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    One Way or the Other…or the Other


    “I think that the undecided could go one way or the other” – George H.W. Bush

    I’ve been taking an increasing amount of flack over the past couple of weeks because I’m still—less than a week before Election Day—undecided.  Friends on the right have chidingly taken up the call of “RINO! RINO!” simply because I’m not planning to teaparty my way down a straight ticket, while friends on the left basically want to know why I don’t “WAKE THE F##K UP, ALREADY!”

    (And, yes, these are my friends.  If you’re curious to know what strangers are shouting at me, feel free to head over to my Facebook page.)

    I know I don’t have to explain myself, but I want to When you’re an incredibly minor public figure like I am, credibility is just about all you’ve got, and if I want people to think I’m principled, then I best lay out those principles. 

    My conundrum comes from the belief that we are not currently choosing from between two major parties, but from among three.* As I see it, we have the Democratic Party, a generally left-of-center (but not that far left) group that has had some successes and some failures, but whose basic arguments for re-election have been based largely on counter-factuals, those what-if’s that make for, at best, an interesting dinner conversation but which are not proper premises for making important decisions.

    Then we have the Republican Party in its longed-for traditional form, the party of Lincoln which, unfortunately, seems to be sitting placidly in the balcony at Ford's Theater waiting for the curtain to rise on Act III of Our American Cousin.  It’s lost the Snowe’s and the Lugar’s and there are few on the horizon poised to take their places.

    And finally we have the Tea Party, or Teapublicans, or (name your own, but not too nasty, please) Party, that group of Koch-funded theocratic Rovians that look to people like Bachman and Palin for leadership, people who have locked up reason and logic and compromise—everything but their dogmas—into a box even Pandora couldn’t open. They resemble their eighteenth-century namesakes much less than they do the mid-sixties Ratfinks, that group of ultra-right-wingers that nearly succeeded in hijacking the Young Republicans.

    My problem is that I’m a Republican, and I still believe in Republican principles.  I don’t terribly mind the principles of the Democratic Party, but I don’t prefer them.  I absolutely abhor, however, the principles of the Tea Party.

    So I start with this basic principle: If there’s a Republican to vote for, that person gets the benefit of the doubt; i.e., I start looking at their background and record with the assumption that I’ll likely vote for them.  (It’s sort of a tie-goes-to-the-runner thing, only with elephants.)  However, if the race is between a Democrat and a Tea Partier, then the Democrat wins every time.**

    How does that work out?  Using my own state of New Hampshire as my exemplar, here’s what I’m faced with:

    • The most popular governor in the state’s history, Democrat John Lynch, is retiring.  Competing for the keys to his desk are Democrat Maggie Hassan, carved from a similar mold, and Ovide Lamontagne, a Tea Party favorite generally considered incredibly conservative.  He first ran for governor back in ’96; now-Senator Jeanne Shaheen mopped the floor with him. In 2010 he ran for the senate, but lost the primary to Kelly Ayotte, whose to the right, but not as far right as Ovide.
    • In my congressional district I face a similar split.  Carol Shea-Porter, a very liberal Democrat, is looking to reclaim the seat she lost in the 2010 GOP sweep, when former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta took it away from her.  Guinta—who had a reasonably moderate history—drank the 64-ounce size of Tea Party kool-aid, and is now considered one of the faithful.

    So those two are easy: there’s no Republican running, and I won’t vote Tea Party. (And not voting isn’t an option as far as I’m concerned…) It’s Hassan and Shea-Porter, with only minor qualms.

    Right about now you’re probably saying “Okay… I get it… You have your way of thinking, Michael.  I may not agree with you about their being any vestige of that old GOP, but at least you’re trying to apply some sort of consistent principle.”  And I thank you for that.

    But I know you’re also thinking that these same principles should make the big decision easy, too. But it’s not, and here’s why: I still believe that Romney is a lot more Republican than Tea Party and that, in a sad, scary, Faustian-pact sort of way he just did what he had to do in order to get the nomination and save the GOP from the Goldwater-sized debacle that would have ensued had we nominated, say, Santorum, thereby leaving the party to roam 40 more years in the desert….

