia’s 10th District, I regularly voted for Frank Wolf, a conservative Republican; he had many positions I didn’t like (including his abortion stance) but he also was the head of the House’s Transportation committee (i.e., nice smooth roads in Northern Virginia), had a principled stance on human rights, and even his positions that I opposed were based on his moral and philosophical beliefs rather than mere political expediency. In the end the positives for me outweighed the negatives, and I could vote for him over his opponents in each cycle.

Here in OH-8, I’ve not voted for John Boehner, but there have been times when I didn’t vote for his Democratic opponent, either, because I didn’t like their positions, or thought that the advantages of giving him my vote would outweigh the advantages of keep Boehner, who is, after all, Speaker of the House, and was House Minority Leader prior to that (this election cycle there’s no Democrat running against Boehner, so I don’t have the option of voting for a Democrat in any event). Beyond that, in state and local elections, I’ve voted for Republicans candidates in most election cycles, when I believed that they were the most qualified candidates for that position and/or that they were running for a post where the more nutty aspects of the current Republican Party orthodoxy would not be a problem.

So, to recap: Philosophically aligned against political parties in a general sense, never registered for any political party, which party my personal politics align with depends on geography and temporality in any event, and I’ve never voted a straight ticket in my life, so far as I know. So there you are.

This is not to say, mind you, that I am neutral as regards my opinions on the US political parties are they are currently ideologically and practically constituted; I don’t think it’ll be a huge surprise to anyone that I am not at all a fan of the Republican Party in its most recent iteration. I would be delighted for the party to swing back toward people who have foundations based in a coherent political philosophy, rather than “whatever Obama is for, I am against, and rich people can do no wrong ever,” which is what it seems to boil down to these days for the GOP. The Democratic Party is no prize, but it’s at the very least not nearly as far down the slope of truculent irrationality. “Not as truculently irrational,” however, is not a sterling inducement for me to join the Democratic Party. Or any party, to be honest about it.

186 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Just Admit I Am A Democrat

  1. “If I lived in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England or most of what used to be called Western Europe, those political views would probably get me tagged as a member of the major local conservative party.”

    Just for fun, here’s a helpful chart to figure out the differences between political parties in Europe and the US:
    Europe United States
    Conservative Liberal
    Liberal Socialist
    Socialist Communist

    (Yes, the categories are too broad to be actually useful.)

  2. What I don’t understand is how *anyone* can register as *either* political party! AFAICT, it’s just a lazy shortcut so said person can avoid looking in-depth at the issues and/or the people up for election.

  3. Curious on whether you think the party systems as practiced in England and other democracies would be better/worth a try in your opinion. Otherwise, interesting read and take on it.

  4. I feel like political parties operate like mind-control cults. Having escaped one of those in my life (mormonism), I’m not at all eager to enter another by joining up with one of them.

    However, it is an efficient way to operate things, so I understand why they employ those methods.

  5. (Feel free to edit if you find it necessary)

    Agreed. I was an active member of the Democratic party here in Utah (yes there is one) for some time. But I got sick of their constant whining and bitching about how everything any republican did or said was wrong, not because it was intrinsically wrong but because a republican said it. I am now registered as unaffiliated, which temporarily switches to republican when necessary to vote in their closed primary. I think that once since I became old enough to vote in 1965 I voted for all candidates in one party, but I don’t remember which party. In one election a few years ago I voted for candidates in 4 different parties (dem, rep, libertarian, and green).
    What I hate, being gay, is the number of gay activists who act as if I am required by God or law or some other major force to be a member of the democratic party, send them lots of money, and always vote straight ticket democrat no matter who is running.
    I wish I could get off the insulting phoney surveys that the democratic party keeps sending me, which are really appeals for donations, but when I call they deny I am on their mailing list so they can’t take me off. I wish I could get rid of robocalls about why I have to vote for republicans, but the cowards call from hidden numbers. I wish I could explain to the tea party fanatics that the constitution they pretend to worship wouldn’t exist without compromises on every issue.
    But sadly, none of this is possible.

  6. My first voting experience was off-cycle during Reagan’s second term. I liked him a lot, thought his VP was smart, if not the best speaker, and aside from a few specific disagreements similar to what you list above, most of the GOP stances made sense to me at the time. I soon realized that the candidates, not the party, are what interested me, so I moved back and forth, thinking that I had a better chance of getting the candidates I liked into office by registering for their party and helping them get into office. Registering and re-registering is pretty easy here in Oregon. Yes, some election cycles saw me trying to decide which party’s primary ballot I most wanted to influence. I’ve since given up on that and registered independent, where it’s likely to remain. None of the major parties seem too interested in governing, they just want to rule.

  7. With regards to your brief pseudo membership in parties on account of primaries, would you prefer something like the WA primaries which are effectively non partisan and pass the top two in each race to the general election? Is there any chance your state will get it?

  8. I’d be willing to join you in that universe without overriding political parties, to check that out. I usually just tell people I’m Libertarian, and they look confused. hehe. People should vote for people whose morals & philosophies align with theirs – not just because they’ve been a member of whichever party for however long.

  9. Yeah, I’m aligned with neither party myself. It’s a vanity many politically engaged people afford themselves.

  10. BTW, I put strategic voting over voting for the guy who matches me best on issues. I know they’re going to flip-flop or radically Change positions (I mean, a $400 billion deficit is “unpatriotic” but a $1.1 Trillion isn’t? Really, Barack?) so I tend to figure out how the rest of the offices i cant vote for are most likely to be filled and vote for the candidates who, when placed in power, will net outcomes I desire. That means I’ve spent the last decade mostly voting for democrats for state offices (except for Merkley since that guy is just wrong) and the GOP for president. That’s after the 90s where I pretty much voted every way you can think, even not voting in ’96.

  11. I’m a member of the Green Party but I’ve voted for all sort of candidates in different parties. Whomever I feel is best qualified to serve my interests gets my vote.

    My Dad was the kind of Republican they don’t make anymore, an Eisenhower Republican.

  12. Steve Metke:

    “With regards to your brief pseudo membership in parties on account of primaries, would you prefer something like the WA primaries which are effectively non partisan and pass the top two in each race to the general election?”

    I don’t really see that happening here in Ohio anytime soon, but I wouldn’t mind trying it and seeing how it works. I think California just switched to that sort of thing.

    Scorpius:

    “BTW, I put strategic voting over voting for the guy who matches me best on issues.”

    I’m not opposed to doing that (and have done), although usually I default to voting for people I like on the issues.

  13. John, I think you would be surprised by exactly how right wing the Conservative Parties of Canada and the UK have become over the last 30 years. I am a daily reader of yours and I can guarantee you that a man of your views would not be at home in either of them.

  14. The problem with england (and other countries like it) are that they use the parliamentary system.
    Multiple parties are possible because they can have real power. The US system defaults to a de facto two party system in every country which uses it (India is a strange exception). Even though we have multiple parties, the reality is that we have a two party system.

    (wiki: the reasons have to do with the historical foundations of the two party system, political socialization and practical considerations, the winner-take-all electoral system, and state and federal laws favoring the two party system)

    We would need to amend the constitution to change this. So it will never happen.

  15. I registered in 1984 as a republican. Thinking back, I believe I did this because even then I identified with republicans as being the “well off” and as a graduating high school senior I, too, wanted to be well off. Whom better to align myself with than those that have gotten there. I’ve never bothered to change, but have also never voted the party line. I’ve probably voted for more democrats than republicans at this point and consider myself an independent despite how I remain registered.

  16. Parties of course are fundamentally different beasts in the US compared to parliamentary systems in use in Europe. American votes for a person, creating a cult of personality (AKA Reagan or Obama) were-as in England et all people vote for parties who put up people.

    Parties as in England, are useful information aggregators, you know the sorts of governmental policies that Tories or Labor are going to put into place. Voting for people is more difficult as we tend to see what we want in people and we don’t do that sort of behavior with groups of people. For example, who knew that the current administration would hire all of the people who help create the banking mess to fix it….

  17. Texas doesn’t have recorded party registrations — they stamp your registration card if you vote in a primary so you can’t vote in more than one primary, but that’s the extent of it.

    As a result, we get dead-tree political spam from ALL sides. Whee!!

  18. What’s more disturbing, is that when you express dislike, distaste or disagree with something done by the GOP, you are automatically branded as a libural pinko commie socialist democrat.

    While I hate what the GOP has become, that is not the same as agreeing with the other guys. But as long as you continue to treat people this way, why would they join your cult?

  19. PJ @ 2:05 pm:

    What I don’t understand is how *anyone* can register as *either* political party! AFAICT, it’s just a lazy shortcut so said person can avoid looking in-depth at the issues and/or the people up for election.

    Some of us live in states with closed primaries, and we want to vote in those primaries. In the overwhelming majority of partisan elections in the U.S., either the Democratic or Republican candidate will win. Therefore, if I vote in a party primary, I am substantially increasing my influence in the election.

    Furthermore, I have lived in places where one party tended to win an overwhelming majority of the votes in partisan races. If you live in such a place, you have almost no say in who takes office unless you vote in the dominant party’s primaries.

  20. I wish Whatever allowed us to “like” comments, because there have been some excellent responses so far to an excellent post.

  21. Oh, that’s why I get all that candidate/issue junk mail!

    (I registered as a Democrat because there are closed primaries here. I am not, however, a member of the party. The last twenty years have whittled away almost all of the issues I would back a Republican for.)

  22. Multiple parties are possible because they can have real power

    Britain is essentially a two party system at the national level (the Lib Dems have power for the first time since the 1930s (?)); Multi-party systems are not noticeably better at running countries than two-party systems, with the added fun of them often having troubles forming governments at all (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010–2011_Belgian_government_formation ).

    Parties are useful to get policies through the government system, a system specifically designed for stasis.

  23. What’s more disturbing, is that when you express dislike, distaste or disagree with something done by the GOP, you are automatically branded as a libural pinko commie socialist democrat.

    That’s a two-way street. I’ve noticed that if you disagree with Obama in any way you’re branded a hateful, fascist, racist RepubliKKKan even if you’re focusing on policies. I, many other libertarians like me and the Tea Party can attest to that.

  24. I agree, Scorpius, that extremists on both sides are capable of hateful name-calling when you don’t agree with their chosen policies. By the same token, both sides have moderates who are willing to engage in polite discussion of issues, if one is willing to listen. Which side is “more hateful” tends to be the side the speaker is opposed to.

    That said, if I disagree with a leftie, I’m never afraid he’s going to shoot me for disagreeing. I can’t say the same about the right.

  25. That’s a two-way street

    As soon as a major Democratic strategist focus groups “RepubliKKKan” the way Frank Luntz focus-grouped “Democrat Party,” you’ll have more of a point. As soon as President Obama uses “RepubliKKKans” in talking about the GOP, the way President Bush used “Democrat Party,” you’ll have more of a point.

  26. I happen to like parties as we can avoid the cult of personality, a person’s like or dislike of a candidate has a huge affect on that person’s vetting of the candidates positions. It seems that Obama’s likability is a large reason why he stands today of having a 72% chance of being reelected. You don’t get that when parties are the things you vote for and people try to convince you to vote for the party.

  27. “that extremists on both sides”
    I would love to meet a democratic “extremist”. I wish they actually existed.

  28. @David: There was a hung parliament in the late 70′s, although in that case the Libs didn’t fully enter into government – they (together with the SNP) just agreed to support the Labour government on confidence and supply issues so long as Labour did nothing they didn’t like – which basically meant that Labour did nothing. The result was the Winter of Discontent and Maggie Thatcher’s 1979 landslide, which basically destroyed the “old” Liberal party – they only survived by merging with the Social Democrats.

    On present showing, the current lot aren’t shaping up to be much better.

  29. @Brian Mac,

    Yes, the side one views as most hateful is usually the side one is opposed to. There are extremists n both sides.

    That said, when was the last time you heard of a rightie shooting someone over merely a disagreement?

  30. “Left” and “Right” literally referred to placement of chairs in France’s Assembly just after their Revolution. Not very useful in 2012. There is clearly more than a single dimension to political positions. Several well-known publications give 2-dimensional analyses. I like the one with one axis for individual versus State (one extreme in total Statists such as old USSR or Nazi Germany; the other extreme is pure Anarchy, and classical European Liberalism; other is Rational versus Irrational means to ends).

    On another point, for disintermediated decentralists:

    Feel free to post this on your Facebook page –

    “Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: consider having 900 full-time employees, one per million Facebook users, whose job it is to provide actual Customer Service to those such as Jonathan Vos Post who are in the upper range of 4,000 to 5,000 Facebook friends. Having bots demand a mobile phone number from people who don’t own mobile phones is counterproductive. Jonathan Vos Post finally buckled under pressure and provided his land-line phone number. Bots immediately shut down
    his registration, on the spurious basis that he could not type the confirmation code allegedly texted to his phone, which has no texting capability. Professor Post merely reaches 10,000,000 people at a time in his live broadcasts on American network TV. He’d like to say something nice about Facebook next time. Ball’s in your court.”

  31. John, there was a recent article about how both parties have become more extreme over the past couple of decades, but the Republicans have gone (waaaay) further to the point of (in the word of the article writer) being ‘loony’.

    However, the writer lamented, most (?) voters don’t seem either to realize that that is the case (how is that possible?) or don’t actually believe it and think that ‘centrism’ still exists and that the parties aren’t that far apart.

    Did you see that article? (I can find it for you if you like; the point is made much better than I am doing here.) I’m interested in your take on that, if you have the time.

  32. “John, there was a recent article about how both parties have become more extreme over the past couple of decades”

    In my experience the Democratic party has actually become far more right wing then it used to be on economic issues, abortion rights and gun control. It has however moved to the left on some social issues such as gay rights

  33. I actually ended up declaring as a Democrat after four years of being unaffiliated in an effort to get my political junk mail to *decrease*. In Colorado the situation seems mostly to be that if you’re unaffiliated, EVERYONE spams you. I just couldn’t mentally handle getting any more anti-gay and anti-choice spam from the Republican candidates because I was spending so much of my time angry.

    Otherwise, I would have been much happier staying independent. The Democrats aren’t liberal enough for me. :P

  34. “Truculently Irrational” is a fantastic turn of phrase. I’m going to use the hell out of that during the upcoming school year. If you go to use either of those words and they seem a little tattered or worn, it’s going to be how often I’m using them.

  35. Scalzi, yes, California just switched to a Washington-style primary. It was passed by ballot measure in 2010, so this was the first year we got to see it in action.

    It had some interesting results.

  36. both sides have moderates

    The Democratic Party itself has become moderate as it has followed the Republicans across the political spectrum.

    I know that Democrats have shown a spirit of compromise during Obama’s presidency because I remember specific incidents where they’ve done so and pissed me off. I have seen none of the same spirit from Republicans, who basically at this point are committed to obstructionism above all else, and basically make junior law makers sign on.

    Listen, it’s fine to point out that Democrat lawmakers are fat-cat opportunists who engage in name-calling. Even so, anyone who equates the two parties at this late date is being naive.

