The best kind of election: nonpartisan

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Local ballots for the Nov. 8 election will be mailed to registered voters on Wednesday. If you don’t receive yours by Oct. 26, call the elections office: 360-397-2345. Anyone looking for an opportunity to flex their fiercely loyal partisan muscle (whether Republican or Democrat) will likely be disappointed in this election. Of the 141 people running for various offices around Clark County, only two are identified by political party. (Democratic appointee Sharon Wylie and Republican challenger Craig Riley are running for state representative in the 49th Legislative District.)

But if you’re what Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post describes as “staunchly moderate,” this is definitely your kind of election, refreshingly free of party affiliations. Instead of partisan candidates who veer crazily toward radical ideologies in order to impress their base and advance to the general election, candidates this fall are folks who simply want to serve their communities in low-paid (if paid at all) elected offices. Good for them. Too bad there are so few. Those 141 candidates might look like a large field, but 81 percent of school board races across the county are unopposed, as are 31 percent of city council races.

On the other hand, if you’re a rock-ribbed Republican or a die-hard Democrat, fret ye not. There’s plenty of partisan bickering on the national stage, so much, in fact, that moderates feel ignored by the national media. Look around. Extremists to the left, radicals to the right, here the centrists are, stuck in the middle.

Bacon, the Post writer, designed the ideal platform for moderates, who he says would advocate: “Don’t call it ‘marriage,’ but give gay couples the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual ones. Reduce the federal budget deficit with spending cuts, modest changes to Medicare and Social Security, and tax increases, particularly for the wealthy. Reform immigration laws so they don’t punish the children of illegal immigrants for their parents’ misdeeds, but also increase border security and make it harder for employers to hire illegal workers.”

Unfortunately, that platform will never fly “because politically moderate ideas, though generally popular among voters, rarely get traction in Washington (D.C.)” For example, polls show that two-thirds of Americans wanted Congress to compromise on a deficit-reduction plan. That never happened.

Centrists get final word

Then again, moderates have nothing to fear. In the long run, they will prevail. My unofficial, unscientific estimate places one-third of Americans in the independent category, and these are the ones who traditionally decide national elections.

Why? Joe Scarborough — the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a former Republican Congressman — cites “one simple rule: Crazy never wins.” This would explain why Mitt Romney continues to do so well in the polls. Scarborough remembers the lessons of his conservative father, who “did not gamble on candidates like Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich.” Voters who lean toward rational conservatism “tune out politicians who compare opponents to Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler … (they) don’t cozy up to Texas governors who brag about seceding from the Union or call Social Security unconstitutional.”

So, despite all of the rancid rhetoric that propels candidates beyond the primaries, middle-of-the-road voters actually decide national elections because they’re the only ones who are capable of changing their minds.

A third source of opinions about independents is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who was cited in the Bacon story. Friedman believes our political system is flawed in part because of those infernal pledges that many candidates sign. Such iron-clad promises paint politicians into corners of ideological extremism. So, Friedman came up with his own pledge: “My pledge is to never vote for anyone stupid enough to sign a pledge thereby abdicating their governing responsibilities in a period of incredibly rapid change and financial stress.”

Clark County friends, enjoy the nonpartisan election of Nov. 8. Thereafter, it’s back to the war of the radicals.