Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Rational and the Reasonable In Voting?

As voters in Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls, I can't help wondering: how perverted has our electoral system become? Senator Clinton is, by most measures, still in the race for the Democratic nomination at all because of her support from voters who are not "vocal" or "caucus-going" Democrats. They lack, in other words, any kind of ideological loyalty to the Democratic party. They are just as likely to vote for a Republican candidate or not vote at all when the general election comes around as they are to vote for the Democrat. One could even say, as this story in the Times almost does, that Clinton has duped the voters who should have such loyalties into thinking she's their candidate even while, in reality, she was pro-NAFTA, pro-Democratic Leadership Council, and is herself now fabulously wealthy.

How perverse is it, then, that our nominating process might allow such voters to defeat the Democratic candidate that most "true-blue" Democrats are for, only to put Senator Clinton against a Republican candidate that those same voters would then prefer over Senator Clinton? Given the rules pitting Senators Clinton and Obama against each other in this primary election, it is perfectly rational for voters to choose their "preferred" candidate in one election who then is not the preferred candidate in another election. (It could be strategic or just plain short-sighted.) It would be, however, unreasonable of a party to nominate someone by ignoring these defects in elections and it would be just as unreasonable for observers to conclude that Senator Clinton's victories in the primaries are at all reflective of her chances in an election against another opponent.

Posted by Jamie Colburn