Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Non-Ideological Voting

In the summer of 1997 I asked the gatekeeper at Durham Castle what he thought of the elections. Typical example of a tourist attempting to discover the common man’s thinking from a sample of one (possibly) common man. Said gatekeeper, grinning, thought that it was time Labour had a turn. This struck me as an impenetrably obtuse way to look at self-government. Since that time, however, I have detected what he said out loud not far beneath the surface in the comments of Americans about their elections.

Those motivated by ideology leap to unwarranted conclusions about people who operate non-ideologically. I do, at any rate. A female attorney told me she supported Hillary because men had had plenty of chances to fix things and it would be good for a woman to have a try. I assumed First Wave Feminist Lite. I mean, 54 years old. Attorney. Female. Didn’t even consider Republicans in the running for her vote. Hillary supporter, with a specific reference to her sex. I was quite wrong. In later conversations, I picked up that she is not a general supporter of affirmative action. She is mildly pro-life, and very against partial-birth abortion. She mostly supports the war in Iraq. She is a free-marketer suspicious of unions. She is a Massachusetts Irish Democrat by heritage, and reports sheepishly that she votes Democrat mostly for that reason, even when she disagrees with them.

To one such as I, this is a bit baffling.

I don’t make an artificially sharp distinction here. I certainly understand people taking character, managerial skills, and judgment into account. There are candidates I greatly agree with but would not vote for, plus a few I often disagree with but could see voting for in many circumstances. But it has never crossed my mind to vote for someone because it is their turn, or their party’s or their group’s turn. It even seems rather a step down from voting the bums out in general dissatisfaction.

If one takes the view that elected officials don’t affect much and are mostly symbolic representatives, then taking turns makes eminent sense. More sense than voting ideology, actually.

5 comments:

feeblemind said...

Re voting political heritage: Back in the 1970s I had a friend in college that always voted Dem, 'Because my father votes Dem.' In the early 90s I was visiting with him and his wife and brought up the subject of politics. Their simultaneous reaction was an agitated, 'shut up, we don't like discussing politics', so I let the matter drop. A few years after that I was at his house and he expounded on a political point from a decidedly conservative point of view. I asked him how he could feel that way as he had always been a Dem. His reply? "I finally started listening to the Democrats and they are against evrything I believe in.' He doesn't vote dem anymore. I think we might be surprised at the percentage of people that vote a certain way soley because of their parents.

A Mid-Knight in B Block said...

"the view that elected officials don’t affect much and are mostly symbolic representatives"

I believe this is a common view, especially when those elected are at a Federal/National level. How many people in Paul Hodes District actually see what effect he has on them daily? I would say very few. I would argue he did not win because he was better than Mr. Bass, but because he was not a Republican.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thanks for visiting, mid. I went to your site, and am certain we must know people in common because of our jobs. (I have worked 30 years at the state psychiatric hospital in Concord, and have had guys from what I am guessing is your facility).

A Mid-Knight in B Block said...

I actually live in Charlestown, NH and work for the VT DOC in the Springfield Prison. It's ideal, if not for the Connecticut I could walk the 3/4 Mile to work.

I grew up in the Tilton area, and do know some of the guys that work in Concord. All the men on my father's side, from immigration to my grandfather, worked in Concord. I accidentlly became a CO when I moved to take care of my father-in-law. They just love military guys.

BTW, long time lurker, first time posting.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ah, I would have guessed Windsor State Prison, and your Hodes comment suggested you lived across on the good side of the river.

My stepbrothers went to Tilton, and I have been there many times, having lived here for most of my 55 years. I've even been to Charlestown a few times. One boy went to Camp Good News and we know the folks who run it. We also have friends who lived in the wilderness in the North Acworth area. Pretty country, that whole area.

And of course I have had a couple of patients from that town, as I have from even the smallest NH towns over 30 years.