Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weighing your vote

On November 17, 2015 Representative Michael McCaul introduced HR 4038 American SAFE Act of 2015.  The bill would effectively halt the current Syria refugee program while implementing a new system for background checks for Syrian refugees.  The new program would require background checks conducted by the FBI in addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In addition, the head of the FBI, DHS, and Director of National Intelligence would have to certify that they personally believe that the refugee is not a threat to national security before the refugee is admitted into the United States.  I'm sure that there are nuances in the law that I am missing and someone can happily point them out in the comments and I'll add them to the post, if they feel it is necessary.  The next day, my Congressman, Representative Brad Ashford co-sponsored the bill.  He was the only Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.  When it came up to vote, he joined 46 other Democrats in voting for the bill.

I like Ashford as a candidate and a Congressman.  I have some friends who worked on his campaign.  He was able to unseat the incumbent Republican in 2014 which was pretty impressive.  If I was registered to vote in my current district instead of casting my absentee ballot in California, he would have gotten my vote.  All of that being said, I wasn't surprised that he was a co-sponsor of the bill but I was still disappointed when I found out.  It's not the last straw for me with him, not by a long shot but I know that some progressives in the area have already had their issues with him and this is just another thing on their checklist of why they won't support him as a candidate in 2016.

On Saturday, Louisiana voters decided to elected John Bel Edwards as Governor over Republican Senator David Vitter.  Edwards campaigned his ass off on the scandal surrounding Vitter about hiring prostitutes while he was in Washington, D.C.  He also promised to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid.  This was highly important coming just weeks after Matt Bevin won the gubernatorial election in Kentucky, in part, because he promised to reject the Medicaid expansion in defiance to Steve Beshear.  Some progressives were elated at the idea of Edwards becoming the new Governor of Louisiana because of the expansion of Medicaid.  While others were disappointed because of his opposition to abortion and gun control.

We understand, hopefully, that not all politicians are perfect.  They are not perfectly matched to our desires of what they should be.  You know what, we're not perfect, either.  We hold people to impossible standards and then are disappointed when they don't meet them and we look for ways out.  This is human nature.

All we can do is try to use our voices to make sure that the politicians who disappoint are held accountable.  The problem is that in politics, it is a zero sum game.  With the current duopoly of the political system by the Democratic and Republican Party, a third party vote is the equivalent of a crush on a co-worker when you are in a committed relationship, an idealization that will never actually come to fruition.  If you gin up support for your preferred third party candidate, you end up hurting the chances of someone who agrees with you, let's say 60-~98% of the time.  And in the end, the person that you are voting for in the third-party vote, you only end up agreeing about ~50% of the time, anyway, but it's the damn principle of the thing.

Your other option, which is the preferred option by myself and others, is to vote against the candidate in the primary election.  In an ideal world, you vote for the person who most represents your view in every election.  This means that in the primary election, if you are a progressive, you vote for the most progressive candidate and then in the general election, you continue to vote for the most progressive candidate even if they disagreed with you on a certain issue.  And it sucks.  I understand.  I live in a pretty conservative district, I keep hoping for true progressives to run in the election but it never ends up happening.

Let's take Ashford, for an example.  He voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He's voted for halting the Syrian refugee program.  At what point should I continue to believe that he is the right candidate for me or for any progressive?  Well, if you have these issues in mind and that he is voting contrary to your beliefs, you may look towards his other votes or co-sponsorships of bills.  And hey, maybe, you find something there that you like.  He doesn't support the normal pro-life legislation so there's that to hang your hat on.  Then you remember that any candidate running in this district will support the same bills Ashford does but DOES support the pro-life legislation.  So maybe that's enough for you.  Unfortunately, it's not very exciting.  You would want someone to primary Ashford to cast your vote for the more progressive candidate hoping to get your message across.  But in the end, when he wins the primary, you hold your nose and vote for him in the general.

At what point do you end up not supporting the candidate in the general?  In my opinion, the only time comes when they support the same bills in every meaningful fashion.  In the Ashford example, maybe you're pro-life and all the other things that Ashford is that generic Republican candidate x is.  Maybe they are the exact same person or maybe you just don't agree with the differences that Ashford holds over Republican candidate x.  I guess, it's possible.  At that point, it would be wise to vote for the other candidate.  Vote for the candidate that most closely resembles your views on all facets of policy that you find meaningful.  Policy always trumps personal grudges.

Before we reach the primaries for next year, I'll be unveiling my legislative scorecard for this Congressional session.  I will also be endorsing candidates for the, first time ever.  I'm hoping that this helps in decision-making.  I will be as transparent, as possible.  I will be showing what my policy goals for each arena and where the candidates fall.  I'm hoping that the project doesn't take too much of my time but we'll see.

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