    And while I have issues with the Democratic platform (mostly on the War on Terror, some on immigration, maybe some on energy), I cannot imagine any Republican being given the freedom to generate a platform I might actually get in line with.

    Because it’s not about ideals with the Republicans anymore, it’s about seeing Obama fail.

    Take somebody like McCain, a man who served his country and was actually a hero. He actually has had guiding principles about campaign reform throughout his political career, but recently when the Democrats put forth some legislation on the matter, McCain actually voted against it. I personally believe that he had to have been bullied into his vote, but even so it shows that the RNC and the PAC’s hold all the cards. If somebody as esteemed and as experienced as McCain was bullied, what chance would a junior senator have to be a legislative iconoclast? They’re introducing legislation and voting party line.

    So give me your idealistic I’ll vote for the best guy claptrap all you want, but I haven’t voted for a Republican candidate . . . ever, I think . . . and I don’t see it happening anytime soon, either.

  37. I agree with the claim put forward recently by Mann and Ornstein about today’s federal political system being completely dysfunctional in an unprecedented way. I think we’re headed for some kind of big systemic change.

    If the Republicans manage to retake the control of the government that they had in 2000-6, it’ll be a dangerous crackup caused by a political system that can’t face reality. If the Democrats attain a large stable majority, then we’ll see big changes in the political system, but they’ll be managed to some degree as they were in the 30s.

    So to me, its crazy not to consistently vote Democratic. This isn’t the 80s or 90s where the other side had a sort of rational plan.

  38. That’s pretty close to where I am on things, but I registered Dem in ’06 so I could vote in primaries. It’s not that I think the Dems are great – they’re so-so at best – but the GOP has gone full wingnut. Therefore, if I want any say in picking a decent candidate, I’m almost certainly limited to the Dems at this time (at least for national office).

  39. I once voted for a Republican, but he was a pro-Choice Republican running against a pro-Life Democrat (that was a weird election).

    Having been through losing my job and insurance and having a serious health problem that had a much poorer outcome than it would have if we lived in a country with a civilized health care system, and also having watched the Republican Party do everything in their power to keep the economy from recovering and keep millions unemployed just to make sure Obama can’t get re-elected (and remember they announced that making him a one-term POTUS was their #1 priority, to which everything else takes a back seat), not to mention the War on Women and the wacko-wing of the party saying gays should be put to death and so on, I will never vote for a Republican again.

    I may not always vote for a Democrat, because I’m not thrilled with them either, but any politician who wants my vote needs to be a member of some party other than the Republicans. Even if I like them personally, Republicans fall in line. They’ll support the party leadership, unless they’re (from my POV) worse than the party leadership.

    I’d like to see the entire party permanently driven out of US politics, like the Whigs and the Know-Nothings. Unfortunately it seems likely (with Citizens United and the Koch brothers) that the opposite will happen, and we’ll effectively have one-party rule in this country. I just hope someone will hide me in the attic when Bachmann’s hunters come for me. I know some people who vote Republican and find that scenario implausible in the extreme—and who would not hesitate to hide me in the attic if it came true.

  40. Well, as a libertarian I see it vastly differently. I see a republican party that has wanted to debate on health care, wanted to put forward budgets and then debate them and wanted to put forward jobs bills and again debate them. On other side I’ve seen Obama strictly control and eventually close down the debate on ARRA before it really even got started. I see a Democratic Senate that hasn’t put forward or voted n a budget in years since it might end with a debate leading to inclusion of Repubican ideas. I see a President who circular-files all the GOP jobs bills and orders them to just “pass what I sent ya’” as if the only job of the Congress is just to rubber-stamp Obama’s plan.

    On top of all that I see a senate majority leader who makes baseless slander against a citizen running for president saying his “secret friend told him” that Romney didn’t pay his taxes and that it’s “not up to me to prove the allegations; its up to Romney t disprove them” breaking every ethical standard there is in a way even McCarthy wouldn’t have gotten away with.

    In short I see a party going far left, extremist and dangerously batshit insane.

    But it gets back to that whole “perspective” thing. I’m right of center on economic issues’ left of center of many social issues (though I, ironically, disagreed with Obama’s anti-gay marriage position and agreed with cheneys position until Nama suddenly reversed himself completely), so I see the other side as crazy extremists. Just like many people here see the GOP as crazy extremists because of their perspective.

  41. Sorry John,

    I also see a party that has no other fiscal plan than to raise taxes during a recovery/recession that might, at best, yield another $60 Billion. But that won’t cover the current $1.1 Trillion deficit we have or the future, higher deficits Obama predicts we’ll have. A party that wants another near trillion dollar stimulus even after the last one didnt work. All the while fear-mongering by calling his opponent “Romney hood” and putting out the lie that Romney wants the middle class to pay $2000 in additional taxes to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Just MOAR goverernment, MOAR fear and MOAR hate and envy.

  42. When my father, a first generation immigrant whom I believe registered Republican on the boat over, declares he will be voting for Obama, I believe the Republican party has undergone some sort of radical sea change.

  43. I don’t belong to either party, but by current standards, I think I could be accurately labeled as a liberal. I think I’m a moderate liberal, but most conservatives would probably call me a flaming liberal. I try to consider all candidates, and when it comes time to vote in elections where I don’t know all the candidates for all the positions, I try to research all of them equally. Even after all of that research, it is very rare for me to vote for a Republican.

  44. I think you are wrong about closed primaries. I live in a state where the GOP takes great pleasure in screwing with Democratic primaries to insure an easier road in November. Its wrong and it overrides any argument you can make in their favor.

    Sadly there has not been a sane GOP candidate for me to vote for here since sometime in the 90s. I used to do that but even at the state level the GOP has given me nutbags of the Ayn Rand or Jesus’ General types. Even when the Dem has been a lousy choice I have been forced to vote for them to try and stop worse. The result has been nutbags or crappy Dems way too often. This has worked out really well for the religious crackpots & the uber wealthy not so much for the rest of us.

  45. I’ve been happily voting for conservatives over Republicans lately. Just did it with Ted Cruz over Republican party machine anointed candidate Dewhurst on July 31st. Worked out well, I’m happy to say.

  46. I see a republican party that has wanted to debate on health care, wanted to put forward budgets and then debate them and wanted to put forward jobs bills and again debate them.

    The thing is, you say you ‘see’ and then you repeat something which is factually untrue as if it was a fact and I have to call shenanigans.

    A party that wants another near trillion dollar stimulus even after the last one didnt work

    You mean the stimulus that reversed an economy that was losing 800,000 jobs a month and turned it into 100,000ish gains each month, in just 9 months? Even though a huge chunk of the ‘stimulus’ was nothing of the kind – about a third of it went on putting people in government jobs (police etc…) back in work, and another third was a tax cut (remember them?), so actually the only real ‘stimulus’ was in the $300-$400 million region, which, given the largest collapse in the economy in 80 years was nothing like enough.

    Would you rather be living in the US which at least did some stimulus, or the UK, which tried austerity, which not only hasn’t brought back confidence but has led to a full on double dip recession.

    Seriously, calling yourself a ‘libertarian’ doesn’t entitle you to make stuff up!

  47. John, if you were in Canada I think you’d swing more towards the Liberal/NDP side of things rather than the Conservatives, who lately have swung as far towards Republican values as is possible up here without alienating the majority of voters. Trust me, the only reason they don’t quash abortion and gay rights is because they know that would get them kick out of power very fast.

  48. I see a republican party that has wanted to debate on health care

    Really? Because Obamacare is essentially identical to the bills proposed by Republicans–including the individual mandate–during the Clinton Administration, and even those that supported it in 1995 opposed it in 2010.

    wanted to put forward budgets and then debate them and wanted to put forward jobs bills and again debate them.

    The GOP has voted 30+ times to repeal Obamacare and who knows how many times for abortion restrictions and adding “In God We Trust” (depsite it being a recent trend) to various things. There have been several jobs bills put forward by Democrats (including the American Jobs Act) which the motion to discuss was filibustered by the GOP.

    On other side I’ve seen Obama strictly control and eventually close down the debate on ARRA before it really even got started.

    Except for the part where ARRA was proposed before he took office, discussed and amended by members of both parties (sometimes working together, such as on the Freedom Act of 2009), and voted on by three Republicans).

    I see a Democratic Senate that hasn’t put forward or voted n a budget in years since it might end with a debate leading to inclusion of Repubican ideas.

    Actually, Obama’s proposed several that the GOP filibustered to prevent discussion on. And the ones they have voted on (the Ryan Plan specifically) have been so unpopular with the Senate and Americans at large that they were dropped.

    I see a President who circular-files all the GOP jobs bills and orders them to just “pass what I sent ya’” as if the only job of the Congress is just to rubber-stamp Obama’s plan.

    Um, basic civics classes would tell you that’s not how it works. Look up checks and balances.

    On top of all that I see a senate majority leader who makes baseless slander against a citizen running for president saying his “secret friend told him” that Romney didn’t pay his taxes and that it’s “not up to me to prove the allegations; its up to Romney t disprove them” breaking every ethical standard there is in a way even McCarthy wouldn’t have gotten away with.

    Dude, Romney’s just released an ad that every single fact-checker has called a four-alarm pants on fire lie. And that doesn’t get into Clinton’s alleged Muslim Brotherhood aide, the whole Birther business, or any of the other crazy lies the GOP and Romney have been going on about. Reid’s not doing any better, but to claim that it’s all the Democrats is…disingenuous at best.

    A party that wants another near trillion dollar stimulus even after the last one didnt work.

    Only if “didn’t work” is defined as improved domestic GDP, slowed and reversed private sector job losses, and brought the Dow Jones from ~8000 to ~11000, among others. And by Romney’s own standards (publicly stated multiple times while and after he was Governor), Obama shouldn’t be judged for trends that began before his term.

    All the while fear-mongering by calling his opponent “Romney hood” and putting out the lie that Romney wants the middle class to pay $2000 in additional taxes to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

    In all fairness, this is because Romney refuses to release an acutal tax plan, and has explicitly said that his tax cuts won’t be paid for. So when economists have to score his plan, they have to make assumptions, and without any details, the only way they can make the numbers match up is to take huge chunks out of middle class income. Even the Tax Policy Center, which is run by a former member of the Bush Administration, couldn’t get it to work. If he was to actually provide evidence, then we’d have a discussion.

  49. In Minnesota, where I live, we have Party Caucuses, and you have to register as a member of the relevant party to participate. This is how we do presidential primaries (there’s a straw poll, and how it works is too complicated to explain unless anyone’s really interested). For every other race there’s an endorsement process that starts with the caucuses and continues through your Senate District Convention and then the State Convention.

    For most of the big races (Gubernatorial, Senate, House), the endorsement is somewhat of a joke because there’s a primary election if more than one person from any given party is running. However, for the state legislative races, it’s pretty common for all the candidates to promise to abide by endorsement, and fight it out at the Senate District Convention.

    So for me, participating in the political process at that level requires that I register as a DFLer (DFL = Minnesotan for Democrat), go to my party caucus, sign up to be a delegate to my Senate District Convention, and then go to that convention, which is an all-day affair that sometimes (if it’s really a fight) continues well into the night. The process for school board endorsements is also really important, and requires attendance at the City Convention.

    This whole extended essay is preface to my question, which is: John, if you lived in MN, would you register as a party member to go to caucuses and participate in any of this or would you view your principled “not a party member” stand as an excellent excuse for avoiding a lot of monumental hassles and long days spent in high school auditoriums? (I both love and hate this process. The good thing is that for the state legislative races, it makes it much more affordable to run — you can’t door-knock an entire district but you CAN door-knock all the delegates and talk to them, rather than spending money on ads. The bad thing — well, suffice it to say that every year I think, “You know, next year I’m going to call the local Republicans and ask if I can have permission to come and observe, because I am SO CURIOUS whether they are any more efficient, or if they have the same fundamental problems from the other angle in terms of things that Make it All Take ForFreakingEver.”)

  50. Oh, and I meant to note — “registering as a Democrat” mostly just means “signing in at the door when you arrive.” It’s a very simple process. They do, however, get all your contact information and you know what THAT means.

  51. Oh, and that 4-alarm fire lie ad about welfare reform being rolled back that I mentioned? It’s being refuted by the policy advisor who helped write the welfare reform law in the first place and the President who signed it.

  52. I have aligned with political parties because I’d like a little more voice in the selection (the primaries). Evem though I too have probably never voted a straight ticket in my life, I was a registered Republican for years, but have switched my registration to Democrat because the current crop of National Republicans are too embarrassing to be associated with. The idea, however of no parties ans each candidate running on an individual platform is something I would be very willing to try. I can only imagine it would be an improvement over the current situation.

  53. I was a Republican my entire voting life until about 4 months ago. I have always had moderate to middle of the road views and tend towards conservative more often than not but the party I signed on with 30 some odd years ago is not the same one that I see or hear now. The rest of my family (including my oldest son) is Democrat and that’s fine. I switched to Independent and I think that’s where I’m going to stay.

  54. Genufett, Just a quick note so you don’t look quite so ignorant in the future. The last Obama budget that you mentioned being filibustered was, in fact, voted down 97-0 in the Senate. Last I checked, over half of those votes came from Democrats. Please stop screaming filibuster in a crowded forum. Thanks

  55. The legislative process is dictated by party affiliation in that whichever party is the majority sets the agenda, decides which bills are debated in committee and voted out of committee to the floor.

    Republican Legislator “A” may be a moderate or liberal on the issues you take a moderate or liberal stand on, but those are the very qualities that will ensure “A” never attains a leadership position – not so much as a committee chair – in today’s GOP. So the issues that made you vote for “A” in the first place, “A” will never be in a position to support meaningfully.

    The legislative process nowadays is further crippled by the fact that nearly any vote on any issue in the Senate is filibustered by the GOP, so that nearly any vote on any issue requires 60 yea votes just to end debate and vote on the actual piece of legislation. Bills that would pass easily once they get to the floor never make it to the floor.

    It’s great to say you’re not a member of a particular Party; I used to say the same thing. I even voted for a few Republicans, back in the distant past. But the GOP as a whole seems determined to re-make the entire country into pre-TVA Mississippi, and there are no individual GOP legislators who can or will say no to that.

    “Don’t vote Republican. It only encourages them.”

  56. Primary votes count far more than general election votes. In Colorado, I can register at the primary, as long as I’m not registered to a competing party. So I register to the party where my vote is most likely to matter – often to vote *against* a candidate. Then the following week, I change back to independent, to be ready for the next primary.

  57. I firmly believe that at least 80% of Americans are no longer serverd by either major political party. Like our beloved host, I typically vote Democrat, though will cross the aisle, particularly in local town elections. Unlike our host, I do admit to being registered Democrat. However, you have to give me some leeway there, as there is no way I could belong to the same party that recently legislated that, regardless of the state govenment’s hired expert panel findings, our sea level can only rise, by law, 8 inches in the next hundred years. I guess all our neighbors in Virgina and South Carolina will be pretty envious when their water levels both rise the meter or so that our state legislature forbids here in North Carolina.

