Partisanship and US presidential elections

(not sure if this belongs here or in the elections forum… it’s about elections, but in general, nothing specific).

I’m a reasonably liberal democrat (living in the US). But I think I’m a sane and rational person. I disagree with Democrats about some things (nuclear power, some aspects of gun control and environmental positions). I agree with Republicans about some things.

I can certainly imagine situations in which I think that a particular Republican candidate would do a better job in some particular post than their Democratic counterpart. Presumably not very often (since after all I generally agree with Democratic positions and policies), but sometimes.

That said, would I ever vote for a Republican for president? Never (barring some comically extreme circumstances). Why? Because even if there was a Republican candidate who I really liked and respected on a personal level, who I thought was smart and hardworking and had good ideas; and even if the Democratic candidate was some slimy doucheball asshole; the impact of having a Republican vs a Democrat controlling the veto power and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices is SO huge and SO powerful that to me it outweighs all but a really comically unreal difference in ability between the specific candidates themselves.

And I think that’s a shame, and a probably-unanticipated drawback of the whole checks and balances thing. If I agree with Democrats 80% and Republicans 20% then it seems like I should vote for a Republican every 5th election or so. And if president had executive powers and that was it, I might do so. If there were direct elections for posts like Secretary of State or Attorney General or what have you, I would probably vote for a Republican from time to time. But for president, with not just the executive powers but the veto and supreme court appointments? I just can’t do it.
So… am I crazy? Am I doing it wrong? Those of you who have and will vote for presidential candidates of both parties, where do you disagree with me?

Voting for your party’s candidate for President even if he (or she) is a sleazeball isn’t partisanship; it’s common sense and the responsible thing to do, for exactly the reasons you state.

You just have the names of the parties wrong.


It sounds to me like you’re saying that a Republican could, possibly, be a better person and a better President than a Democrat, but that you’re not willing to entertain the possibility that the kind of person said Republican would appoint to the Supreme Court, or the ways in which he would use his veto power, could possibly be as good as the slimy Democrat’s. I don’t follow the logic.

Then why bother even learning the names of the candidates if you were taught to trust The Party (and to distrust the Other Party) to that extent? You might as well just alllow some ward heeler to vote for you.

My logic is that a Republican politician, even one who was clearly brilliant and creative and original and ethical and hardworking, is still a Republican politician. The fact that they’ve chosen to run as a Republican and have presumably worked their way up the Republican political ranks, suggests that they do have allegiance to the Republican party, and do in many ways agree with Republican ideas and platforms.

So even if this particular unique individual is herself a transcendent figure who I trust greatly, she is still put in the position of working within the existing power structures. When she is deciding whether or not to veto a particular piece of legislation, she still has ties to the Republican establishment. When she is choosing which judges to appoint to the supreme court, she presumably has a basic political philosophy that is closer to the Republican parties than to mine, since after all she chose to run as a Republican.
So I guess I might imagine voting for someone kind of like Donald Trump (but super-awesome instead of super-horrible), who is a total outsider, and might, if sufficiently awesome, actual making all vetoing and court-appointing decisions based on their outsider-y awesome ideas, not any kind of partisanship. But when was the last time a true political outsider of that sort was a major party’s nominee?

You contradict yourself about the attributes of the Democrat. First you say he’s a slimy asshole, and then you say such differences would be “comically unreal”.

Other than that, I don’t see a problem with your thought process. I’m a bit different in that my inclination is to vote Democrat (unless both houses in Congress are controlled by the Democrats) except I prefer the type of SCOTUS justices Republicans would nominate.

That’s exactly my point (at least once we get past the primaries to the general election). Voting that way makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable for precisely those reasons. But at the same time, given the way the current US political system is set up, I can’t but feel that that’s the logically correct position to take.

Uhh, what? You have lost me. Or are you just making a joke?

No, you postulate that even if the Democrat was a slimy asshole, but then later say that such a situation wouldn’t realistically arise. I can imagine a “slimy asshole” getting us involved in another fucked up war, and that would be worse than have a SCOUTS justice I disagreed with.

You are a single issue voter.
We have lots of them, based on their opinions regarding abortion, gun control, same sex marriage, etc., or their opposition to perceived versions of “communism” or “Islam.” There are many people in the U.S. who vote in the same manner you do.

Generally, such opinions are based on perceptions of the most important issue faced by the country. If one believes that that majority of issues will sort themselves out, someday, but that one issue must be addressed in a particular way, it is actually a rational choice. Whether that belief is based on accurate information or logic requires a separate level of investigation.

What? You don’t want a member of SCOTUS to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, thrifty, clean, and reverent?

I have had a different life path than you, and so I start by not believing a word any politician says about their goals and beliefs.