    Romney’s record is very much Republican.  He’s been a moderate on social issues, he’s pro-business, tough on unions, etc. etc. etc., all things I generally agree with.  A big part of me suspects that he would govern just that way, basically ignoring the base that got him there (same thing Obama’s done, by the way) and governing from the right of center, a place in which I’m inordinately comfortable. But I’m not quite there yet….plus, I’m still questioning his abilities as a leader…

    I know it’ll all be over in another few days (or so—could be some recounts coming), but I don’t want it just to be over. I want to make what I truly believe is the best decision for the country and for myself and my family and my children.  If Romney is a Republican, then I want to vote for him.  If he’s not, then I don’t.

    So just what the hell am I going to do? Research, I guess.  Keep trying to ignore those stupid SuperPAC ads and those ten-times-a-day calls from the RNC. Forget that ridiculous “x lies in y minutes” meme. Take a closer look at the people he’s surrounded himself with.*** Review what he’s been saying in the debates.

    And ignore the people who tell me to wake the f##k up.


    *Before all you Johnson, Stein and/or Anderson supporters get on my case, let’s be real. They haven’t a prayer.  And while I believe, in general, that more parties would be a good thing, I live in a swing state and my vote’s probably going to mean something this year.

    **I know what you’re thinking, but veep doesn’t count.

    ***See previous note.


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    Reader Comments (9)

    Interesting post, and thanks for the explanation. I've been trying to understand the position of the undecided for a few weeks now, and I have not been able get my head around it. I'm not sure I agree with you about Romney, though. Sometimes I think he might be moderate, but then he did sign the Grover Norquist pledge to not raise taxes. When the economy is in the position it is now, all options to balance the budget have to be on the table, including tax hikes. Unless, of course, he just signed it to get elected and then will ignore it if elected. It's hard to tell with him ;)

    October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

    I agree, Carol - the Norquist pledge is all Tea Party, and signing it is incredibly irresponsible.
    I'd still encourage you to vote Stein or Johnson. We won't get to that ideal until people who are fed up with the Two Parties' course start to express that through our votes.

    October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBen

    Let's take a recent practical example of difference in leadership styles regarding Hurricane Sandy:
    Romney collected nonperishable food items and clothing in Ohio.

    Obama asked the American People to go to the American Red Cross website to understand their preferred charitable methods. On its website, the Red Cross allows donors a variety of ways to help during natural disasters such as monetary donations, fundraising, blood donations, training, and volunteering.

    October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeffery

    Appreciated the article. However, I am concerned about this "automatically voting for one's "team" thing. After all, not everyone on your team has the same values depending on their background. And a question: Why doesn't the veep count???? If something happens to the POTUS, the veep is next. That counts for something. And with the last Republican pairing in the White House, we all know the veep means everything. ;) Just something to consider...

    October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

    I think the problem of the two party monopoly has led to an unexpected consequence. People are skewing the foundational values of the Republican party because they don’t want to branch off and loose the power the Republicans have in numbers. Given this “hijacking” of the party you really have to ignore the affiliation completely and take each candidate at face value. Otherwise you are just holding to your party like a diehard sports fan holds to his team and it becomes about winning rather than about what is best for the country. Today being a Republican (or a Business Man) does not guarantee “fiscal conservatism” and likewise being a Democrat (or a Community Organizer) does not equal “fiscal irresponsibility”. Cutting taxes does not automatically guarantee Economic prosperity.

    If you still hold to the belief that Government should get out of our personal business then you shouldn’t vote for a party that wants to take away a woman’s right to choose. Deregulation (while it did help us get the Government out) has left us vulnerable to greed and profiteering. It created profit bubbles that tricked us into thinking our economy was growing when in reality it was temporary and artificial.

    If you are socially liberal, then you shouldn’t vote for a man that is against gay rights. And if you are a fiscal conservative then you should look at the history of the Great Depression and the events that caused it as well as those that helped the recovery. And you will see that it wasn’t just WWII that pulled us out. Roosevelt played a big part in the recovery too. (here is a link to a great timeline

    Romney’s financial plan sounds far too similar to Harding or Coolidge for my comfort zone. Deficit spending is not ideal but it pulled us out of the Great Depression. Ever since then we have been using it as a tool for economic growth but it doen't work that way. After Reagan and the 7 fat years we have clung to the idea that borrowing money and cutting taxes creates economic growth. Now I’m realizing that it was a huge and incorrect assumption. We need sustainable growth not venture capitalism and as Patriots we all need to do are part.