    I also want to give a brief plug for The Android’s Dream, which I finally just read. You should read it, too,

  58. As a Brit, can I just ask please – what do you all mean by “registering” as an independent/Democrat/Republican? What does registering involve? At first I thought you meant joining a party, but after further reading that clearly isn’t the case. Is registration an actual requirement or something you can choose to do?

  59. John -

    You should register Truculently Irrational. I see this as a great bumper sticker:

    Truculently Irrational 2012

  60. It’s flattering that you think that our right-wing party (ironically called the Liberals) in Australia is a lot saner than the Republicans. I guess they are, but they’re still well on the conservative end. But it was a Liberal PM Howard who enacted the legislation that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and made it (essentially) compulsory for this wording to be used at weddings (even though gay marriage already wasn’t legal). It was our Liberal PM who lead us into Iraq, walking in lock-step with Dubya. It was our Liberal PM who enacted legislation severely limiting Aboriginal human rights in order to try to fix the rampant problems that mostly come with being poor and marginalised. Howard resolutely refused to apologise to the Aboriginal people for the unjust treatment they’ve received since white settlers arrived, for the Stolen Generation of children taken away from their parents for the crime of being black. Liberals in power have sold off our national telco, our state-run electricity companies and our state-run public transport systems (and the trains were not the better for it).
    Actually, if they’d kept Malcolm Turnbull as leader, I might believe that they’d align with your values. But we currently have an enormous chuckle-head at the head of the party called Tony Abbott, who has said alarmingly sexist things and doesn’t believe climate change exists. A quote about Tony:
    ‘“I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the Liberal Party has just elected a leader who is anti-abortion, anti-IVF, anti-stem cell research and who wants to ban no-fault divorce,’’ influential blogger Mia Freedman wrote.’
    You might (she says) find that the Labor Party, ostensibly our left-wing party but realistically our centrist party, the closest to your opinions. I don’t know. I’m a Greens supporter – the actual left-wing party. I might have been voting Democrat if the party hadn’t dissolved after Natasha Stott Despoja left.
    Now I’ve spent too long thinking about the flawed nature of those vying for power in our next election and am depressed. (Good god, as a woman, I am *praying* that Tony doesn’t get in.)

  61. I would love to live in an America where ranked choice voting or IRV would give us a chance to move beyond our traditional two-party system.

  62. @Billy Quiets: Genufett, Just a quick note so you don’t look quite so ignorant in the future. The last Obama budget that you mentioned being filibustered was, in fact, voted down 97-0 in the Senate. Last I checked, over half of those votes came from Democrats. Please stop screaming filibuster in a crowded forum. Thanks.

    @David: Oh, Billy, you’re so quaint:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/02/parliamentary-procedure

    On the vote itself, the GOP postured by bringing their version of Obama’s budget to a vote. Shockingly enough, the Dems refused to play along.

    Exactly. Just so you don’t look quite so ignorant in the future (now with bonus conservatives refuting your assertion!):

    Democrats didn’t support the plan because it has been supplanted by another deficit-reduction plan Obama had later outlined. Republican leaders demanded a vote on Obama’s budget to show that Democrats don’t support any detailed budget blueprint, according to The Hill.

    Such votes are taken “just as a means of embarrassing the president and his party,” said Patrick Louis Knudsen, a senior fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    “Usually it’s brought up by the opposition party because they generally anticipate that a president’s budget won’t get very much support especially if it has controversial elements to it,” he said.

    Other experts agree. Said Steve Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense: “That was pure political theater and was done to score rhetorical points.”

    And Norman Ornstein, a scholar with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said, “it doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s only a symbolic gesture.”

  63. Ohio must have a somewhat different way of managing voter history/registration. As a fellow swing-stater in Colorado, registering as an independent does indeed open the flood for mail from both sides. This may be because our voter rolls don’t indicate anything but major parties and IND, so campaigns can’t differentiate between Greens and Patriot Party members. In addition, we have a slim majority of voters who aren’t registered Dem or GOP. The only sure method to avoid mailings (but not email, phone calls or random piles of crap on the door) is to have a PO Box and not get home delivery of mail since registration is to your physical and not mailing address.

    @Emma 8:03
    The US requires you to register to vote with varying methods depending on where you live. Generally, there is a signature requirement and some other further documentation of proof of residency that is checked against the voter list when you go to a polling place. On the registration form, you can choose a political party, Independent or Undeclared and depending on your state’s voting rules then your affiliation determines your eligibility to participate in party-specific functions like picking candidate slates through primaries or caucuses. Mostly, registration with a political party just acts as a further data point for campaign targeting since it has no relevance toward general election voting.

  64. John, a question when you have the time: I’m under the impression that Ohio’s pretty solidly Republican local- and state-wise; does it follow that the party there has inched toward equating “moderate” with “traitor” the way they have here in Kansas?

  65. Genufett, From your own partisan link may I point out the following:
    _____________________________
    “To suggest that was Bush not passing a budget would be a misstatement,” Ornstein said. He called Romney’s rap on Obama “at best a gross exaggeration.”

    But in Knudsen’s view, Romney’s statement was “technically accurate.”

    “The president’s budgets have been brought to the floor twice and they have failed,” Knudsen said. “It’s not atypical that that should happen, but nevertheless the governor is correct.”

    PolitiFact has examined similar accusations about a lack of budgeting when they’ve been leveled at Congress. In January 2012, Republican House member Paul Ryan charged that Senate Democrats “have gone without any budget at all” for more than 1,000 days. PolitiFact Wisconsin rated that Mostly True, finding he was slightly off about the number of days but correct that the Democrat-controlled Senate had gone a long time with passing a budget
    _____________________________

    Not filibustered. Thanks

    Quaintly Yours,
    Billy Quiets

  66. cvrick @8.13:

    I was at a campaign rally in my hometown (London, Ontario, Canada) during our last Federal election.

    The soon-to-be-massively-defeated leader of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, was taking questions from the crowd after giving a standard stump speech. One person asked him: “When are we going to get electoral reform, so we don’t have first-past-the-post any more?”

    The crowd went wild– cheers, applause. Ignatieff gave a standard politician’s response: said (in many words) what could be said in a few: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    The great thing about FPTP is that when the winner gets an absolute majority, the PM of the ruling party is dictator for the next four years. If we went to IRV, we’d get far more minority governments, where, the PM would actually have to (heavens!) consult with other party leaders. The wishes of an actual majority of Canadians (instead of a plurality) would have to be considered. Quelle horreur!

    I think that there is a desire among ordinary Canadians to change the system. Convincing the elected dictator (or people who one day want to be the elected dictator) to voluntarily give up that kind of power would be a difficult thing to do. I imagine it’s pretty much the same thing in the USA as it is here.

  67. Not filibustered. Thanks

    So they weren’t being directly obstructionist on the first one, we don’t know about the second one, but we do know that they were obstructing (or delaying) indirectly and then flat-out lying to the the press and the American people. And you bought it. Winning!

  68. No, Genufett, actually they didn’t delay or obstruct. They did the exact opposite. They got Obama’s ridiculous budget to a vote as quickly as possible.

    Let me try this in small words for you.

    Obama’s budget thingy stupid.
    Everyone know Obama’s budget thingy stupid.
    Bad Republicans want vote on stupid budget thingy.
    Budget thingy get 97 (a lot) no votes.
    No one use filibuster thingy.

    I remain Quaintly Yours,
    Billy Quiets

  69. The fact I find interesting is how supporters of both political parties gather together and rally around one another. They never read or understand the issues. Self described Democrats carry the banner of “Bush/Romney (and Republicans) are bad”. “Obama (and Democrats) is good”. Self described Republicans are the opposite. They gather around repeating the talking points of Rush and Hannity to each other. It would be refreshing if people would know and understand the issues and vote with a conscience. For me, I would like to see most incumbents from both parties in Congress replaced. I’m not impressed with either Presidential candidate.

  70. Emma, in addition to thehowlingpig’s explanation, we have two rounds of voting. The primary (or caucus depending on which state you live in) where the parties choose which candidate will stand for that party in the general election, and the general election where anyone can vote for any candidate they choose regardless of which party one is registered with.

    That’s actually why I lean in favor of closed primaries. A primary is where the party chooses it’s candidate. It sucks for independents (who are not members of any party and therefore have no vote in states with closed primaries). Lately, with the horribleness of our current bickering crapfest I have been leaning less in favor of closed primaries than when the parties were less insane.

  71. scorpius, others have taken issue with various of your statements, so I won’t pile on. What I want to know is, IF (and I know you think it won’t happen, but if) the Bachmann/batshit wing takes over and they start rounding up gays, would you hide me (or gays who live near you) in your attic, risking your own safety at the hands of the hunters?

    That’s all I want to know.

    Emma, you can vote any way you want, and take part in any rallies you want, and work for any candidate you want, all without registering. In some states, you must register as a member of a party in order to vote in that party’s primary; this means you officially tell the party and the state that you are a member of that party. You can change this if you want (though not usually on primary-election day).

    (In case primaries are also murky, they’re how the parties decide who will run as that party’s official candidate; the two big parties have such a lock on politics here that virtually no one without the imprimatur of one of them can be elected to an office of any significance. There are exceptions (Joe Lieberman, who ran as an Independent and got lots of Republican votes after losing the Democratic primary to a real Democrat; Bernie Sanders, who is our only actual Socialist), but they’re few and far between. The two candidates then go head to head in the general election. Some places are strongholds of one party or the other, so that winning the primary virtually guarantees getting the office.)

    If a state requires registration to vote in the primary, that’s called having a “closed primary.” If not, it’s an “open primary.” There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    No states require party registration to vote in the general election; in fact, in our current election cycle the two parties are so close in some of the key states that independents (not Browncoats but people with no declared party affiliation) may give the election to Romney or to Obama.

  72. You have encapsulated my position fairly closely, though I suspect I am further left than you. I registered as an Independent 30+ years ago and have remained so ever since with some few forays to allow me to vote in primaries. My vote goes where I choose and I have voted both sides of the aisle, though not lately. The GOP’s offerings lately simply seem to dangers.

  73. Billy Quiets @ 8:53 pm: I guess I don’t understand the point of this comment. Do you think insulting people who disagree with you is a good strategy for changing their minds? (I have a hard time believing that Genufett is going to be persuaded by this kind of rhetoric.) Do you think this kind of comment is going to sway undecided voters?

    ULTRAGOTHA @ 9:21 pm: I agree with both your points: that parties have a right to closed primaries because it’s their endorsement at stake, and that closed primaries have had caustic effects in recent elections. To me, that’s all the more reason to move to a system that doesn’t encourage a two party system, as first-past-the-post does. If we had six different parties, with multiple parties occupying similar political ground, then voters would have a marketplace of candidates close to their political philosophy to chose from. Also, if people weren’t tied to parties, then maybe we’d get rid of some of the tribal aspects of political discourse.

  74. CLP, Pardon me if I seemed insulting. I have given up trying to change minds on the internet for the most part. I still tilt at the occasional windmill, but in this case I was merely pointing out the most obvious fallacy in his commentary. I may have gone a little too far, but seriously, he (or she) should at least do a little research before spewing the latest talking points all over the thread.

    And for Xopher, you can hide in my attic if Bachman’s batshit husband gets control of the government and tries to hunt you down. Kind of unlikely given the whole “we want less government control” aspect of the Tea Party. I’m a lot more worried about those who think government is the answer to all of our problems. THOSE are the ones you need to worry about. They start out looking for me, but eventually they will get to you.

    I don’t blame you though, Bachman scares me too.

    Slightly abashedly yours,
    Billy Quiets

  75. I would love to see either party offer anything close to resonable solutions to our problems. The democrats solution is let the rich pay for it (by the way, I don’t consider someone who makes 250K a year with a mortgage and in debt up to their eyeballs rich). Also, even though we are in debt up to our eyeballs as a country, let’s vote in a new healthcare plan we have absolutely no way to pay for.

    On the other hand, The republicans happily spent us into the mess we are in today. When Clinton handed the government over to George W, we had a balanced budget. What the hell happened there. Was it necessary for us to declare war on Iraq because we didn’t know what else to do and spend trillions of dollars to accomplish nothing?

    I’m really tired of the democrats being far to the left and the republicans being far to the right. What happened to candidates being in the middle to represent the majority of the people in this country? Is it unreasonable to assume that our elected officials might try to work together to resolve our problems and not demonize each other just because they are on opposite sides? Should all of our concerns be focused on whether gays have the right to be married or whether women have the right to make decisons about giving birth or not? Should Congress focus the attention on which baseball players took steroids? Is Nero playing his violin while Rome is burning?

  76. I registered as an Independent and stayed that way for years. But since Democrats nearly always win in our state, it just made no sense not to be able to vote in primaries, because the outcome of the general election was often really decided in the Democratic primary. I don’t really regret it–I’m closer politically to Democrats than Republicans, but part of that has to do with the particularly virulent strain of crazy infesting the Republican party recently.

  77. cvrick
    Ranked Choice voting got Pierce Co Wa a batshit crazy assessor-treasurer. And got promptly repealed by popular vote.

    Before that, I was hoping that ranked choice voting would allow us to get more votes for better candidates who we feared voting for because “the good is the enemy of the best”, but since I’ve been against ranked choice voting.

  78. In Massachusetts, the primary is only semi-closed; people registered as Unenrolled (independent) can actually vote in either party’s primary, as they choose on primary day (but not both). So that probably gives you the most political power. On the other hand, you probably get the most junk mail too.

    I’m registered as a Democrat by lifelong reflex. On most issues I’m to the left of the center of gravity of the US Democratic Party; I think that on most things, not all, I’d be pretty comfortable in a European social-democratic party, or the Canadian NDP.

    But I’m not so disenchanted with the possibility of political effectiveness to jump ship to an American left-wing third party, which tend to be sad little things. I think the Republican Party basically would have to be broken as a national force before any of them could become a thriving movement.

    I do think that “vote for a person, not a party” is usually a bad rule, at least in such things as presidential and congressional elections (local ones with local issues may be different). In practice, what you get is a party’s policies, so you should probably vote with that in mind. There are exceptions, obviously; sometimes the party you prefer puts up a candidate so odious that voting for them is out of the question. But this is relatively rare for me.

    The same constitutional rules that force that encourage a two-party system in the US also mean that to retain some power long-term, the major parties have to be big tents, much less ideologically rigid than their counterparts in parliamentary systems. I think we’re in an anomalous period in American history in which one of the parties, the Republican Party, has actually developed parliamentary levels of lockstep unanimity and voting discipline, and is using this in the context of a system not built for such things to achieve radical results. From September 12, 2001 until the 2006 midterm election, they could rule almost by decree; even without a majority, they can be excellent obstructionists.

