The Washington Post is running an op-ed by Michael Kinsley that makes a point rarely heard in either American politics or American political commentary - voting for a party rather than an individual is a good idea.
One of the axioms of small-d democratic piety in this country is that you vote for the person and not the party. People just love to say, "I evaluate each candidate on his or her own merits" -- even when it's not true.Ignoring the perpetuation of the myth that Democrats don't have a coherent platform, the point is a good one.
But this year does seem to be different. You hear people say -- though rarely as forthrightly as the Times -- that they are voting for the party and not the person. The Republican candidate for the Senate or House may be saintlike in general, no worse than muddled on the war in Iraq and good on stem cell research. She may never even have met Jack Abramoff.
Meanwhile, the Democrat may be a grotesque hack just inches from indictment, whose views on Iraq are equally muddled with less excuse (since loyalty to the president is not a factor). Nevertheless, these New Yellow Dogs are voting for the Democrat, simply out of anger at or frustration with the Republican Party.
True, people might question your sanity if you were to declare that you were voting for the Democratic Party agenda. The what? If there's anything worse than ignoring that famous elephant in the room, it's imagining a donkey that's not in the room. Even so, a vote for the Democrat is a vote against the Republican. And voting "no" to a record of failure is more important for the functioning of democracy than voting "yes" to any number of promises about the future.
Your individual Senator, and to a greater degree, your Representative, don't make policy - his or her party does. In the American system, you essentially vote to have either the Republican Party setting policy or the Democratic Party setting policy. Chose the policy you like better and vote accordingly.
When you're standing in the voting booth, just remember this: What has 12 years of Conservatism gotten you? Where has it gotten our country?
2006 Election Party Politics Michael Kinsley