I was born and raised in a large city on the East Coast. Controlled by a Democratic machine since who-knows-when. I knew many aspiring politicos for my entire life, one of my High School classmates actually made it to mayor. He was arrested and convicted on corruption charges in 2003. I see crooks reach high local offices and have trouble believing that any successful politician becomes somehow clean when they reach a national level.

I don’t trust either party and therefore I vote for the person. I have never voted a strict party line nor do I consistently go one way or the other in Presidential races.

My fingers can be dyslexic. Not the first time I’ve made the mistake…

For which types of cases in particular?

For me, it would not have been a disaster if Bob Dole had won or that George HW Bush did. But they don’t run guys like this anymore. The Republicans run guys who are controlled by Grover Nordquist or the Kochs or the NRA or, even worse, are Tea Party types. I don’t see anyone running on the R side who wouldn’t make an especially terrible if not disastrous president. My string of D votes for president started in 1976 and shows no sign of stopping. Since liberal Republicans have been purged from the party, I don’t see where I have much choice but to keep hitting the D lever to go forward.

I sort of do that now. I’m in contact with a member of the local Democratic County Committee, and I ask him for advice on the races where I don’t know the candidates. The little stuff like college district boards.

Probably Eisenhower. Until he actually ran, his political affiliation was so unknown that both parties tried to get him as a candidate.

I don’t see anyone like that around today, at least not as a serious candidate (or candidate that I could take seriously); but if we’re hypothesizing “a Republican candidate who I really liked and respected on a personal level, who I thought was smart and hardworking and had good ideas,” why can’t we hypothesize one who isn’t beholden to the Republican party?

I agree with you. I’m socially liberal, mostly because I don’t give a damn about what people do in the privacy of their homes and I don’t mind at least trying to level the economic playing field for people. But I also have no problem with being fiscally responsible and not spending money wastefully. So as I said recently in the SRIDOTD thread in the pit, all I really want the Republicans to do is to come up with a candidate who doesn’t literally terrify me.

But right now, the Republican party is so ideologically deranged, so lacking in nuance in every aspect of their platform, that they are literally giving me no choice in how I vote. Voting for them would be saying “let’s roll back every advance we’ve made in environmental protection, social safety nets, and Wall Street regulation since 1962, and let’s do it in the most mean-spirited way possible. And by the way, you get no benefit from this – we’re doing it all for a handful of rich guys.”

That’s not even exaggeration – you just have to look at the crap fests going on in the State legislatures of Texas, Kansas and Wisconsin and the Carolinas. That’s not the United States I want to grow old in.

And, as you point out, the ideology extends to the Supreme Court, which is intensely disturbing. If you can confidently predict how a Justice is going to rule based solely on whether they’re liberal or conservative, then I don’t think it’s law they’re practicing – they’re just a really tiny, very influential branch of the legislature.

I’m not sure that logic works. Agreeing with 20% of what Republicans say isn’t the same as agreeing with 20% of Republicans.

Let’s say there are five political issues that you think are important. We’ll call them abortion, gay rights, fighting terrorism, gun control, and pie. There might be one of those issues where you agree with the Republican stance more than the Democrat stance - which is to say, you agree with Republicans about 1 out of 5 times. But you’re unlikely to find a Republican candidate with whom you agree with more than one or maybe two of those issues. A Republican who is out of step with his party on more than half of the major issues today likely isn’t going to be a Republican - at least, not once you get to the national level. You might consistently agree with the Republicans about fighting terrorism, and you might find an individual Republican who breaks with his party on the subject of, say, gun control. But you’re still going to disagree with that Republican on the other three major issues you care about, and that’s probably enough to make you not want to vote for him - particularly if the other guy running lines up with you on 80% of those subjects.

Not to answer for Max, but I feel the same way today, and I voted for Bush the Elder with no regrets.
It is not a single issue, it is the whole range of issues which Republican candidates today must be in lockstep on. Or else.
Mitt Romney was a governor who seemed to be able to get things done, and helped institute a decent healthcare system. He rejected all this as a candidate. I don’t know if his true beliefs are what he did as a governor or as a candidate, but I took him at his word.
The old Republican party had a wide range of acceptable candidate positions. I haven’t seen that lately.
I live in California where many Republicans have rational positions. But I won’t vote for them since they associate themselves with a national party which does not.
If Colin Powell had run for president and gotten the nomination, or even won, I might still be a Republican.

I guess I’m envisioning “slimy asshole” as “unprincipled career politician with no particular redeeming qualities, lots of cronyism and corruption” as opposed to “actively destructive and insane”.

And frankly, it sounds kind of horrible to say it, but I think that the long-term impact on the US of a liberal vs conservative supreme court is larger than a Panama-sized war.
But yes, if there was a democratic candidate who I had strong reason to believe would actively seek out a fucked up war, that would be one of the few things potentially likely to convince me to vote for a GOP candidate.