    It’ll have to stop eventually; it contributed to their losses in ’06 and ’08, but understandable dissatisfaction over the economy brought them back in 2010. I think the united front may even be starting to crack under the pressure of accommodating the weirdest of the Tea Party folk, but they can do a lot of damage in the meantime.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are still in a big-tent world and can’t pull together any effective opposition, even during the short period when they controlled the Presidency and theoretically both houses of Congress. More knee-jerk partisanship might actually help.

  79. Adding to Xopher’s explanation, there are also semi-open (as we have here in Texas) and semi-closed primaries.

    In semi-open, no party registration is required to vote in the primary, but a voter may only cast votes for candidates on one party’s ballot come election day. You either request the ballot of the party you wish to vote for or you simply designate it on the ballot itself as one of the choices.

    In a semi-closed primary, voters who register with a party can only cast votes for that party, but independents (those not registered with a political party) may cast votes for either. This is to keep registered partisans from trying to sabotage their opponents by voting for the weakest (those deemed most un-electable in the general election) candidates on the oppo ballot.

  80. @ Matt McIrving

    But I’m not so disenchanted with the possibility of political effectiveness to jump ship to an American left-wing third party, which tend to be sad little things. I think the Republican Party basically would have to be broken as a national force before any of them could become a thriving movement.

    Isn’t that a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    I do think that “vote for a person, not a party” is usually a bad rule, at least in such things as presidential and congressional elections (local ones with local issues may be different). In practice, what you get is a party’s policies, so you should probably vote with that in mind.

    Again, isn’t that encouraging the very root of the problem?

    The same constitutional rules that force that encourage a two-party system in the US also mean that to retain some power long-term, the major parties have to be big tents, much less ideologically rigid than their counterparts in parliamentary systems.

    Actually, they only have to be friendlier places to their constituencies that their opponents, precisely because of the two-party system. And, reflexive voting and unskeptical acceptance of emotion rhetoric being what it is, that frequently boils down to lots of unkept campaign promises. Whether the politician has an intention of keeping them (and it always makes it easier to sell something if your spokesmodel believes the hype), the two institutional parties empirically do not.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are still in a big-tent world and can’t pull together any effective opposition, even during the short period when they controlled the Presidency and theoretically both houses of Congress. More knee-jerk partisanship might actually help.

    Dems are demonstrably worse at presenting a unified front. Whether this is because they are any friendlier to actual dissent, or simply give it lip-service while Rubs actively run outliers out of their tent is open to to debate. I happen to think the real explanation is somewhere in between. But I absolutely disagree that unthinking support of Dems by liberals will make things any better, and in fact believe that is and will further exacerbate the polarization that is crippling our federal government. Becoming the enemy by labeling dissenters DINOs will not end well.

  81. @ken

    I’m really tired of the democrats being far to the left and the republicans being far to the right.

    I’m not sure what universe you live in where the Democratic party is ‘far to the left’, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the same one as me.

  82. John, you put up a completely fair and reasonable defense for your political standing. But, honestly, I see this view as part of the reason why our parties have become so extreme. I look at that kind of political philsophy the same way I look at people with kids in private schools who self identify the reason for that choice as because public schools are awful. Bailing out of the system en masse leaves it prone to failure or take over by extreme elements.

    In the last five years everybody with a political opinion has suddenly become fascinated by notionally being an independent. Now, obviously, that isn’t you exactly. But it does leave you implicitly a part of this new trend: I’m not a Republican, I’m a Conservative or a Libertarian. Or, I’m not a Democrat, I’m a Liberal or a Progressive. Or, I don’t like any of those baggage laden words, I’m a person with political thoughts, man. It’s seriously notable that like half of what used to comprise the Republican party have splintered away into various groups who will eventually toe the ground and vote Republican if they have to but, but, by gum, they aren’t Republicans. Same deal for Democrats.

    I think it’s remarkably simple to push back on this broken system with the idea that the parties don’t represent us, or that their leadership are actually focused, non-terminal repeating phantasms or class 5 full roaming vapors. Both of the major parties are broken because people have abandoned their parties to join political philsophies. They’ve got fat cat ghosts in charge because the boss’ chairs were left empty.

    Now, I’m not saying this is an unreasonable choice. I get it, why people pull their kids out of poorly performing public schools. You’ve got kids who need an education now, and whatever your interest in improving the quality of public schools, kids here and now. And, so, if you’re financially able, you invest your interest elsewhere. I’m really not just trolling you here.

    We’ve got a de facto two party system. And sure, those organized parties are run by leaders who can whip their party members into the party line. It isn’t so much that I have a problem with not voting the party line. I think that’s a defensible choice … as long as it’s couple with clear communication to your party of choice that the reason they failed to get your vote is because of x, y and z.

    But, truthfully, one should be as involved as one’s time allows with some political party in order to influence their discussion. I’m fairly disillusioned with this notion that political party leaderships are isolated and unresponsive to individual interests. I mean, we live in a representative democracy. And to me, this line is saying I’m about the democracy, not the implicit part of representative. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with genuine grass roots organizations that function independent of the major parties. As long as what they are trying to do is impact how their party tends to think, act and vote.

    Countries are not run by political philsophies. They are run by elected officials who are members of political parties. As far as I can tell, that’s the same for every system. Some have votes for parties. Some have votes for the two best performing individuals. Some run the bracket system. But, all of these people are part of organized political parties. Opting out of the political party system because it doesn’t suit you is why the parties are swinging wildly whilst being under the thumb of some way out in the weeds single issue minded individuals. Everyone who would stop them from being the voices of their party are out holding their stump speeches for their political philsophy.

    TL;DR – I see a lot of folks, in general, complaining the quality of their representatives and the major parties who have ALSO disavowed their responsibility to be a moderating voice in their party. And while I don’t think this is exactly what you’re saying here, I think it has become a fairly populist jsutification for disinvolvement with political parties. And it’s a path that I think is mutually exclusive of a functional future as long as such a significant percentage of people defect to that thinking. We have a responsiblity to change our parties, not for our parties to change for us. And that means picking a side and working with them. It doesn’t require 100% fidelity.

  83. @ Other Bill

    I would submit that there is a difference between involvement and identity politics. I don’t have to identify as a Democrat to consider them the best place to invest time and energy.

    Nor is being an independent (which is more what others call me than what I think of myself) about liking or not liking words.

    And yes, I would give any children I raise the choice of whether to attend private school. I did not because my parents were not exactly flush with cash, but not for lack of wanting to. There is a big difference between putting yourself on the line and putting your kids on the line for an institution you value. Nor is putting your kids on the line necessary for investing time and energy into working to improve that institution. My children will never need a social safety net to eat, but I did and other people I care about will. I never needed public health care as a child because, like John, my dad was a soldier. But not everyone I care about is a soldier or the child of one.

    And that means picking a side and working with them.

    Why can’t you work with both sides depending on where you think your efforts will be most effective?

  84. A party that wants another near trillion dollar stimulus even after the last one didnt work.

    The stimulus did work; the consensus on that is clear among economists. It just wasn’t as large as it needed to be. Obama’s advisor’s told him he needed to fight for more, but he wanted to bring a plan to the table that he expected the Republicans would go for.

  85. Gulliver -

    I don’t think you have to BE a democrat or BE a republican. I understand the aversion to the notion that the identity of being a Democrat, for example, can lead to some iffy support for sketchy politics. You shouldn’t be your party. But, you should be trying your damnedest to make your party you. In whatever the most effective way possible for you. Not letting your party’s identity consume is also important. I see that almost the same way I see computers that get caught up in botnets. There’s no agency there.

    “Nor is being an independent (which is more what others call me than what I think of myself) about liking or not liking words.”

    I think the notion of being an “independent” is a lot like the notion of being a free agent for a team. You like them. You want their involvement. But, you never know quite whether or not they’re going to be there next year to count on if someone else comes along. Parties want to win the “independent” vote – hence, all the endless news coverage of where “independents” and what they’re thinking. But, they don’t really count on your vote or factor your opinion into anything more than cynical facades.

    “Why can’t you work with both sides depending on where you think your efforts will be most effective?”

    Because I genuinely don’t think that is effective in the long term. But, my commentary was more purposed towards people who eschew the parties all together. I think playing one party or the other depending on specific situations, as a one off, is not unreasonable. Being a permanent free agent doesn’t leave you any more agency or impact in the long run than an electron has bouncing back and forth as a result of the current state of differently charged groups.

    But, if you want to have your voice represented in a two party system, you’ll want to do that in conjuction with clearly expressing to your normal party that you did x because you believe they failed at that issue. And, it had better be because the other party is actually voting the way you want on that issue, not because you want to punish your party.

    “There is a big difference between putting yourself on the line and putting your kids on the line for an institution you value.”

    I agree, and was not being disingenuous when I said that I get that. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got super intense thoughts about public versus private schools. But, mostly I was just using it as an example to flesh out part of what I see as problematic with John’s response.

  86. @ Other Bill

    I’ll have to consult my collective to see where I stand on that :)
    Just kidding (being a smart-arse in the interest of levity, not snark).
    I agree with some (albeit only some) of what you say and greatly appreciate your reliance on reasoned debating tactics.

    It may be only a difference of semantics, but I try to avoid using words such as “like” or “dislike” when describing my political views. I choose my values (the stage where what I like does come into play), extrapolate my moral calculus, apply it to my political stances and search for a strategy to achieve the outcomes they point to by the means they permit. For example, when I say I’m socially a left-leaning civil libertarian and fiscally an economic pragmatist, it’s a frank description of my political outlook, not of what political trends I favor.

  87. Genufett:

    Except for the part where ARRA was proposed before he took office, discussed and amended by members of both parties (sometimes working together, such as on the Freedom Act of 2009), and voted on by three Republicans).

    Did where he ran on that he’d put weeks of a conference debate up on C-SPAN? Did you see what happened? He had to be forced by the GOP to even start a conference, then he presided over it, told people when they could and could not speak, gave more than twice the time to his allies and insulted his plan’s detractors.

    Basically he shut down debate.

    Actually, Obama’s proposed several that the GOP filibustered to prevent discussion on. And the ones they have voted on (the Ryan Plan specifically) have been so unpopular with the Senate and Americans at large that they were dropped.

    See, of course, above.

    Um, basic civics classes would tell you that’s not how it works. Look up checks and balances.

    Yeah, President’s have been affecting what bills the Congress puts up for a long time. He can get “his” bill put through. It happens a lot.

    Dude, <bLRomney’s just released an ad that every single fact-checker has called a four-alarm pants on fire lie. And that doesn’t get into Clinton’s alleged Muslim Brotherhood aide, the whole Birther business, or any of the other crazy lies the GOP and Romney have been going on about. Reid’s not doing any better, but to claim that it’s all the Democrats is…disingenuous at best.

    to the “pants on fire”, so what? Every campaign gets these. And I’m assuming from my politifact search that you mean on Welfare reform. To which I ask: So?

    Reid is accusing Romney of a FELONY, following up n the FELONY the White House accused him of of filing fraudulent paperwork on his time at Bain Capital with the SEC. What you’re citing with all the BIrther and Muslim Brotherhood stuff is what a minority of righties in their basement accused Barack and Bill of and they weren’t FELONIES. In comparison, I’d point out that over half of Democrats were Truthers during the Last administration believing “Bush knew” about 9/11 (http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0411/More_than_half_of_Democrats_believed_Bush_knew.html). Accusing Bush of that is far worse than accusing Obama about lying about his birthplace or Clinton of having a Muslim Brotherhood Aide. Because killing 3000+ people is a FELONY called MASS MURDER.

    I’d also point out that an insinuation that Obama lied about his birth by a bunch of people on the internets (the leadership NEVER took it up) is no where near as bad asunfounded accusation of a FELONY coming out of the Senate Majority Leader’s mouth without proof.

    Only if “didn’t work” is defined as improved domestic GDP, slowed and reversed private sector job losses, and brought the Dow Jones from ~8000 to ~11000, among others.

    Dude, look up “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc” please. It means “After this therefore because of this” and is a logical fallacy. Also look up the history of recessions. After recessions end job growth and economic activity happens without government intervention. Heck, in the past recoveries we’ve had rapid job growth, not this sluggish barely registering job growth. It is proof (albeit circumstantial but all proofs in economics is circumstantial) that the “Stimulus” hurt the recovery.

    In all fairness, this is because Romney refuses to release an acutal tax plan, and has explicitly said that his tax cuts won’t be paid for. So when economists have to score his plan, they have to make assumptions, and without any details, the only way they can make the numbers match up is to take huge chunks out of middle class income. Even the Tax Policy Center, which is run by a former member of the Bush Administration, couldn’t get it to work. If he was to actually provide evidence, then we’d have a discussion.

    Read this (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443792604577574910276629448.html)

    First, the Tax Policy Center is a Liberal Think Tank started out of the Brookings Institute.

    Second, part of Romney’s plan is to help “pay” for it by closing Loopholes on the rich. The Tax Policy Center arbitrarily assumes that he wouldn’t do that. Huh? They make that big of an assumption on revenue? What evidence do they give that he’d do that?

    Third, Building on that the assume that he’d just have to pay for it by raising taxes on the middle class.

    So what you have is a completely unfounded assumption followed by another completely unfounded assumption ending you up in fairy tale land. The Tax Policy Center and Barack should get five “pants on fire” for this work of high fantasy.

    David:

    @scorpius: No response Frank Luntz, Bush, and the “Democrat Party,” huh? I’ll take that as a concession.

    Really? That’s all you’ve got? That they used the word “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party”? That’s not hate speech that’s just a turn of phrase (or term) intended to get under the Dems skin. Just like leftists do when they state that Reagan wouldn’t be welcome in today’s GOP (and yes I know Jeb Bush said something similar but so what?)

  88. Gulliver:

    “I’ll have to consult my collective to see where I stand on that :)”

    You, too, will be assimilated. I mean, there is a tendancy to see political parties as omnivorous borg collectives.

    “For example, when I say I’m socially a left-leaning civil libertarian and fiscally an economic pragmatist, it’s a frank description of my political outlook, not of what political trends I favor.”

    I don’t think this is mutually exclusive to what I’m saying, provided that you do not eschew the dominant political parties (or, honestly, an organized third party of choice – with the understanding that its biggest impact will be to pull the thinking of one of the dominant parties one way or the other).

    I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to use those words to describe your political philosophy. It’s wholly appropriate. A technical lexicon is very useful. But, I do find it problematic to subistitute a political philosophy for a political party. Political parties are not political philosophies and, as evidenced by the accurately described drift of the two major parties, are not cemented to specific points on the philsophical index. To refuse to ascribe to a party because they don’t represent your philosophy is to misunderstand parties in, specifically, the American system.

  89. BTW, Genufett, Did you see the latest Obama ad against Romney? About how he’s responsible for the Cancer death of a woman because Bain Capital took over a company, and ironically saved the workers’ jobs for a while, and then the man lost his job years after Romney left Bain?

    Here, read this http://factcheck.org/2012/08/is-romney-to-blame-for-cancer-death/. It hasn’t been “Truth-o-metered” yet but I’m sure it will get 4 “pants on fire” along with Obama’s Fantasy Land “Romney Hood” claim.

