"Atalbot," a friend of my daughter's, is blogging the effort to defeat Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut. His introductory post makes a number of very good points about the fact that Simmons, who represents a relatively liberal district, poses as a moderate while in fact serving as a loyal footsoldier in the Republican Congress. The same entry includes a pointer to a site for Connecticut progressives that includes, among other things a great deal of unhappiness about Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Senator and former candidate for vice president, who increasingly seems to be a Democrat in name only.
Points well taken, all. Simmons is a winger in moderate's clothing and Lieberman is to the right of more than a few of his Republican colleagues... but I don't think it matters: Simmons could in fact be everything he claims to be, and I would still oppose him, because of that pesky R next to his name; Lieberman couldn't possibly disappoint me more, yet I will continue to support him, because of that D (until, that is, I'm certain he would be replaced by another D).
Here's the thing: At the beginning of my "career" as a voter, I was very much an issue-oriented, vote-for-the-person-not-the-party sort of guy. I still think that's a good strategy for a thoughtful voter in a perfect world. But our political world is far from perfect, and much farther from perfect than it was when I first started voting. Beginning with the Reagan administration, the Republicans have steadily driven U.S. politics to an increasingly stark ideological division. Now I find it impossible to vote for a "good" Republican (or against a "bad" Democrat) because no matter how much I might respect and agree with the individual candidate, one more R (or one fewer D) inevitably strengthens a governing ideology that I find as intolerable as it is intolerant.
In the run-up to my town's recently completed elections, a candidate for town council knocked on my door. This was a man I knew of and respected, a police officer who works with the DARE program in the local schools and who, as far as I can tell, is a decent, thoughtful citizen. But when he started to tell me his positions on the issues, I had to stop him:
"You're running as a Republican, right?"
"Well, I'm afraid I can't vote for you under any circumstances. You're probably a wonderful person, and you might even be right on town issues, but I can't vote for any member of your party for any office for any reason. I disagree that strongly with the direction your party is leading us."
He tried to tell me how little town politics had to do with the national party; I didn't care. These days, I can't escape the notion that every elected Republican, at any level of government, inherently supports and strengthens a philosophy of government that is, IMHO, ruining our country.
Maybe someday we'll be less polarized, and it will once again be safe to focus on individual candidates and issues. In the meantime.... Well, in the last presidential election cycle, we heard (as always) a lot about "electoral math." As the 2006 election season gets underway, there's only one expression of electoral math that matters: (D>R)X2!