The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Yesterday's elections

Most of the election results from yesterday make me pretty happy — especially Chris Christie's win in New Jersey, which was not at all certain to happen — but there was one very unfortunate result, which will be the subject of most of this post.

But before I go into the details, it will be necessary to explain some points about New York State's political system, which is rather unusual in some regards. Unlike most other states, New York State has something of a multi-party system, with the two major parties being joined by a bevy of smaller parties. There are two big reasons for this. First, New York's ballot access laws are rather easy to meet. A party only needs 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election in New York State to have four years of guaranteed ballot access, with a line on the ballot reserved for them. In a state where over 4 million people voted in 2006, this is a very easy requirement to meet. Second, New York is one of a small minority of states that have electoral fusion, a system where minor parties can co-endorse major party candidates for many offices, getting their own line on the ballot for the same candidates, and saving their efforts on behalf of their own separate candidates for those limited elections where it is most important to them. (In fact, even two major parties can co-endorse a candidate, but except in races for judgeships, this is pretty unusual.) They can even do this in the gubernatorial election, so that they can get the 50,000 votes needed for the next four years of ballot access without running a separate candidate on their own, and many small parties do this.

This explanation sets the stage for the election I am about to discuss. In the 23rd Congressional District in New York, the sitting Congressman was appointed by President Barack Obama to a sub-cabinet post, one with prestige but no power, in a shameless attempt to give the impression of bipartisanship. This left the sear vacant. In a normal situation, this would be a safe Republican seat, as the Democrats haven't elected a Congressman in this part of New York State since 1870! And the Republicans nominated a State Assemblywoman, Dede Scozzafava, for the seat. The Democrats nominated William Owens, and the Conservative Party nominated David Hoffman.

But here came the weirdness. There are people in the Republican Party who are dissatisfied whenever a person who is, in their eyes, too liberal, and they are willing to let a Democrat take the seat rather than let that sort of a Republican win. And so they poured their support, in dollars and publicity, on Hoffman, despite the fact that this risked electing Owens. I suppose they were happy last year when they caused the Democrat Frank Kratovil to win a seat in the Maryland 1st District by denying renomination to Wayne Gilchrest, a sitting Republican congressman who was another of those "not conservative enough."

Well, that was the first problem. By putting major Republican support on Hoffman's side, they weakened Scozzafava so much that she felt it necessary to withdraw from the race, though her name remained on the ballot. That would not have been so bad — Hoffman could have been elected, and he would have served as a Republican Congressman, even if not elected on the GOP line — but then Hoffman proceeded to make statements insulting Scozzafava, so that she (who had claimed to "remain a proud Republican" when withdrawing) felt obliged to endorse Owens! (I don't know whom to consider the worse villain here: Hoffman for refusing to bury the hatchet with Scozzafava, or Scozzafava for letting her pique at Hoffman overshadow her loyalty to the Republican Party.)

So this is how it ended. The combined vote for the two Republican candidates (Hoffman, who was in fact a Republican, and Scozzafava) would have won the seat for a Republican, but Scozzafava got 6% and Hoffman 45%, so Owens won it for the Democrats with 49% of the vote. And Bill Owens gets a seat that should have been a safe GOP seat, just as did Kratovil last year in Maryland.

Who is the villain of the piece? National GOP conservatives, for building up Hoffman? Hoffman, for refusing to make peace with Scozzafava when she withdrew? Scozzafava, for letting her pique at Hoffman override the need to keep the seat in GOP hands? I think all 3 deserve a share of the blame.

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