    *BTW, Robin Hood stole from the government (the nobles, the tax collectors and the sherrif of Nottingham) to give back to the taxpayers. So, if Robin Hood were real and alive today he’d be staking out everywhere Obama and Reid go.

  90. Xopher Halftongue

    What I want to know is, IF (and I know you think it won’t happen, but if) the Bachmann/batshit wing takes over and they start rounding up gays, would you hide me (or gays who live near you) in your attic, risking your own safety at the hands of the hunters?

    Sure, but only if you promise to hide me if Obama wins his second term and starts rounding up the successful, the dissenters and the Jews and sends them off to camps.

    Oh, what, did I just radically overstate a policy a politician doesn’t want to do based on completely misreading said politician’s past statements, past policy support and how that politician is misrepresented by their most batshit insane opponents?

    Did I just engage in hyperbole?

    Right back at ya’, Xopher Halftongue .

  91. Every time there’s a question of justice, the Republicans come down on the wrong side. Over and over and over.

    That’s enough for me.

  92. As a liberal living in a red state, I’ve found the best way to sum up my position is this: “I don’t like the Democratic Party, but the only alternative is a bunch of people who tried really, really hard to make Sarah Palin Vice President of the United States of America.”

  93. Australian politics tends to degenerate down to a two-party brawl. Mostly it’s the ALP (Australian Labor Party, one of the longest running political entities in the country) vs whoever’s at the top of the conservative heap lately. Since about the mid-1940s, that’s been the Liberal Party of Australia[1], who tend to form a coalition with the National Party[2].

    At present, we’re starting to devolve toward a two-party-plus-media system, because about 70% of our news media are owned by Rupert Murdoch, and he thinks that the ALP shouldn’t be allowed to be in office ever[4]. This has resulted in a hung parliament, wherein the Gillard Labor government has successfully pushed through the majority of their legislative agenda, despite the our leader of the Opposition getting huge amounts of press coverage for what tends to be a brilliant demonstration of throwing his toys out of the pram and spitting the dummy[5]. The press coverage tends to be paeans praising his throwing arm, or odes to his osculatory skill as demonstrated by the distance obtained.

    About the only thing keeping things interesting here is the combination of compulsory voter turnout, and preferential vote numbering rather than straight first-past-the-post. At least that way I can vote for the Natural Law Party[7] without “wasting” my vote[8].

    [1] Yes, it says “Liberal” on the label, but in Australia there’s a difference between a large-L Liberal, who’s generally a rabid conservative, and a small-l liberal, who may not be.
    [2] Formerly the National Country Party, formerly the Country Party – basically they tend to be hyper-conservative, and largely represent very broad-scale rural electorates; due to various shenanigans they held power for about 20 years straight in Queensland under the aegis of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and they’ve recently been re-elected there mainly because the former Labor premier couldn’t stop natural disasters from occurring[3][6].
    [3] There is a reason Queenslanders tend to feature heavily in Australian jokes which require a somewhat dim-witted yokel (eg “Why’s it called XXXX?” “That’s how Queenslanders spell ‘beer’.”).
    [4] Do you think you guys could perhaps put a leash on the bastard? After all, he’s your problem now…
    [5] Dummy = pacifier. Yes, I am implying that Tony Abbott spends most of his time putting a toddler to shame – because he does. He and the Liberals have done everything short of holding their breath until they turn blue in order to try and get their way. What they haven’t tried yet is actually coming up with decent policy and practicing civlised behaviour in parliament.
    [6] Said natural disasters being one cyclone, and two years of La Nina in a row causing widespread flooding.
    [7] Yogic flyers. I vote for them whenever they show up on the ballot paper on the grounds that the non-serious candidates really can’t make more of a balls-up of the whole business than the serious ones do.
    [8] In order to win a seat in most Australian elections, you have to receive a winning quota of votes. In the House of Reps, that’s 50% of the votes in the seat, plus one vote extra. In the senate, the Droop quota varies from state to state based on population[9], but you need to obtain a quota plus one vote in order to score the seat anyway.
    [9] Over here, if there’s someone bitching about “one vote one value” in regard to federal elections, five gets you ten it’s someone from either NSW or Victoria complaining about how little their senate vote is worth.

  94. Danika: I had a theory running that sometime during 2010 (around about mid-September, on the original election timetable, if there hadn’t been the huge leadership spill) the Liberals originally planned to quietly have a leadership poll of their own, and re-elect Malcolm Turnbull, who would then have gone to the nation opposed to Kevin Rudd on a platform of “at least I’m not Tony Abbott”. However, the ALP leadership brangle, the ousting of Rudd and the election called by Julia Gillard in order to legitimise her leadership of the ALP (which strikes me as being very much a boys club) threw all of those plans into disarray, and the only reason Tony Abbott’s Liberals got as far as they did is due to institutionalised sexism in Australian politics, and horrendous amounts of sexism in the Australian media.

    Of course, I also tend to believe the main reason that John Howard lasted so long is because the ALP decided that if we the people wanted Liberals in charge, we should get it good and hard (and consequently let Kim Beasley specialise in being thrashed by John Howard at elections).

    Really, the best thing about Australian politics is that our election campaigns have a legally mandated maximum length (6 weeks), outside of which the average voter doesn’t have to pay any attention whatsoever to what the politicians are calling each other over in Canbrrra.

  95. Thank you to the people who explained things to me. I find it a little odd, to be honest, and slightly invasive, but I suppose it does have the advantage that people who want to vote in primaries don’t have to complete a second registration.

  96. @ Other Bill

    You, too, will be assimilated.

    *brandishes sword skyward* Resistance is not futile!

    I mean, there is a tendancy to see political parties as omnivorous borg collectives.

    Aye, and that’s a big part of the problem, especially (though not exclusively) when constituents of either of the two major parties apply it to their opponents.

    (or, honestly, an organized third party of choice – with the understanding that its biggest impact will be to pull the thinking of one of the dominant parties one way or the other).

    When I do cast a third party vote, that is very much my main objective.

    Political parties are not political philosophies and, as evidenced by the accurately described drift of the two major parties, are not cemented to specific points on the philsophical index.

    Quite. I’d go further and say that a single-spectrum index does not accurately represent politics in anything but cartoonish simplicity. The Nolan Chart is slightly more realistic, but even two dimensions is a gross simplification. Both can be useful, but they are never comprehensive, and I do think it’s worth remembering that when we talk about left-vs-right and so forth.

    To refuse to ascribe to a party because they don’t represent your philosophy is to misunderstand parties in, specifically, the American system.

    I suppose, precisely because I don’t conflate the two, that I don’t think of a party as something to which to ascribe, but rather a tent in which to participate. I ascribe to ideas. I participate in communities.

    I also realized I should’ve explained in my reply to your last reply:

    Because I genuinely don’t think that is effective in the long term. But, my commentary was more purposed towards people who eschew the parties all together. I think playing one party or the other depending on specific situations, as a one off, is not unreasonable.

    …that while I have no love for the two-party system, and would regard it as a substantial improvement to get more third-party candidates elected to office, I would consider a one-party system to be nothing short of a disaster for the republic. To that end, I have devoted some effort toward doing my small part to prevent the Republican parties (national and local) from turning into a self-destructive cancer. This is especially important to me as I do not live in a swing state and keeping the Republican Party of Texas from going off the deep end is a high priority for me.

    @ scorpius & Xopher

    If the revolution does start – something I’ll fight tooth and nail to prevent and form which I believe we are still a long way away – you’re both welcome in my home provided you’re willing to fight the good fight.

    @ megpie

    Do you think you guys could perhaps put a leash on the bastard? After all, he’s your problem now…

    Oh, no. Murdoch is problem enough to go around.

    There’s something primally awesome about footnotes for footnotes.

    “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” ~ H. L. Mencken

  97. Gulliver:

    “I suppose, precisely because I don’t conflate the two, that I don’t think of a party as something to which to ascribe, but rather a tent in which to participate. I ascribe to ideas. I participate in communities.”

    Yes. I agree with the deployment of the ‘participate’ word in place of ‘ascribe’. And that’s part of what I’m getting at with why participating in the party of your choice – implying that Notional You has to make one even if it isn’t for better or worse til death – is so important. If you aren’t participating in a party you aren’t really wholly participating in either selecting representatives or the political process. One votes, sure, maybe. And you get all rabble rabble as the news cycle covers things you disagree with but if you aren’t participating in a party you aren’t really impacting the conversation.

    Pick a tent, stake out your claim and advocate aggressively for what’s important to you. You have to be a part of the community to have your voice heard. But, given everyone’s general dissatisfaction with politics and politicians on both sides like 50% of voters (a napkin number I’ve invented for rhetorical purposes) have defected to this notional “Hey! I’m NOT a _____, but I suppose I’ll vote that way sometimes.” And then, all that’s left in the tent are the True Believers. And they are scary.

    “To that end, I have devoted some effort toward doing my small part to prevent the Republican parties (national and local) from turning into a self-destructive cancer.”

    And my prescription for that, for both parties, is an aversion to the “Hey! I’m not ____ I’m an Independent.” In a two party representative democracy, I truly don’t see the logic in not getting into the game with one of the two dominant parties.

    You know? And, besides, if you don’t pick a side you’re just some squirrel bearded cat living in a van down by the river. Not literally. Metaphorically. Not really.

  98. John, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on being a hypothetical conservative in Europe. I am guessing, but don’t know, that this is because broadly speaking the parties opposing conservative parties in Europe are explicitly socialist parties (within a fairly wide spectrum on the Left wing). Would you say you are more conservative from this perspective because you oppose socialist economic approaches, for example managed economies, limits on the free market, nationalisation of railways, hospitals, and the like, and state ownership in general?

  99. Political mailings: naively I would have expected candidates to send more mail to people who are “independent” rather than to people who have already made up their minds…

  100. You have to be a part of the community to have your voice heard.

    I agree. I simply disagree that being part of one community precludes being part of another. Perhaps this is because I define “being a part of” as “honestly participating in” rather than “picking a side” – I pick sides on issues, not parties. The community is either with me or not, but I don’t switch sides on issues to be with the community zeitgeist, and sometimes that means taking the other community’s side on certain issues. Sometimes you take the neighbors’ side instead of your spouse because your spouse is wrong and the neighbors are right.

    But, given everyone’s general dissatisfaction with politics and politicians on both sides like 50% of voters (a napkin number I’ve invented for rhetorical purposes) have defected to this notional “Hey! I’m NOT a _____, but I suppose I’ll vote that way sometimes.” And then, all that’s left in the tent are the True Believers. And they are scary.

    Actually, while I think we are in a very transitional era (yeah, I know it’s a nebulous way to put it), I’m actually not disgruntled. In the balance, I think civilization really does progress on average, even though some metrics take a dive now and again. I’m only dissatisfied in the sense that I want to the progress to continue, so I’ll never be satisfied in the “perfect, that’s a wrap” sense. And there is also an understandable aversion of free-thinking people to institutions that tend toward borganistic behavior. That those same free-thinkers don’t always think through their reflexive independence is indeed an irony. Indy for indy’s sake is an empty gesture in politics as in any aspect of culture, and is its own kind of conformity.

    Also, I agree that non-dogmatists shouldn’t let True Believers run them out of the tent. On the flip side, I understand why Republicans and Democrats alike are often reluctant to say “I’m with wacko.”

    You know? And, besides, if you don’t pick a side you’re just some squirrel bearded cat living in a van down by the river. Not literally. Metaphorically. Not really.

    I agree, on issues.

    @ Gatch Madeley

    I put it to someone this way:

    In Europe the visible spectrum goes from moderately liberal (far right) to communist (far left). In the States it goes from theocracy (far right) to moderately socialist (far left).

    Of course that’s a gross oversimplification, but one with a grain of truth.

  101. In Europe the visible spectrum goes from moderately liberal (far right) to communist (far left). In the States it goes from theocracy (far right) to moderately socialist (far left).

    Ah, yes, the “Theocracy!!!!!111″ charge. You guys are like the Salem witch hunters and the extreme anti-communists seeing theocrats under every Christian Conservative.

    It’s gotten so bad that the Daily Beast has humiliated itself by putting out Mormon-phobic slander:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/07/exclusive-brigham-young-s-great-great-granddaughter-on-mormonism-and-mitt-romney.html

    Wow, just wow. Now calm down. No one wants to take over the Federal Government and set up a theocracy.

  102. Gulliver:

    “The community is either with me or not, but I don’t switch sides on issues to be with the community zeitgeist, and sometimes that means taking the other community’s side on certain issues. ”

    It’s more about impacting the community to bring it around to your side. As a definitional third party, you just don’t have the clout to impact a community, and it leaves you trying to play pick up sticks with representatives to find support for your policies. Or opposition to the ones you oppose.

    I’m okay with this being a fundamental disagreement. But, I think defection to a second party is only effective if the first party feels that as a loss and not something more akin to the coming and going of the tide.

  103. @ scorpius

    Ah, yes, the “Theocracy!!!!!111″ charge. You guys are like the Salem witch hunters and the extreme anti-communists seeing theocrats under every Christian Conservative.

    Did I say every Christian conservative? Let’s see…no. There are absolutely some on the far right who advocate laws solely or principally on the basis of religious scripture. They are a minority, even among conservatives who are Christian, but they are not an irrelevant minority.

    No one wants to take over the Federal Government and set up a theocracy.

    False. However, theocracy, like socialism, is not an all or nothing proposition. It is precisely the fingers-in-ears they don’t exist so they aren’t a problem mentality that prevents parties from reigning in their extremist fringes. And as often as I disagree with you, scorpius, I really thought you were smatter than that.

    It’s gotten so bad that the Daily Beast has humiliated itself by putting out Mormon-phobic slander:

    So because some on the left stoop to fear mongering (one assumes they’ve been taking notes from the right-wing far-mongers’ example), theocrats don’t exist on the right? I’d call that pretzel logic, but pretzels are more connected.

    The fact that I say the far right ends at theocracy and you see a witch hunt for Christian conservatives says a lot about how simplistically you view those of us on the left. Since you spend a not-insubstantial amount of time trying to dispel that same simplistic view of the right, I would think you’d be able to see the irony in doing the same thing to your opponents. You can be obnoxious, but you’re usually not actually stupid.

    In case it matters at all to you, one of my favorite social conservative commentators is Orson Scott Card who, although I disagree with him probably more that with you, is both a fairly famous Mormon and a respectable adversary.

  104. I vote for the Democrats, very nearly straight line right now. Not particularly because I love them, but because the Republicans seem to be trying to kill me. I don’t take kindly to that.

    And no, Scorpius, I’m not talking a “gays in the attic” scenario, but rather the spate of pro life legislation ( http://www.irtl.org/abortion-bills-in-the-2011-state-legislature/ ) that have been pouring forth from the state legislature here. But I shouldn’t be surprised. Indiana is the state that currently has a woman in jail for murder because she attempted suicide while pregnant.

