Earlier in this election season, I expressed reservations that Democrats would take control from the Republicans. The extensive reach for control over individual lives, as well as an obscene disregard for the Constitution, should be enough, but voters don’t appear swayed by that. I’m not surprised. Even when pulling the (R) or (D) lever isn’t a requirement in a voter’s mind, the pull of the incumbent is strong.
Yesterday morning, Howard Stern discussed how he plans to vote today. He initially suggested that he intends to vote a straight Democratic ticket because of Iraq and other Republican disasters. After only a moment, he caught himself and suggested that he might vote for a Republican. He reasoned that he shouldn’t punish his Republican representative if he’s done a good job. Unfortunately, he gave no objective criteria for defining “good job”. I suspect he couldn’t. And I suspect most voters couldn’t name any for their representatives, either. Yet, they possess an attachment to their incumbent.
The problem with that is obvious. If enough voters hold onto a subjective sense that Congress is corrupt but their representative is good, the entrenchment continues. Essentially, voters are stupid. Consider this essay from Cato Unbound (source):
The prevailing view even among the well-educated is that it is unseemly to question the competence of the average voter. Many elites go further by praising the insight of the average voter, no matter how silly his views seem.
As long as elites persist in unmerited deference to and flattery of the majority, containing the dangers of voter irrationality will be very hard. Someone has to tell the emperor when he is naked. He may not listen, but if no one speaks up, he will almost surely continue embarrassing himself and traumatizing spectators.
Again, voters are stupid. But I don’t say that in a judgmental manner aimed at the lesser informed, inferior voters who don’t think like I do. I’m a stupid voter. I’ve made mistakes in casting my vote before and I know I will again. But I will strive to make better, if not fewer, mistakes.
For example, last year I voted for Democrat Tim Kaine for governor of Virginia. As I blogged at the time, I ultimately based my decision on last year’s ramblings about same-sex marriage¹. Republican Jerry Kilgore was for an amendment. Gov. Kaine should’ve been against it. I knew he opposed same-sex marriage, but opposition and an amendment aren’t the same, regardless of how wrong each stance is. I expected him to respect Virginia’s Constitution. When he had the chance to do so after the General Assembly passed the amendment, he didn’t. He accepted a populist appeal to letting the majority decide which rights people may have, rather than acknowledging that our Constitution protects rights, not grants them. Gov. Kaine is a politician where I’d hoped for a statesman. I’m stupid for expecting better.
Going into today’s election, I’m still not sold on a mass change in voter opinion. I still think voters are more interested in emotional reasons for voting than evidence-based reasons². With gerrymandered districts to protect them, I expect Republicans to survive. I hope to be proven wrong, but I’m not basing any level of happiness on it.
¹ Contrary to this laughable essay about Sen. Rick Santorum’s alleged appeal to libertarians, basing my decision on same-sex marriage does not change me from a libertarian voter to a “single-issue gay-rights voter.” A politician’s stance on the same-sex marriage issue has as much to do with principles of government as his stance on any other issue. But I accept that if a politician can’t get this fundamental issue correct, and is willing to amend a Constitution with bigotry to get his way, that’s enough. So I am a single-issue voter. My issue is the sanctity of Constitutional protections of liberty.
² I’m pretty sure this entry ruins any chance I may have had at a political career.