    If you want to take your party back then you have to stand up to the people that are robbing you of your party. Personally now that I've gone independant I don't want my party back.

    October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

    Much of what President Obama has done is out of the Republican playbook - 1986 edition. Whether it's the use of huge deficits to stave off a demand-side depression (!) or the rewriting of a Heritage Foundation healthcare reform white paper into the Affordable Care Act (!!) Mr. Obama is as close to a traditional Republican candidate as you will find in today's race.

    And while Mr. Romney has a moderately conservative record to run on as Governor of Massachusetts (which might offer clues to his governing style as President), he's running away from that record,not on it. In the general election you can't just run to energize your base since neither party has a base large enough to elect a President by themselves. Thus, since Mr. Romney is still running to his base, I think you afore mentioned criteria really lead you to a simple, albeit emotionally stressful choice.

    And I'm pleased to see a reasoned approach to this conundrum from a self identified Republican in a public forum.

    November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the explanation and I do get it as far as it goes.
    But here's my question - what about honor?
    I know Obama & the Dems aren't saints. It's been a rough, nasty election & Obama has landed plenty of below the belt punches and occasionally stepped right over the line.
    But compare that to the GOP tactic of lie upon lie, and when you get caught attack whoever is telling the truth and then lie again.
    I'm not talking about playing to your base and then tacking center later. That's just tactics. I mean the deliberate and systemic practice of feeding the public blatant, known lies and crazy conspiracy theories while not only ignoring but actively attacking real facts.
    Add in the bald faced voter suppression and attempted election fraud and you're left with a party utterly bereft of honor. The Dems may be tarnished, but they're nowhere near so completely degraded. If you can't find a party that you can fully support in issues, then for God's sake vote for the one that still retains some measure of respect for Democracy itself.

    November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris McCubbin

    I appreciate your doubts about both candidates; this election is, to a great extent an exercise in choosing the lesser of evils.

    That stated, I agree completely with your rejection of the Tea Party. This is, of itself, I think, a good reason to not vote for Romney. Let me explain why.

    Romney is NOT a “teabagger”. I accept as a given that Romney merely “did what he had to do in order to get the nomination and save the GOP”. I agree that Romney’s record is “moderate Republican”. But please remember his record was mostly amassed in Massachusetts, in a time and place where immoderate republicanism would have foreclosed his political career.

    The entire problem with Romney is that we really don’t know what’s at his core, what he really believes in. We just know he wants to be president and seems to be willing to make a Faustian deal to get there. The apparent obscurity of his core values was and remains for some, a sticking point during the primaries.

    If Romney is elected, his next desire will be to amass a record as a successful president. That means getting congress to act on important issues, to make it seem as if things are getting done. But if Romney is willing to make a faustian deal to get into the Whitehouse, he’s probably willing to make a faustian deal to stay there. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, but sometimes principles are supposed to get their due too.

    Instead of compromising with democrats (a widely claimed ability) Romney’s need will be to appease the Tea Party. The Republican Congressional members are dominated by them. Probably after the election is over the Republicans will still have an out-right majority in the House and a cloture-proof minority in the Senate. This will leave Tea Party intransigence in a powerful position.

    Obama’s no saint. I suspect he has made his share of faustian deals too. There are days when I’m not really sure what Obama’s core values are either. But Obama’s less likely to appease the Tea Party than Romney; and that should be sufficient to make Obama the better choice. There are two principle reasons:

    I believe both men are reasonably good, well-intentioned and capable men. But I think Romney’s inner circle will instinctively want to stand down before the Tea Party while Obama’s will instinctively want to stand up to them. There’s absolutely no telling what either will actually do, but Presidents are as much influenced by those around them as any man, and the relative attitudes of these “inner circles” toward the Tea Party are significant.

    The principles of the Democratic Party are not preferable to you, but if Obama is elected, the expression of those principles will be moderated by the strong Republican presence in the House and Senate. Will the Republican Party be able to moderate the principles of the Tea Party if Romney is elected? The record says “not much”.

    These circumstances make Obama the lesser evil. Which is the only choice we have this time around.

    Whatever you decide, I do appreciate your effort to sort out this mess.

    November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean samis

    You sound so intelligent with the written word.....PALIN!!!!!

    March 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLee Harris

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