Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why I vote the party in Congressional Elections

If you have not noticed, in the important Congressional votes over the past two years, the members of both houses voted overwhelmingly with their parties. Party discipline reigned and individual judgement went out the window.

Connie Morella, a Republican, was the Representative of my district in the House of Representatives in the 1990s. I had met her, and I regarded her as moderate, very smart, and careful to help her constituents. She had a record of occasionally voting with the Democrats and against Republicans. I felt well represented by her until 1995. In that year there was a Democratic President and a Republican majority House of Representatives.  The budget legislation stalled in the Congress. In theory the fiscal year began on October 1, but the budget for the new year had not been passed. Rather than pass a continuing resolution to allow the government to continue functioning, the Congress twice let the government shut down all but the most essential functions, first for a few days and then for a few weeks. I was furloughed from my government job.

I did not believe for a moment that Ms. Morella believed that it was better for the United States to shut down the government than for the government to work under temporary budget legislation. I did not believe for a moment that she was representing the large portion of her constituency that worked for the government in voting for the stoppage of the government, nor indeed did I believe that the majority of all her constituents (who were by a large majority Democrats) wanted the government closed down. She went along with her party, and the government was left in a budgetless limbo.

As I sat at home, unable to do a job that I thought important, I came to understand that I wanted people representing me in Congress that belonged to the party that best represented my political views, not merely people who seemed very reasonable in their personal views.

The primary elections are your opportunity to assure that the representative of your party is in fact a good person capable of doing a good job as your representative. Unfortunately, it is not only the case that the more senior members of Congress are not only more effective because they understand better how to work in the Congress, but also because the processes of the Congress give more senior members more power; I would rather see the more effective members given more power. While it is tempting to support the person in the office for reelection, after 1995 I became more and more convinced that it was more important to support the candidate of my party.

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