Politics: Vote Your Conscience
Two-Party System in Disarray
'Like Throwing Gasoline on a Fire'
Politics is an honorable profession, but politicians, not unlike used car salesmen, continue to struggle with an age-old problem.
The problem has always existed, but it's become so severe over the last several decades that anyone contemplating taking an elected or appointed position has to decide whether he wants to risk the "insolence of office."
The Butt of Everybody's Jokes
It seems that politicians, like lawyers, have graduated from being the butt of everybody's jokes to becoming the targets of every lowlife who disagrees with their political positions.
A major reason for the increased enmity, in my view, is the demise of the two-party system -- a system that helped bring people of similar persuasion together. Another, closely linked to the former, is the geometrical decline in the quality of candidates for virtually every local, state and national office.
Other than age and residency, there are virtually no other qualifications for election to public office -- from top to bottom. And, for appointed positions, qualifications are virtually nonexistent.
Voters Decide for Themselves
In reality, the one qualification needed to win public office is to tally more votes than your opponent -- which isn't necessarily all bad. Under this system, each voter must decide for himself whom he should vote for and why.
Civic groups like the League of Women Voters encourage voting, and usually advise electors to cast their ballots on the issues. Some people still vote because of loyalty to a political party while others base their decisions on single issues, such as abortion or capital punishment. Still others stay away from the polls because they feel none of the candidates would make a difference.
If our recent history is any guide, it makes little sense to vote for a candidate because of his stand on the issues because, as we all know, what a candidate says in the heat of a campaign often has little or no resemblance to what he does after he is elected.
'Like Pouring Gasoline on a Fire'
Examples of this abound, but George (H.W.) Bush's pledge of "no new taxes" in his presidential campaign and (Connecticut Gov.) Lowell P. Weicker Jr.'s statement about imposing an income tax ("like throwing gasoline on a fire") are two instances that can hardly fail to make the point.
Personally, I always (with only rare exceptions) vote for Democratic Party candidates. I do this because I believe in the party's principles, and I feel that candidates who believe as I do will more nearly vote for the principles and programs I believe in. This is true even when the Democrat is somewhat less experienced in politics or, perhaps, not as quick or sharp as his opponent.
For Republicans, I recommend they do the same. Why vote for a Democrat who neither reflects your views nor is likely to vote the way you would on numerous issues?
Always Vote Your Party
And for people who believe they can change things for the better by voting for so-called independent candidates -- like Weicker or Ross Perot -- I think they'll find that to be a will-o'-the wisp.
Weicker, however, is something of an exception because he established a record as a Republican before turning independent, but most independents are (un)tried and (un)true; therefore, you can expect the promises they make to be kept no better, and perhaps far less often, than those made by politicians from established parties.
And what pressures would they have to toe the line?
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on June 1, 1996.