  105. No, Genufett, actually they didn’t delay or obstruct. They did the exact opposite. They got Obama’s ridiculous budget to a vote as quickly as possible.

    What parts of the words in bold about how unserious they were being did you not read? ‘Cause this sounds like all of them.

    Let me try this in small words for you.
    Obama’s budget thingy stupid.
Everyone know Obama’s budget thingy stupid.
Bad Republicans want vote on stupid budget thingy.
    Even other Republicans are saying your interpretation here is false.
    Budget thingy get 97 (a lot) no votes.
No one use filibuster thingy.

    For that one example, sure. But even conservative commentators occasionally refer to the GOP as obstructionist. See also: the GOP-created debt ceiling crisis last year, which no other President, including Reagan and Nixon had near as calamity as we did when they raised it.

    Did where he ran on that he’d put weeks of a conference debate up on C-SPAN? Did you see what happened? He had to be forced by the GOP to even start a conference, then he presided over it, told people when they could and could not speak, gave more than twice the time to his allies and insulted his plan’s detractors.
    Basically he shut down debate.

    Yeah, I can go to the Library of Congress website and see exactly what happened on the bill, including multiple bipartisan conferences and multiple proposed and accepted amendments:
    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR00001:@@@S

    There’s a lot of Republican names attached to those amendments, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about here.

    See, of course, above.

    He mentioned one bill that even other conservatives pointed out was blatant theater by the GOP.

    Yeah, President’s have been affecting what bills the Congress puts up for a long time. He can get “his” bill put through. It happens a lot.

    Here’s another civics term to look up: veto.

    Reid is accusing Romney of a FELONY, following up n the FELONY the White House accused him of of filing fraudulent paperwork on his time at Bain Capital with the SEC.

    Um, what? Nobody at the White House accused Romney of filing fraudulent paperwork, they said if what several news sources, including the Boston Globe was true, then he’d be guilty of a felony. Which makes sense when said SEC documents appeared to support that, with his own signature on forms that claimed he was the president, CEO, chairman of the board, and 100% owner of a company. But since Romney isn’t following the tax return release trend of every single Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate in modern history including his own father, he’s keeping this all in the news. He wants to prove everyone a liar, he’s presumably got the ammunition.

    What you’re citing with all the BIrther and Muslim Brotherhood stuff is what a minority of righties in their basement accused Barack and Bill of and they weren’t FELONIES.

    Tell me again where forging birth documents to gain office, perjury, conspiracy to spy, and treason aren’t felony accusations.

    In comparison, I’d point out that over half of Democrats were Truthers during the Last administration believing “Bush knew” about 9/11

    One survey does not a truther make, as it were. It doesn’t even say over half were truthers, unless you include people that found it maybe a little believable but weren’t convinced. Of course, if I wanted to use your standards for this, I could also easily prove that 75% of Republicans
    were birthers before release of the long-form certificate, and over half still do:

    http://today.yougov.com/news/2012/07/11/birthers-are-still-back/
    http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2012/06/republicans-still-delusional-recent.html

    Oh, and let’s not forget that Romney loves him some Donald Trump, aka Birther-in-Chief, and that the Arizona Secretary of State publicly prepared a birther expedition before being exposed by the press.

    After recessions end job growth and economic activity happens without government intervention. Heck, in the past recoveries we’ve had rapid job growth, not this sluggish barely registering job growth.

    Proof please? For instance, he Reagan recession recovery was due to entirely different causes (high inflation vs financial crisis), came during a time of low debt from the previous administration as opposed to a high one (that had been reversed from the 1990s surplus, no less!), and was fixed by the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which was referred to as “the largest tax increase since World War II” when Reagan passed it.

    It is proof (albeit circumstantial but all proofs in economics is circumstantial) that the “Stimulus” hurt the recovery.

    Apparently a lot of economists disagree with you:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/08/the-romney-campaign-says-stimulus-doesnt-work-here-are-the-studies-they-left-out/

    First, the Tax Policy Center is a Liberal Think Tank started out of the Brookings Institute.

    Another Romney talking point parroted, and then shot down: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/04/romney-tax-plan-on-table-debt-collapses-table/

    First, the campaign called the analysis “just another biased study from a former Obama staffer.” That jab refers to Adam Looney, one of the study’s three co-authors, who served in a staff role on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama. But the Tax Policy Center is directed by Donald Marron, who was one of the principals on George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. Calling the Tax Policy Center biased simply isn’t credible — a point underscored by the fact that the Romney campaign referred to the group’s work as “objective, third-party analysis” during the primary campaign.

    Second, part of Romney’s plan is to help “pay” for it by closing Loopholes on the rich. The Tax Policy Center arbitrarily assumes that he wouldn’t do that. Huh? They make that big of an assumption on revenue? What evidence do they give that he’d do that?

    From the same article:

    The analysts assumed that any cuts to deductions or loopholes would begin with top earners, and that no one earning less than $200,000 would have their deductions reduced until all those earning more than $200,000 had lost all of their deductions and tax preferences first. They assumed, as Romney has promised, that the reforms would spare the portions of the tax code that privilege saving and investment. They even ran a simulation in which they used a model developed, in part, by Greg Mankiw, one of Romney’s economic advisers, that posits “implausibly large growth effects” from tax cuts.

    Third, Building on that the assume that he’d just have to pay for it by raising taxes on the middle class.

    Same article again:

    The numbers never worked out. No matter how hard the Tax Policy Center labored to make Romney’s promises add up, every simulation ended the same way: with a tax increase on the middle class. The tax cuts Romney is offering to the rich are simply larger than the size of the (non-investment) deductions and loopholes that exist for the rich. That’s why it’s “mathematically impossible” for Romney’s plan to produce anything but a tax increase on the middle class.
    […]
    Then the Romney campaign said, “The study ignores the positive benefits to economic growth from both the corporate tax plan and the deficit reduction called for in the Romney plan.” There’s a reason the study ignores those “positive benefits”: Romney has called for a revenue-neutral corporate tax plan that brings the rate down from 35 percent to 25 percent while also promising to balance the budget. He has not said how he will achieve either goal. Until he does, those positive benefits — if they exist — are impossible to calculate.

    Just like leftists do when they state that Reagan wouldn’t be welcome in today’s GOP (and yes I know Jeb Bush said something similar but so what?)

    Well, first of all, it’s not just Jeb Bush. There’s also Chuck Hagel, Jon Huntsman, Mike Huckabee, and Lindsey Graham, for starters. So, that’s three former GOP governors (including two Presidential candidates), a sitting GOP US Senator, and a retired GOP US Senator. And why wouldn’t they say it? Reagan raised the debt ceiling eighteen times, invested government funds in failing domestic companies (aka bailouts), was at least somewhat pro-choice (certainly as governor, and in words if not deeds as President), raised taxes–sometimes significantly–in every year of his presidential terms but one, supported and signed laws for amnesty to undocumented immigrants, never visited (and sometimes criticized) Israel, and oversaw expansions to the federal government larger than those of Obama.

    So, yeah.

  106. We’re beginning to wander widely from the actual topic into a generalized political discussion, so let’s tighten things up and bring it all back around, please.

  107. Ugh, formatting. Can I resubmit or failing that plead for you to close off some of those blockquote tags?

  108. I can’t agree with MPAVictoria about the British Conservative Party – on social issues such as racism or LGBT equality it has become far *less* conservative over the last thirty years. This is not because they’re nicer people, but because society has changed so much. But I would echo other Brits in saying that I can’t see you as ever fitting in to the British Conservative Party – the Liberal Democrats would have been a much better fit, though I would hope that you would have left in disgust when they reneged on their promise to abolish tuition fees…

  109. @scorpius – you say no one wants to take over the Federal government and set up a theocracy. Not true. The Congressperson from my district does. Her name is Michele Bachmann and she ran for President. She still has quite a few supporters.

  110. Sorry, John. Mea culpa. Shinny debates lured me away.
    What? No, that’s not a magic pipe in my hand…er…it’s for helping some friends out with a rat infestation. Look, a Sasquatch. whoosh

  111. Really? That’s all you’ve got? That they used the word “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party”? That’s not hate speech that’s just a turn of phrase (or term) intended to get under the Dems skin.

    Boy, when y’all do it–”Democrat Party”–it’s just a “turn of phrase.” When Democrats do it, it’s “hate speech”? You can dish it out, but you really can’t take it. Maybe the Democrats *should* have focus-grouped it.

    Again, come up with an example of a Democratic pollster focus-grouping “RepubliKKKan” in the same way Luntz did with “Democrat Party” and I’ll agree that the Rs & Ds are equivalent on the mud-slinging. Find a place where Obama used “RepubliKKKan” to describe the GOP and I’ll agree that the Rs & Ds are equivalent on the mud-slinging.

    Sauce, goose, gander.

  112. “I can’t agree with MPAVictoria about the British Conservative Party – on social issues such as racism or LGBT equality it has become far *less* conservative over the last thirty years.”

    Ah, but what about economic issues? On economic issues the have swung far right. They used to believe in the welfare state and they are now engaged in its destruction. Of course they are also engaged in the destruction of the British economy so maybe conservatives just like wrecking things….

  113. John,
    I am always pleased to read one of your articles on politics. In large part I admit because our political views seem to coincide fairly closely, but mostly because it is nice to see someone who follows a rational path and attempts to judge each candidate on their merits rather than on their dogma. I wish more people would do the same, I feel that doing so would probably result in a much healthier democracy. I believe that the two party system we use is inherently destructive to democracy because it makes it entirely too easy to vote against a candidate just because he is a Republican or just because he is a Democrat without regard to whether that candidate might be the best person for the job.

    I tend to vote for more Democrats because more of them follow my beliefs, but I also vote for a fair number of Republicans whom I believe better suited to the position than their opponents. In my (admittedly limited) experience much of the rest of the world does not see a whole lot of difference between our political parties. I had a friend years ago who identified himself as a Canadian liberal. He said that American politics consisted of the conservative party and the Republicans and that other than a few talking points there was almost nothing to distinguish one from the other. That being the case, the least we can do is judge by individuals rather than blindly following party orthodoxy.

  114. When I registered to vote in Philadelphia (this was in the late 1980s), the clerk asked me my party affiliation. When I, probably looking baffled, said “None” he matched my baffled and look and told me something to the effect of “Well, you have to pick one for the form.” When I said I didn’t think I did, he went to find his supervisor. It took a while for them to determine that I didn’t in fact have to pick one, and if I’d needed further convincing that I shouldn’t, that incident would have done it…

  115. John,
    Do you know the stated rationale for limiting Ohio’s early voting hours? Any movement towards vote-by-mail?
    As a WA voter, I’m not entirely pleased with the top-two primary system; it heavily favors well-funded candidates. But I am liking the move to state-wide vote-by-mail. It allows the widest possible window for voting, meaning more people can turn out. Even though voter turn out is usually characterized as a Democratic issue, I see it as fundamental to democracy regardless of which party it favors.

  116. I’ve been considering another way of thinking about what issues people support. Call it the fanboy effect. For example: conservative fanboy, Muslim fanboy, feminist fanboy. Just about any divisive issue has its fanboy supporters. Maybe if people thought along those lines they might dial it back a notch or two.

  117. The older democracies in the USA, New England towns voting by a Periclean Athens model for over 300 years, do not have parties as such. When I was in grad school, I was an elected Town Meeting Member, for Amherst, Massachusetts. The town had roughly 38,000 people, including roughly 22,000 undergraduate students, 6,000 grad students, and 1,100 full time faculty, who live off campus, said campus being UMass Amherst, the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system, which sits on nearly 1,450-acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, 90 miles from Boston and 175 miles from New York City. That campus provides a rich cultural environment in a rural setting close to major urban centers. Point is, nobody cared if you were a Democrat, a Republican, a Socialist, or a Natural Law Party. What mattered was reflecting your constituency, arriving at pragmatic compromises for the good of both Town and Gown, appointing a City Manager (there being no Mayor) and Chief of Police. I worked with the Town Engineer and Chief of Police, for example, to fund, design, and build bicycle paths between town and campus, to reduce injury-causing car-bicycle accidents that were hurting people and costing insurance money. Mission accomplished.

  118. I also have been an independent for a long time (I voted for John Anderson for president in 80.) I used to think of myself as mainly Democratic, but have been more pissed off at them than the Republican Party here in Washington since they teamed up with the Republican Party to get our blanket primary thrown out.
    A sweet young lady called me recently to ask for a contribution to the State Democratic party and I told her politely but in no uncertain terms that I would never contribute to the Dems again since they had sued over the blanket primary and that I considered them a throwback to the Tammany Hall days. She was greatly taken aback and just said good by.
    In order to vote for (or in one case against) a particular candidate I have registered myself under both party labels. My hero is Senator Wayne Morris of Oregon who was firsted elected as a Republican became an independent and later a Democrat. He was elected or reelected under all three lables. He was as flawed as any man but maintained a stubborn streak of independence. Check him out on Wiki
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Morse

  119. If you think about it, there is no real reason why someone is Pro Life would also want a small government. Or if someone is in favor of health insurance for everyone would also be in favor of gay rights. From what I see, positions are seen as liberal or conservative just because that is what the two parties primarily support. The core bundle of issues is essentially the core bundles of issues of a small group of people in each party. They are the loudest and most likely to donate money so that is where the party stands.

    Closed primaries are ignorant. Think about. You have liberals and conservatives. Maybe 5% of the electorate votes in these things. Then they present 2 people to the rest of us and say take it or leave it. You get our guy or you get this other guy who sucks. It lets the radicals in both party present their picks to the rest of the country.

    I think the best way to break the monopoly of liberals and conservatives is to organize to take people out in the primaries. It doesn’t even take a lot of votes. The best way to do it is for people to vote in whichever primary has an incubent, then vote for the person who is most likely to win the primary and is not in office.

    This way we can fire people by knocking them off in the primaries. You can still get people to run as 3rd party candidates, but that is alot harder, so you will knock off quite a few. Even if the guy who replaces this person is just as liberal or just as conservative, it is a different person. This new person will want to keep his job and will be in fear of losing in the primary.

  120. The reason that political parties evolved in the USA (and then devolved into current Truculently Irrational gridlock) was despite the clearly stated goals of the Founding Fathers. The Federalist Papers (a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, as an insider’s fanzine) explained why the new republic should NOT be subject to the pitfalls or parties on the Western European model. To assure that, the Constitution originally provided that whomever got the MOST popular votes would be President, and whomever got the SECOND MOST popular votes would be Vice President, thus providing a balance of power between nascent parties. That was amended away later.

    United States congressional apportionment is the process by which seats in the United States House of Representatives are redistributed amongst the 50 states following each constitutionally mandated decennial census. Each state is apportioned a number of seats which approximately corresponds to its share of the aggregate population of the 50 states. However, every state is constitutionally guaranteed at least one seat. I spare you the Math.

    According to Federalist 1 [27 October 1787]:
    “It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.”

