I submit that discussions of a candidates' past or present foibles are irrelevant at this stage in the election game. The character of the candidate should be saved for the primaries. Come election time, political party trumps person. The following article adapted by me from a Mike Rosen piece sets forth the reasons I believe party trumps person. Mike Rosen is a Denver based radio show host and columnist. He is a fiscal conservative and social libertarian.
Party Trumps Person By Mike Rosen
A time-honored cliché heard every election year goes something like this: "I'm an independent thinker; I vote the person, not the party." This pronouncement is supposed to demonstrate open-mindedness and political sophistication on the part of the pronouncer. Of course it is your vote; cast it any way you like - or not at all. But idealism and naiveté about the way the U.S. electoral process and system of government works shouldn't be mistaken for wisdom or savvy.
For better or worse, we have a two-party system. And party trumps person. Either a Republican, George W. Bush, or a Democrat, John F. Kerry, is going to be elected president in November. No one else has a chance.
Minor party candidates are sometimes spoilers - like Nader costing Gore the presidency in 2000 - but they don't win presidential elections. Ross Perot got 20 million popular votes in 1992, and exactly zero Electoral College votes.
In Europe's multiparty, parliamentary democracies, governing coalitions are formed after an election. Party trumps person because in the U.S. constitutional republic, the coalitions are formed before the election.
The Republican coalition typically includes middle and upper-income persons, persons who prefer limited government, pro-market and pro-business forces, believers in a strong and/or pro-active national defense, pro-gun types, social-issues conservatives (anti-abortionists) etc.
The Democratic coalition is typically an alliance of social cause activists, labor unions, academics, persons who favor governmental solutions to society’s problems, lower and middle-income working persons, most minorities, feminists, gays, environmentalists, honorable leftists, etc.
Party trumps person because regardless of the individual occupying the White House, the winner’s coalition will be served.
The president, whether a liberal, moderate or conservative, can operate only within the political boundaries of his party and its coalition. The party that wins the presidency gets to staff all the discretionary positions in the executive and judicial branches of government. Members of its coalition are awarded vital policy-making government jobs, judgeships, ambassadorships and appointments to boards and commissions, as well as a host of plum jobs handed out to those who have political IOUs to cash in.
A vote for Bush is a vote for the Republican agenda and conservative players in key posts. A vote for Kerry is likewise a vote for the influence of the Democratic coalition.
The legislative branch is no different. After the individual members of a new Congress have been seated, a figurative nose count is taken and the party with the most noses wins. That victory carries with it control of all committee and subcommittee chairmanships, the locus of legislative power.
Now, let's say you're a registered Republican voter who clearly prefers the Republican philosophy of governance. And you're a good-natured, well-intentioned person who happens to like an individual Democrat, a Senate candidate, who's somewhat conservative. Colorado’s Ken Salazar for example. You decide to cross party lines and vote for him.
As it turns out, he wins, beating the Republican and giving the Democrats a one-vote majority, 51-49, in the U.S. Senate.
Congratulations! You just got Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton as key committee chairs, and a guarantee that your Republican legislative agenda will be stymied. The likable conservative Democrat Senator Salazar has no real power by himself. I don’t need to remind you what happens when you cast a symbolic vote for a third party candidate you admire, like Nader in ’00.
You can be a purist and cast your vote symbolically with a boutique party or “for the man,” or you can be a player and vote for the coalition that most nearly matches your philosophy, Republican or Democrat. Your vote, your choice.