I find myself this morning strangely sympathizing with those who cast their votes simply on the basis of whether or not a candidate agrees with them on one single issue.
It wasn’t a position I ever expected to consider. The idea of basing one’s entire decision on a single issue, a narrow thread, seemed always to me the height of obstinance, a flavor of stubborn that I find thoroughly unpalatable. It is always, I believe (perhaps with equal stubbornness) necessary to look at all of a candidate’s beliefs.
Clearly, some of those issues will be more important to me, to you, than others will. The last few years, for example, have me peering through a jeweler’s loupe at where a candidate stands on gun control, and in years past I have pendulumed from voting rights to economics to war to climate change—all issues that, along with much of the country at the time, weighed heavily on my decision. Still, I always looked for the balance, with no single concern serving as a litmus test.
That may change this time around.
For the longest time a number of organizations—from Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) to CoffeePartyUSA have shown us that the corrupting influence of money in politics beats all, standing as the Goliath to every voter’s David but, unlike the biblical underdog, continuing to win. Money, dark and light, flows to all compass points, flooding us with special-interest ideologies while politicians, concerned more with their next election than those who elected them, spend inordinate amounts of time simply raising money for additional campaigns.
One organization—Mayday—is this time taking a far more active role than any have in the past and, in doing so, have made us aware of candidates that until recently had barely blipped the radar screens.
Founded by Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and founder of Rootstrikers, Mayday is a full-on political action committee, or PAC, and makes no effort to hide the fact that its purpose is to promote candidates who are taking active stances against the overwhelming taint that is money-in-politics. (True to its mission, it reveals a great deal about its own donor base.)
The money-in-politics issue is of supreme importance to me, one of two that have driven most of my political thinking, speaking, and writing over the last few years (the other being hypocrisy in political coverage), and so when I saw that first flyer from Mayday in support of Jim Rubens, I paid attention.
Until I saw the flyer I had no idea Jim Rubens was running for the Senate, nor even who he was. My vote was firmly in the Scott Brown camp, a moderate Republican we New Hampshirites inherited from Massachusetts. Brown is the kind of Republican we need more of in Washington, someone who (though he stays just far enough right to gain the needed baseline popularity), is much more of a traditional Republican, having decidedly moderate leanings.
Mayday, however, has a different idea. Of Rubens Mayday says: “Jim Rubens is the only Republican running for Senate who puts our issue front and center.” The organization then goes on to ask that we “Help Republicans send their party a message: voters care about corruption.”
This voter does. Definitely. And that brings forth my conundrum. You see, there is much about Jim Rubens that I don’t like, issues that—aside from money in politics—would almost certainly have given me no reason to consider his candidacy. He has, for example, received an “A+” rating from the NRA, and he pledges to oppose gun registration, any bans on “so-called assault weapons,” or any limits on magazine capacity. He also espouses a fiscal policy that comes from the Ron Paul playbook (“The Federal Reserve Board controls the interest rates we receive and pay and prints money out of thin air, enabling Congress [to] perpetuate unsustainable deficit spending.”), gives broad support to charter schools and “family privacy” regarding education, and refers to the “crisis along our southern border” as a “crisis of the President’s own creation,” arguing that we need to send those kids back. On the other hand, he accepts global warming (and its man-made origins), believes that gay marriage in New Hampshire is a “settled issue” and one he respects, and believes we should avoid further intervention in the Middle East.
A mixed bag, to be sure, but definitely to the right of Scott Brown.
Ahh… but then there’s this, from Rubens’ website and part of a nine-point “Political Reform Agenda”:
[I support requiring] all campaign contributions and expenditures of all types and to all entities engaged in electioneering and lobbying to be reported in realtime in an easily searchable public database.
[I support enacting] a public elections financing system for candidates voluntarily opting out of the current private money system. Allow voters to use a portion of their own taxes to fund the campaigns of their choice. Each two years, every citizen 18 years and older is given a $50 tax rebate check assignable to and spendable only by candidates for Congress or President.
He then promises that:
If elected, after my time in office, I pledge not to accept any position lobbying for or against legislation in Washington.
And so I’m torn. This guy is saying all the things I want to him to say on the issue that is most important to me. And yet he isn’t the candidate that aligns most purely with my own personal beliefs, some of them almost as key. So what do I do? Do I use the litmus test? Do I give Rubens my vote because he’s taking the brave step of abandoning corruption? Do I vote on this one, single issue?