  121. @ Jonathan vos Post 2:43 “The reason that political parties evolved in the USA (and then devolved into current Truculently Irrational gridlock) was despite the clearly stated goals of the Founding Fathers. The Federalist Papers (a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, as an insider’s fanzine) explained why the new republic should NOT be subject to the pitfalls or parties on the Western European model.

    Note that Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were not all of the founding fathers. Not to mention, they themselves got involved in party politics pretty quickly, so it seems the goal was more do as I say, not as I am doing right now.

  122. I think we’d have to know more about where Scalzi stands on various issues before we can reccomend him a British party to vote for. (Not that he can vote, and of course he may decide that the individual MP is more important than the party, which may sometimes be true, but in the UK power is so centralised now that most MP’s are lobby fodder, herded into vote without having a say in what they are actually voting on and what the result should be)

    The current conservative party, as far as I understand it, is still made up of socially conservative people, it’s just that the leaders know that to get that extra 5% of votes they need to present a more modern, inclusive face to the world and allow homsexuals to be out in the open and not to bash single mothers unless they are poor.
    The liberals and new labour are of course more socially accepting, although it was new labour whcih passed a weird law against extreme porn, in which the definition was basically any porn which the viewer was disgusted by. Someone just got a verdict of not guilty after some photos of consensual adults engaging in something comparatively unusual were found on his computer, thus suggesting that this horse is an ass.
    New labour was and still is weird, basically saying “You shall all be happy, smiley inclusive people or else”.

    But on economic matters, all parties are at least as right wing as the Conservatives used to be 30 years ago, and the conservative party is frankly insane – determined to privatise state functions and put spending back closer to the 1920′s or suchlike. Their cuts have contributed to a double dip recession because either there’s nobody there who knows any economics, or else they want to squeeze the poor. I’m sure it is a mix of such factors, but think it likely that Scalzi would not want to vote for them.

    Meanwhile on mainland europe you can actually call youself a Socialist and get elected, although I don’t know if any of the policies enacted by such people are particularly socialist or not. There’s certainly a lack of revolutions.

  123. If those are your beliefs, then you are right: you are not a Democrat, and it’s best that you not call yourself one.

    I’m defining a person who identifies with a political party this way not as a person who votes for them reflexively like cheering on your favorite sports team regardless of who’s on them, but as a person who chooses candidates by the issues and finds that they strongly gravitate towards a particular party. It’s rather more in the way that you’d call yourself a fan of a particular type of music, not because you’ve chosen to cheer it on, but because that’s what you find that you actually enjoy listening to.

  124. @Gulliver,

    Then your spectrum is too short. In fact if you’re taking limits then the limits of the “far left” in the U.S. is Stalinist Communist Dictatorship.

    But that’s if you’re taking limits. If you’re just talking about “who has any power in the U.S.” then there is no one advocating a Christian Theocracy.

  125. Wow, John, once again I find your thoughts echoing my own.
    Here in northeast Ohio, our moderate, reach-across-the-aisle Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette has just bowed out of the race, and this is making me SO-not-happy.
    I’d just like to vote for someone with decency who knows how to work *with* other people to achieve goals that benefit everyone. More and more, we seem to be choosing between different extremists whose main tactic is to make people afraid to vote for their opponents. But maybe I’ll be surprised this time … one can always hope.

    Between this and the “creeper” post, I’m thinking August isn’t such a slow month around here after all. :-)

  126. Genufett:

    Clueless journalists and crafty Christian Right pundits have mocked the idea that Dominionism as a religiously motivated political tendency even exists.

    Wow, that whole website is just a playground of paranoid conspiracy theories without any real shred of proof other than saying that the “crafty Christian right pundits” are putting one over on the media. OK, I’ll bite, now where’s your underlying proof. They don’t have any. They’ll just default to that paranoid accusation.

    I mean, if they had a well-documented list of evidence then they might be more than just paranoids. But they aren’t.

    Is that all you’ve got? A bunch of internet cranks?

  127. Xopher Halftongue

    OK, you cite a person who holds the same opinion of gay marriage that President Obama had for most of his presidency. And? Oh, and he cites Leviticus and Roman to say it is immoral which happens to call for their death. It’s obvious from the article that he was using those passages to say it was wrong, not that he wants to see them killed by the state.

    But of course, we can’t read his mind, and that leaves the burden of proof on you to show he was calling for the “death of gays”. So, what other proof do you have?

    OK, you’ve got one guy who likes to quote Bible passages on how the ghey lifestyle is wrong. That’s just really and opinion. An opinion you’d find common among the 2 million Muslims in the U.S.

    So?

  128. OK, you cite a person who holds the same opinion of gay marriage that President Obama had for most of his presidency.

    Yeah, no. I don’t ever recall Obama saying that gays spread disease and attack traditional families.

    Oh, and he cites Leviticus and Roman to say it is immoral which happens to call for their death. It’s obvious from the article that he was using those passages to say it was wrong, not that he wants to see them killed by the state.

    Flimsiest excuse ever.

  129. Ah, yes, Guilt by association. Well, many play that game.*

    Rep Keith Ellison is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is cracking down on Jews, Christians and Gays citing Sharia.

    ZOMG! Keith Ellison CREEPING SHARIA!!!1111

    Sorry, but those formerly good publications have painted themselves as cranky bigots (just like Newsweek has) in their unfounded, paranoid fear and hate of Christians.

    *Usually we call those who play this game “Islamophobes” what does that make you? Christianoph….

  130. Since Mr. Mythago and I are registered for different political parties it’s very interesting to compare the varying junk mail. It turns out that my state political party thinks I am very stupid, influenced by bright colors and large type, and desperately afraid of shady-looking dudes in balaclavas invading my home at gunpoint.

  131. @ Guess

    I think the best way to break the monopoly of liberals and conservatives is to organize to take people out in the primaries. It doesn’t even take a lot of votes. The best way to do it is for people to vote in whichever primary has an incubent, then vote for the person who is most likely to win the primary and is not in office.

    David Brin agrees with you and has floated a few other ideas for breaking party lock-in.

    @ Jonathan Vos Post

    The reason that political parties evolved in the USA (and then devolved into current Truculently Irrational gridlock) was despite the clearly stated goals of the Founding Fathers.

    Sadly, their actions spoke otherwise. Alexander Hamilton was particularly instrumental in this about-face. Political idealism can turn to political expediency despite the best of intentions.

    The Federalist Papers (a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, as an insider’s fanzine) explained why the new republic should NOT be subject to the pitfalls or parties on the Western European model.

    It was more than that. It was a way for the Founders to publically debate the principles forging the new Republic. And reading the Federalist Papers without the Anti-Federalist Papers is like only listening to one side of a political debate. Actually, it’s not like that, it is that.

    To assure that, the Constitution originally provided that whomever got the MOST popular votes would be President, and whomever got the SECOND MOST popular votes would be Vice President, thus providing a balance of power between nascent parties. That was amended away later.

    Mores the pity.

    @ guthrie

    Meanwhile on mainland europe you can actually call youself a Socialist and get elected, although I don’t know if any of the policies enacted by such people are particularly socialist or not. There’s certainly a lack of revolutions.

    Strictly speaking, socialism is merely when a State provides social services of some kind to the populace. By which definition any government is to some extent socialist. What might be called extreme socialism is generally when the State holds a monopoly on social services, such as in the interim stages of communist theory before the State magically disappears from lack of necessity. Since no actual communist government has actually existed among more than a handful of people personally dedicated to the ideology, one might think of this as the limit of socialism. But socialism itself is a wide playing field. Remember, both the Bolsheviks and Nazis were socialists and autocrats, yet they founded very different nightmares.

    @ scorpius

    Oh, and he cites Leviticus and Roman to say it is immoral which happens to call for their death. It’s obvious from the article that he was using those passages to say it was wrong, not that he wants to see them killed by the state.

    Then Rep. Gipson should have specified which parts of the passages he wished the law to follow. Otherwise you’re just speculating about his intent. If someone holds up a quote and says this without clarify which part of this, he has endorsed the whole enchilada.

    Then your spectrum is too short. In fact if you’re taking limits then the limits of the “far left” in the U.S. is Stalinist Communist Dictatorship.

    Hence I said visible spectrum (i.e. those with real political influence). Sorry my biophysics metaphor fell on deaf ears.

    But that’s if you’re taking limits. If you’re just talking about “who has any power in the U.S.” then there is no one advocating a Christian Theocracy.

    I’ll repeat it one more time. There are legislators in the U.S. federal government and some state governments for whom only necessary basis of a law is the particular religious scripture which they hold to be divine revelation, and who would impose those laws, irrespective of other justifications, on individuals who do not share their religious faith. That is the definition of theocracy. Theocracy is not exclusive of democracy (though it is of our Constitutionally-limited representative democratic republic). A democratic majority could impose theocracy as surely as they could impose socialism. The common term for unlimited democracy is mob-rule. Some governments are more socialist than others; some are more theocratic than others. Neither are not all or nothing.

    And that is the end of that because John has asked us to get back to the original post’s topic. If the disagreement has not been resolved, we will simply have to agree to disagree.

  132. such as in the interim stages of communist theory before the State magically disappears from lack of necessity

    You mean when it gets small enough to drown in the bathtub?

  133. “If I lived in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England or most of what used to be called Western Europe, those political views would probably get me tagged as a member of the major local conservative party. Here in the US, they currently align most frequently with the Democratic party, our ostensibly “liberal” major political party.”

    As a western European, I really don’t get what you’re basing this on

  134. Gulliver: Agree. People (Supreme Court Justices, whatever, pshaw) always quote the Federalist Papers like they were the whole debate. Or, even, treat them like a part of the Constitution – or its instruction manual – instead of the hardcore debate by rhetorical pugilists trying to pursuade people to support the raitification of the constitution that they were. Not quite the halcyon days of big tent two party system politics. I get that they can be useful to understand the thinking that went behind some of the language, but they were a public debate as a means of hardball public persuasion. Meaning, they were both a sales job and positioning for future and ongoing debates regarding the running of the country.

    Which is cool. We just have a tendancy to forget that while those guys did hammer out the architecture for our country, they weren’t, like, unbiased arbiters of justice.

    Regarding JVPs:

    “To assure that, the Constitution originally provided that whomever got the MOST popular votes would be President, and whomever got the SECOND MOST popular votes would be Vice President, thus providing a balance of power between nascent parties.”

    Well, not the most POPULAR votes. The most electoral votes. Giving the runner up the VP slot might have been intended to help our government glide gracefully along. But, I mean, all of those dudes were hardcore rhetorical knife wielding political maniacs. And the history of the presidential elections of the period, including gaming and loading the Electoral College, is evidence to me that the Two Party system has always produced bitter-bitter-shoot-you-in-the-face-you-(*on purpose*)-rivals. I mean, Alexander Hamilton died because of a duel. Over politics.

    Reading up on party politics in the old days leaves me giggling a bit when people ask seriously if Politician X today is the worst most eggregious example of awful Y behavior. Politics is as it ever was.

  135. Gulliver – I think we’re into major differences between Europe and the USA here. The definition of socialism in my Oxford concise dictionary (Hardly the most revolutionary source) is “a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribuition and exchange; policy or practise based on this theory.”
    No specification of the involvement of a state. And that is what we see in Europe, much of the earlier socialism eschewed the state in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. The branch of it which won out though by the late 20th century was that which reckoned that taking over the state was a good idea, but all were forms of socialism.
    By your definition, Bismarck’s Prussian government was somewhat socialist, which, although I don’t know what language they used to describe it at the time, would surely have been denied by Bismarck on downwards, because their provision of social services such as pensions was carried out in order to try to weaken the growing power of the socialist political parties amongst the lower sorts.
    Indeed, I see you assert that Nazis and Bolsheviks were socialists – Bolsheviks I’ll grant you, although rather extremist sorts. Nazis however, although using some socialist rhetoric, were not. Hitler was funded by rich upper class people and industrialists, and the Nazi party took voters away from the Nationalist party and similarly inclined right of centre parties, whilst the votes of the socialist and communist party’s stayed the same or grew slightly. Not to mention all the anti-labour laws put in place by his government once in power. The nazis ultimately were nationalist racist totalitarians, but they were part of the split in right wingers which you still see today in Britain, when people complain about all those foreigners coming to Britain and want something done about it, yet don’t see that free movement of people is important in a market capitalist economy, or they want national companies given advantages despite that being against the ‘free’ market.

    So I suppose I make a disctintion between social measures carried out by the state, and actual socialist policies based on socialist philosophies. After all, it was common in the medieval period and after for donations to charity and founding of hospitals by rich people, but that was not based upon a radical ideology which wanted to run everything differently, it was just expected.
    I have come across the term ‘welfare state’ for the state handling benefits, and that seems to me to be far closer to what you are talking about.

  136. @ Other Bill

    Which is cool. We just have a tendancy to forget that while those guys did hammer out the architecture for our country, they weren’t, like, unbiased arbiters of justice.

    I’ve often said that if you replace great men and women with infallible legends, you denigrate their memory with the denial of the actual human beings behind the legend. The Founders were great in spite of their flaws, not because they lacked any.

    Reading up on party politics in the old days leaves me giggling a bit when people ask seriously if Politician X today is the worst most eggregious example of awful Y behavior. Politics is as it ever was.

    After Aristotle coined the term, it was all downhill ;-)

    @ Don

    American ignorance of UK politics (not ‘English’ politics) in this thread is hilarious

    Feel free to elaborate while you drive by point-and-laugh. That said, I, for one, was referring to European politics and am quite aware that UK politics are different (though hardly unrelated).

  137. Gulliver – Indeed. And I’m pretty sure Aristotle lived the end of his life at his mom’s place after being exiled, essentially, from the city due to his politics. Or, for that matter, Socrates sentenced to death for committing We Don’t Like Your Politics.

  138. @ guthrie

    I have come across the term ‘welfare state’ for the state handling benefits, and that seems to me to be far closer to what you are talking about.

    Yes, that is probably a better term. That said, this: “a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribuition and exchange; policy or practise based on this theory.” implies state ownership. Or, more precisely, whoever holds a monopoly over the means of production, distribution and exchange also holds a monopoly over political power rendering them, for all intents and purposes, the state (even if it’s the Church practicing coinage). This is what I meant by referring to the Nazi’s as socialist. Their initial power came from the corrupt vestiges of the Weimar Republic’s industry bristling at bearing the brunt of the reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles during ongoing economic stagflation and devaluation of the mark, but the end result was a seizure by the party, through the seizure of the weakened state, of the means of production.

    I do think Bismarck’s Prussia was very moderately socialist (so is the USA). As I said, it’s a sliding scale rather than an all or nothing condition like its limit, communism.

  139. Gulliver:

    “This is what I meant by referring to the Nazi’s as socialist.”

    Well, the Nazi’s called themselves socialists for almost the same reason the Russian Communists called themselves Bolsheviks. The Nazis were fascists, which has similar characterstics in terms of state impacting the economy, but is distinct. The distinction between them and, Bismark for example, being workers rights: medical care and other such things. Though, even Bismark was coopting the trend toward socialism by giving in to some of the key demands of the workers in order to keep them from REBELLION.

