Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leave One Blank

I mentioned not long ago a political fantasy system whereby each party could get rid of someone at the national level by getting an extra vote to cast against a member of your party only, to be replaced by some middle-of-the-road party member. I had suggested that the Republicans might use this to rid themselves of albatrosses like Trent Lott or Ted Stevens.

I also like the idea of sortition, echoing William F. Buckley's sentiment that he would rather be governed by the first two thousand entries in the Cambridge phone book than the faculty of Harvard. But these are mere fantasies. They are never going to happen, even if they are great ideas.

I have a more accessible idea, which can be put in place without cost, with equal benefit and punishment for the two major political parties: Leave One Blank. In 2006 I refused to vote for Craig Benson, Republican governor of NH. I thought he was a crook, and only moderately competent to boot. I could stomach even less the idea of voting for just about any Democrat, though John Lynch is only moderately offensive in the role. I just left it blank.

We should look earnestly for one from our own party to not vote for at each election. The descent of the Democrats into insanity has not produced an improved quality of Republican (For those who are more liberal of mind, ask yourself if the descent of the Republicans into insanity has produced a corresponding improvement in Democratic candidates).

Political consultants and pundits can give a wide variety of interpretations of any vote. As these are often contradictory, it is hard for me to take them at face value. But when a race has fewer votes cast than the others, I think that it will be generally clearer what has happened.

I know none of you wants to give the opposition party any increasing power or encouragement. But we have to start pushing one penguin off the ice or we're all going down. Refuse to vote in one of the races. It will still be tough choice, as your party's miserable example might be opposed by a nutcase from the other party, but if we try hard, we should be able to kick one misery loose every two years.

Leave One Blank.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Buckley's quip referred to the Boston telephone directory. After all, the Cambridge phone directory would have a higher proportion of Harvard faculty members then would Boston's. It’s a great quip.

I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.


Larry Sheldon said...

I often leave some blank--have for years.

And I can testify that it is not only not a new idea it is quite common at least in the California precincts where I was a polling-place official for years.

In those days we just dealt witht he occasional "chad" issue without ot being a big deal, but it did mean we inspected each ballot card.

And it was very clear that there were peopl who came to vote on a single issue, or for a single office.

And like me, most did not vote for judges and other unopposed offices ever.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good to know.

Anonymous said...

Loved your comment about Benson. My personal story with Benson is that when he was elected, I was on the Worker's Compensation Appeals Board. It was an appointed position and had to be reviewed every 4 years. I didn't see a problem as I had been appointed by two Republicans (Merrill and Gregg) and one Democrat (Shaheen). I was blindsided when Benson refused to reappoint me. The underlying reasons didn't come clear to me for quite some time, but let's just say it was purely political. But the irony for me was that Benson said he was going to apply business practices to government. When he refused to reappoint me, he replaced me (with 10 years experience hearing WC cases) with someone with no experience hearing WC cases, and there was no cost savings to the taxpayer! After that fiasco, I was never even tempted to put the word "mildly" before competent when it came to him. "In" was the only thing that fit. But then, when politics gets personal, you carry these biases.

Erin said...

I also left that ballot question blank. Although after Benson cut my part time toll booth position and went after a friend's father (a full-time state worker) with a personal vendetta, I decided maybe I should have voted after all.

OBloodyHell said...

I use a different rule.

For the most part, Vote The Bastards Out.

The reasoning is that, if you don't know, easily, what the SOB has done, then they've mostly done no good. And whoever you put in behind them likely won't do any good, either, but they'll at least be starting all over in their hungry little power grab.

The longer you leave someone in office, the harder it is to get them out. All the little payoffs, the back patting and so on, add up. And it becomes impossible to get rid of the sucker.

So, for the most part, Vote The Bastard Out.

OBloodyHell said...

Speaking of sortition, the comic book, the Legion of Super Heroes, back in the 70s and 80s, actually suggested a variant of this -- to select the president of the Earth, three people were picked out from all the population of Earth by a semi-random scheme (computers supposedly took some knowledge or insight into account in selecting the three, but even a bright high-school student could be considered -- in one case, supposedly due to a particlarly brilliant classroom poli-sci essay, a 16yo girl was a candidate). The three then had only a couple days to campaign, and then one of the three was elected by popular vote to the Presidency.

Not quite sortition, but it does help eliminate the classic problem of those who seek the job being particularly unsuited by the nature of actually seeking it.