Wednesday, November 01, 2006

“The politics of failure have failed. We need to make them work again.”

The upcoming election has put into stark relief an important issue: how do you pick a representative that best represents your interests?
There are innumerable criteria that may be used in picking a candidate, but I would like to identify a few that seem to be particularly relevant to this election.

Seniority. One of the arguments that Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah is making as to why he should be reelected is that he is a senior member of congress and will soon be the ranking member or chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He argues that this makes him a better voice for Utah. I disagree.

First, he is no longer accountable to Utah voters. His overwhelming popularity and financial backing shield him from voter accountability. He can take for granted that he will win every election in which he runs. Since he doesn’t have to worry about winning support, he is basically free to follow whatever agenda he wants without fear of repercussion. This frees him up to follow only the interests of his donors and other special interests, rather than those of his constituents. To wit, he has accepted money from Tobacco companies; he voted to repeal the death tax (which affects only a small fraction of Utahns, but provides important revenue; and has accepted a vast majority of his contributions from out-of-state donors. (Links are to The Center for Responsive Politics.)

Second, divided government is key to the success of American democracy. Ours is a system of checks and balances where the power of the state is checked by pitting it at war with itself. Unfortunately, political parties have provided a way of muting that benefit. (Please understand, I am not arguing that political parties are inherently bad – in fact, I feel quite the opposite. This is just an unfortunate side effect.) When the same party controls different branches of government, the incentive to oppose acts of the other branches is largely removed. So, when Democrats control the White House and Congress, they are more likely to cede power between them than they would be when the two branches are controlled by different parties. We have seen this since 2001, as Congress has continued to cede more and more power to the Executive without retaining substantive oversight power. Senator Hatch has been a strong voice in favor of these concessions. Therefore, the interests of Utahns might be better served by electing a Democrat and turning the reigns of Congress over to a different party.

I do not mean to state that only Orrin Hatch should not be re-elected, but I mean to say that Utahns might not want to send ANY Republicans back to Washington this election.


Boy McGraw said...

But I save so much time when I just hit the Vote Republican button at the booths. Then I don't have to think, study, or anything. I get to be a total zombie, look at the stars at night and sing Qué será será. Isn't this what we all want? italics = sarcasm

Joe said...

I've been thinking about contributions. It doesn't really bother me that much that hatch has taken donations from the tabacco and alcohol companies. Accepting money in a campaign doesn't mean that you will keep that parties interests in mind while serving your office, especially in the amounts that he was given. If we're talking millions then I would say the companies were trying to by senate support. The only thing that really bothered me on the list was the contribution by the lds church. Who makes that decision?!?! I don't feel that the church who claims independence from any political party has any right to make contributions to campaigns and then on sunday claim they don't support any one party. Ugg, sorry that just bugs. Maybe its not from the general fund, maybe its from an lds organization, one can only hope.

Daniel said...

I also understand that a person can take contributions from an organization without feeling like they owe that organization something. However, I have a problem with taking money from an organization that I disagree with. The organization wouldn't be giving you money if they didn't think they'd get some kind of return. Therefore, by accepting their money, you are tacitly approving of their message/goal. That bugs me. It also bugs me that the Church is donating to people's campaigns. I wonder how it works. I will look further...

Eric said...

I think that it goes more the other way. If I give money to a candidate, I'm saying that I believe that this candidate will represent my views, not that he agrees with everything that I stand for.

I suppose it's a bit of a fine distinction. Fine enough that us average, non-legal types don't really see it very well.

One thing that's a bit annoying at election time is that you can only vote for the candidate as a whole. What do you do if you agree with candidate 1 on some issues and with candidate 2 on others. You have to pick one and then the winner is left either to wonder what elements of his platform made you vote for him or else to assume that you agree with him on every issue.

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