    We aren’t a Socialist state, we are a proud Welfare State. Whatever, Otto. See you at the beach, I’m calling in sick.

  140. @ Other Bill

    I’d regard fascism as a form of socialism, namely socialism through totalitarian authoritarian nationalism (in this case jingoistic xenophobic nationalism). But I concede that my knowledge of socialist political theory is not on par with my knowledge of history; most socialist texts I’ve read deal with anarcho-socialism, which is at the other end of the libertarian/authoritarian spectrum, and are at least a hundred years out of date. Strictly speaking it refers to social ownership of the means of production. Practically speaking that usually translates to state ownership.

    And yeah, Bismarck was playing politics, making concessions while doing his best to save face.

  141. Gulliver – The shorthand I use to distinguish them is to remember that Fascism is control of production FOR INDUSTRY! While Socialism is control of production FOR THE PEOPLE! I mean, functionally it means a lot of control of industry by the state. And, either can certainly head down the authoritarian path.

    Not that 6:45 AM on a thread about the two party system is the time or place for a discussion about the theory and reality of fascism and socialism. And I could easily be wrong.

  142. @ Other Bill

    If by industry you mean elites who are given preferential status just because they’re well-connected VIPs, I agree. But the reality of socialism is usually a lot squishier than control of production for the people. I kind of look at it the way I look at capitalism, there’s a very neat theory, and then there’s the clusterfuck we all live in.

    It’s a hour earlier here. I’ve taken to working on my thesis in the early morning hours, getting my errands done in the morning, taking a nap around noon, teaching the afternoon classes at the dojo, and then beating the traffic home and crashing for a few hours. My partner is not happy with this and I’m pretty sure she took a blood sample to test for vampirism, but I get much more work done at 3:00 AM than any other time of day.

  143. a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribuition and exchange; policy or practise based on this theory.”
    No specification of the involvement of a state.

    Well, there are many types of socialism, and many definitions. But, just going with the one you present: what do you think the state is? Or, a better question: how do you expect the commonly owned means of production to be managed in anything larger than a family?

    Hitler was funded by rich upper class people and industrialists, and the Nazi party took voters away from the Nationalist party and similarly inclined right of centre parties, whilst the votes of the socialist and communist party’s stayed the same or grew slightly.

    Yeah,no. Hitler was explicitly socialistic. Those “wealthy industrialists” were only allowed to hold onto their fortunes (and not much of it really) if they supported the State in it’s drive towards… Universal Healthcare, Universal Education, Universal Pensions, guaranteed income, etc. I’ll give you these things were only extended towards the undefinable “Aryan”; but it was a socialist state.

    Hitler got his inspiration for his system from Mussolini’s Fascism. Which was accurately dubbed “Socialism in one country”. In fact Benito himself was a leftist weened and raised on Marxism and part of international socialism until he bristled at the Russian dominance of the movement.

  144. The fact that the GOP health care reforms of the 1990s, the tax and government expansion policies of Ronald Reagan, and an economic stimulus a fraction of the size of the one initiated by Dwight Eisenhower are somehow the same as Nazi Germany and Facist Italy is a perfect example of what’s wrong with conservatives and the GOP today.

  145. @ Genufett

    While I’m no conservative, I’ll admit I’m the one who Godwinned this thread. But saying the USA and Nazi Germany both (very differently) embody aspects of socialism is not a slam. They both use science and armies and state dinner parties without those things being inherently Nazi or American. I was comparing the Bolsheviks and the Nazis to demonstrate that similar socioeconomic theories can result in widely different governments. In other words, political theories aren’t political parties. Socialism in and of itself is neither good nor evil, it’s merely an aspect of government, like elections.

  146. @Gulliver:

    Trust me, I wasn’t referring to your points, which were well articulated and supported.

  147. Gulliver -

    Socialism and fascism are definitely political philosophies. And not parties or styles of governments. Governments can be authoritian or democracies, and one can certainly match different political philosophies to to differing styles of government. In the example, Italy and Germany and the Soviet Union can have similar styles of government driven by different types of political philosophy.

    This goes back to my argument that since parties run government, if one wants to impact the running of a government they must interact with the parties and NOT simply join a philosophy. Now, that was never meant to exclude being driven by a personal philosophy in the policies one encourages their party to pursue.

    More, it was trying to draw a distinction between the playing the game and the strategy one uses to drive the decisions one makes in the game. The game is parties. And if one isn’t on board, for all one’s strategies, one isn’t playing the game.

  148. @ Other Bill

    I agree. But I do think some people play the game with no strategy other than to win, and that is pernicious, IMHO. Politics without a compass is more dangerous than the most flawed philosophy, because it opens the door for those with malicious philosophies to dominate the field.

  149. This goes back to my argument that since parties run government, if one wants to impact the running of a government they must interact with the parties and NOT simply join a philosophy. Now, that was never meant to exclude being driven by a personal philosophy in the policies one encourages their party to pursue.

    More, it was trying to draw a distinction between the playing the game and the strategy one uses to drive the decisions one makes in the game. The game is parties. And if one isn’t on board, for all one’s strategies, one isn’t playing the game.

    This is why I keep telling my friends and family who are down on their federal representation to get involved. All politics is local, so start with your local Dem/GOP/Green/whatever office, and tell them what you do or don’t like. If you want to support and vote for an alternative, do so. Get informed about and work with candidates from dog-catcher up to President. Almost everybody starts at the state or local level, so you’re possibly influencing people who will go on to positions with more influence. Simply blaming everything on Congress or the President (or both) accomplishes nothing in terms of advancing your personal views.

  150. @ Gulliver:

    “But I do think some people play the game with no strategy other than to win, and that is pernicious, IMHO.”

    Yes. Agree. And I know we’re seeing the same field of play, just drawing different conclusions. But, I do think that a defection from political parties is like miracle gro for that perniciousness (a word with which, thanks to your deployment of it, I will now have to rekindle an old love affair).

    @Genufett:

    “All politics is local”

    Oh, yes. So much this. In fact, I think local politics is where the war is won. And, I think most people undervalue their involvement there. I think local government is the most undervalued power in the United States. But, it’s the place where one can maximize one’s impact. My vote is always important, nationally or otherwise. Even in so called non-swing states. But, the impact I can have on local government is enormous.

  151. @ Other Bill

    I think local government is the most undervalued power in the United States.

    I think so too. That’s why state and local government are important to me. What’s done at home affects the whole neighborhood. Contrariwise, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind“.

  152. @Emma: No doubt about it, the party primary system is weird, with its boundary-crossing entanglement between the state government’s election apparatus and the national party organizations. That’s without even getting into caucuses, which are even weirder. But the thing to take away, that people outside the US don’t always understand, is that you’re not being forced to tell the government how you’re going to vote in the general election.

    Americans also find it all hard to understand, which is part of the reason why participation is often low. I think at least part of the reason people don’t vote more than they do in the US is that, compared with many democracies, we vote on many more things: primary and general elections for local, state and federal offices, including stuff like sheriff and registrar of probate, and, in some states, a bewildering variety of ballot questions up for direct plebiscite. It can produce weird results when a passionate campaign for something specific turns out supporters massively in an otherwise low-profile election.

    Much of this complexity is a legacy of reforms that happened during the Progressive Era (turn of the 20th century into the 1920s), when there was a laudable tendency to think that adding more democracy to things would make them better, but it was done somewhat haphazardly.

  153. John, I am SO with you on this. Thank you for putting into words what many of us feel, but are not so good at the whole “putting stuff into words that make sense” thing.

    Just out of curiosity, does your county have the extended voting deadlines?
    I’ve been reading about the hoopla with “Republican-heavy counties are keeping extended voting deadlines, but not Democrat-heavy counties.” http://goo.gl/34y86
    Is that getting much play in your part of the state?

  154. Skimmed the comments, but I will respond to a couple of them: political parties don’t have to be mind-control cults or substitutes for thinking about the issues, if you don’t want them to be; in districts with closed primaries, your party registration determines which one you can vote in. You can register as a Deemocrat and then vote in the general election vote for the farthest right, most anti-tax, most anti-welfare, most homophobic, most anti-choice candidate on the ballot. You can register as a Democrat and write in Alan Keyes (conversely, you can register as a Republican and write in Dennis Kucinich). Less hyperbolically, you can identify with a party without supporting everything that party does. Though I’ll agree that you can also support everything a party does without identifying with that party.

    On Facebook I call myself “anti-evil.” My understanding of what that means leads me to pretty consistently support the policies and programs supported by Democrats (or, too often, by no one). So in that sense I’m a Democrat, but I try not to look at who’s behind an idea when making up my mind on it.

    I don’t think it’s possible to do away with de facto political parties; people who genuinely find themselves on the same side of most issues will tend to band together, and there’s no realistic way — or practical reason — to stop them. I wouldn’t mind seeing the political process take less notice of the existence of parties, though. The real problem is that the small number of parties tends to give the impression that there are only a small number of sets of possible positions one can take. But that’s as much due to FPTP as to the fact that there are parties.

  155. @Matt McIrvin:

    “Americans also find it all hard to understand…part of the reason people don’t vote more…is we vote on many more things…Much of this complexity is a legacy of reforms…when there was a laudable tendency to think that adding more democracy to things would make them better, but it was done somewhat haphazardly.”

    Was your last employer Boss Tweed?

  156. As a social moderate, I used to consider myself allied with the liberal wing of the Republican party, until the mid-90s when it became apparent to me that our congressional district was no longer an open tent. One example of that was a woman who was a staffer for the former Republican Senator, and was active in a state-level women’s Republican organization, but was openly pro-choice did not get enough votes to be a delegate to the state convention, but others who as far as I could see, had no credentials other than being pro-life, beat her out. They also voted in a platform plank to stop drug companies from funding school nurse programs because they were convinced it was a plot to push birth control pills on their unsuspecting daughters (more profitable than OTC drugs? I think not). I don’t have a problem with cutting programs that don’t work, but cutting taxes just to force a general cut in programs doesn’t seem like good public policy to me.

    I don’t know that the DFL (MN Democrats) are any more sane about their platforms either. At the one caucus I attended, I was noted that the participants were complaining about the high cost of healthcare in one breath, and demanding that the insurance companies cover additional procedures and non-traditional medical practitioners, something that is sure to not curb the continual increases in healthcare costs.

    I’m not sure that I like either party enough to spend the time doing the grass-roots support, like fundraising or literature drops, and the state convention weekends usually conflict with other things I have to do.

  157. I half woke up between the sports news and the American political news. Best I could grasp, in a big player trade deal, Dwight Howard ended up with the L.A. Lakers, sending Andrew Bynum to the 76ers, Andrew Igoudala to the Nuggets, right-handed reliever Brandon League from the Seattle Mariners to the L.A. Dodgers to join infielder Hanley Ramirez and pitcher Randy Choat from the Miami Marlins, and saddling Mitt Romney with Paul Ryan, formerly with Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers. Or something.

  158. I consider myself a moderate with more liberal leanings in the last few years. Earlier this week I read up on Paul Ryan and applaud by his viewpoints, I linked to one of the articles about him on my Facebook. Just a couple hours later I got message from my mom (staunch midwest Republican) was upset that I posted an article from Think Progess. “Think Progress = Progressive = Liberal!” she said (direct quote). I saw dark waters ahead for the next few months, so I texted my dad and politely asked him (without telling my mom I directly said this) if we could all be civil going into November. His response? “Are you switching sides?” This shocked me since of both my parents he has always been the one to tell me to think for myself. I (again calmly) told him that there is no sides to be switched … that I’m evaluating my choices and cannot ethically vote for Romney or Ryan.

  159. Yeah, civility is switching sides away from the current Republican party, tea-stained wretches that they are! Though incivility doesn’t actually characterize Romney or Ryan, to be fair.

  160. @Xopher: LOL! I’ll get pretty heated in my rhetoric about a politician’s record and stated beliefs, and I admit to taking giddy glee in the mudslinging and hyperbole of ads, editorials, and articles, but I try to keep in mind that the people holding those positions, and making or being targeted by the ads, et al, are probably perfectly nice, and not at all evil. I had a Republican room-mate in college, a lovely young woman with whom I am still friendly; I think of her when I start to get indignant, huffy, and self-righteous. By all accounts, R&R are clean, polite, and sincere people, with no genocidal tendencies.

    On the other hand, most of my and partner’s relatives are Republicans, and they *are* evil. Or, at least, they are family, which is a special level of Hell, staffed with demons who have known one from birth, and with whom one is intimately familiar, thus inevitably assuring an eternity of mutual contempt just short of total ego destruction. Still, correlation is not necessarily causation (she said, doubtfully.)

  161. @ Kschenke

    My folks are both non-religious classical liberals, or limited government humanists as I call them. Aunts and uncles are about an even split between moderate conservatives and moderate liberals. Living grandparents are social libertarians like me, but more hawkish on defense (although I think I’m bringing my grandfather around to the stalwart defense sans hegemony camp) and more consistently paleoconservative on the economic front. My partner’s family are Hispanic and mostly Catholic conservatives, but she was the first generation of her family to be born in the US, so they have an immigrant perspective that makes them wary of the current trend of xenophobia running through the Republican ranks. Holidays are fun no matter which family we visit. I have particular fun explaining why I advocate for the right of gays not only to marry, but to have polygamous marriages. As long as we restrict our political discourse to economics, things go pretty smoothly as I can pretty much demolish their reasoning. But our social mores are built on too fundamentally different principles for a meeting of the minds.

  162. Scorpius: “BTW, Genufett, Did you see the latest Obama ad against Romney? About how he’s responsible for the Cancer death of a woman”

    That is not an ad paid for by Obama for America. That is an ad paid for by a 3rd party superpac and as Romney rightly pointed out in one of the GOP debates, the candidate cannot direct how the ads go.

    Now, the ad itself was a bit disgingenuous and could have been worded much better in order to make the valid point about how Romney and Bain took over companies, cashed them out, and left the companies to die…. but to say this is an Obama ad is incorrect.

  163. John: “I’ve voted for Republicans candidates in most election cycles, when I believed that they were the most qualified candidates for that position and/or that they were running for a post where the more nutty aspects of the current Republican Party orthodoxy would not be a problem.”

    As a self described liberal, I am a registered Democrat who has also voted for a Republican when it was important to do so. One example was for police chief of the city I was living in. He had been the assistant chief of police and was the most qualified for the job. In that case, the answer was clear who needed to be voted for. There was a Democrat in that race, but he fell asleep in one of the endorsement meetings.

    But sometimes, even if the nuttier aspects of the GOP orthodoxy would not be a problem in the current job, it is sometimes important to consider the stepping stone nature of local elections. If someone has further aspirations up the political totem pole, it would seem to be important to make sure the extremists don’t get their foot in the door. (And when I say extremists, I mean from any part of the political spectrum).

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