Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ticket To Ride

Once up on a time it was standard procedure for a person to vote a "straight ticket" in elections, there was usually a method of doing so on most ballots, but for quite a long time the sober "nuanced" modern attitude is that we should instead vote according to the level of comfort we feel with individual candidates. Straight ticket voting is seen by many as irredemably ignorant and willfully ill-considered behavior. There was, perhaps, a period of several decades during which that advice could be taken without severe damage to one's overall political world view. The rationale is that it is better if we vote against our general principles if the candidate of our usual party of choice is seen as an extremist nut job or is so ethically unsavory as to be completely electorally unsatisfactory.

Nuanced, mature, and responsible are considered those who vote a "split ticket" and thick-headed rubes are those who merely punch or pull the straight Dem. or Rep. ballot or lever. In the past couple of decades however the temptation to vote a straight ticket has proven increasingly irresistible. Straight ticket voting should no longer be viewed as quaintly antique but rather as a simple and clear political necessity. If one is a thoroughgoing liberal/Progressive or conversely possesed of even a vaguely conservative mien then straight ticket voting is essentially unavoidable. For those who constitutionally consider themselves centrists the problem would seem to be severe but it is not really except for the most clueless and uninformed voter. The divide between the major polities is so severe that even the most diehard "centrist" must perforce be drawn toward one or the other because very few folks indeed are completely ideologically neutral. Teetering on the cusp of centrism has become virtually impossible if one wants to participate in the political process at all.

The facts on the ground now are such that if one is inclined to vote for any liberal/Progressive/Democratic candidate why in the name of sanity why would one vote for any libertarian/conservative/Republican candidate, or vice-versa? To cause me to do this would require the most extreme circumstances imaginable. The Republican would have to be such a clueless Neanderthal and/or a sleazebag of such epic proportions that voting for them at all would require Olympian prodigies of nose-holding. This situation occurs extremely infrequently these days, at least past the primary level, so at least a minimal level of electoral suitability can be safely expected of candidates making it all the way to the election day ballot. National examples of such primary failures are not excessively rare, the election of Al Franken comes immediately to mind, but I personally have never voted in an election where such extremities have manifested themselves. Nevertheless I have for most of my adult life been leery of the straight ticket mindset.

No more. As much unsavoriness as I might theoretically find in a nominally conservative/libertarian candidate the likelihood that I might vote for his liberal/Progressive opponent is remote to the point of absurdity. Consequently voting a straight ticket seems like the only sane response in the privacy of the booth these days. I do not bemoan this. The divide is starker than ever and the opposing world views are plainer so any vague psychological discomfort attached to not voting a split ticket has dissolved completely. It has reached the point that voting a split ticket now seems to imply not nuanced behavior but rather an utter inattention to the political process. If you have any discomfort at all with the expansion of government and its increasing intrusion in our lives then vote Republican and if you deem governmental action the first and best response to all social and economic "problems" then by all means vote Democratic. Ticket splitting these days is not so much a wholly nuanced course but rather more like a clueless half-assed one.

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