Photo: Aldrich, Beatrice (uploader)

 I heard somebody say the other day that voting a straight ticket was a threat to democracy.


               It’s not.


               It’s an exercise of democracy.


               Your casting of your ballot, in whatever way and for whatever reason, is democracy. It is an exercise of your freedom your way, and the criteria you use, or the habits you have are your business. There is not a right way or a wrong way, there is only your way – that’s the way freedom operates.


               If you vote for someone because they belong to your party, or your race, or your religion, that’s your business. If you cast your ballot based on one issue, or because you personally like a candidate, or because you flipped a coin, it doesn’t matter – the democracy, the exercise of freedom, is in your action, not your motive. You got to vote, and how you do it is your business.


               Maybe you want to study issues and listen to debates and read resumes, or maybe you want to see which TV ads you like, or what party a candidate belongs to. We’re all different, but we’re all entitled to a ballot, and how we use it, or if we use it at all, is our business and none of anyone else’s.


               That’s the American way.


               That’s the free way.


               And there’s nothing wrong with a straight ticket. In fact, casting all one’s votes for candidates of the same party is by far the most common form of voting in the United States. Is that because we’re a bunch of idiots who don’t think through the issues? Are we using the franchise unintelligently?


               Not at all. We’re just using common sense.


               Because like Aesop said 2,500 years ago: Birds of a feather flock together.


               Political parties exist not primarily for faction, but for philosophy. We belong to parties not because of math, trying to cobble together a majority coalition, but because of belief, to ally with people whose views reflect our own and whose priorities for the governance of our communities and country are like ours.


               That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. And it typically serves well our constitutional system and national governance.


               In a country where we believe in the rule of law and tend to support principles over personalities, the actual individual for whom we vote is less important than the policies for which that person stands. In a constitutional system that demands coalition, consensus, or compromise to pass and sign a law, I want my elected representative – executive or legislative – to pull the rope in the direction I favor, to be part of the majority to which I philosophically belong. You can be the nicest and best person on the planet, but if you advocate something I oppose, I’m not going to vote for you. And you can be the biggest jerk, but if you back stuff I believe in, I’m going to vote for you.


There’s nothing wrong with that.


And in a society where issues are often clear and polarized, voting a straight ticket only makes sense.


If transgender rights are a big deal for you, if you want books in elementary schools normalizing gender fluidity, then you should vote Democrat – no matter who the candidate is. A Democrat will facilitate your interests on this issue, and a Republican will frustrate them. Same thing if you want the government to fund abortion, or impose rigid climate-change restrictions, or restrict the private ownership of guns, or redistribute wealth, or fight what you perceive to be structural racism and white supremacy.


Likewise, if you believe in smaller government and freer people, you should vote Republican. If you are bothered by onerous taxes and regulations, or the defunding of police, or the weakening of our military, or the crime on our streets, or the picking of winners and losers through favoritism and affirmative action, or the suppression of what you believe to be your Second Amendment rights – then you would be a fool to vote for a Democrat.


Democrats stand for one thing and Republicans stand for another. That’s a reflection of the general philosophical differences innate to humankind and which have been part of the American political scene since the days of George Washington.


People belong to political parties for a reason. Party membership reflects a choice, a statement of belief, and an identification of principle. And that’s true not just for voters, but – more importantly – for candidates. The people who put themselves forward to be our representatives and leaders are telling us who they are by the party with which they have chosen to affiliate. It’s like the list of ingredients on a product label, it helps us know what we do or don’t want.


Party affiliation, and even voting a straight ticket, are not obstacles to democracy, they are a facilitation of democracy. They let a nation of hard-working people with busy lives know in shorthand where candidates stand.


And they let a nation of candidates know where the people stand.


There are wonderful people on both sides of the partisan line, and there are snakes on both sides of the partisan line. That’s just life. And that’s part of the reason why most of us vote for principles, not people.


And by and large, we find our principles reflected in a political party, and we vote for that political party.


That doesn’t threaten democracy, it exercises it.

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