Joseph Lieberman is (June 2006) being challenged in the Democratic Party primary by Ned Lamont. Lieberman then definitively stated that he would run independent if he lost the primary. In contrast, Ned Lamont promised to support the Democratic Primary winner, even if it is not him.
Now. What was the response of the Democratic Party leadership to Lieberman's horrific announcement? Oh my God. You'd have thought the world was ending. Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America (and DNC Chair Howard Dean's brother) sent out an email far and wide (i.e. it even reached me) saying "While that's his prerogative, it's still outrageous. Joe Lieberman seems to believe that he is entitled to keep his Senate seat, and he's open to leaving the party to do so."
In this email, Jim Dean and DFA are demonstrating that they don't get it. The problem is not Lieberman offering Connecticut voters more of a democratic choice by running. The problem is not somebody with the guts to run as an independent and commit the "horrible sin" of not staying with one of the two top parties. No; the problem is the plurality voting system's "cloning" and "vote-splitting" pathologies causing Lieberman's decision to be likely to lead to both him and Lamont losing. That causes Dean to brand Lieberman as a "traitor" (bad additional pathology #1) and the threat of this also (looking deeper) is being used by Lieberman as a tool to motivate Democrats to vote for him not Lamont. That's pathology #2.
And that kind of extortion-type threat worked – to scare the Democratic Party establishment into desperately campaigning for Lieberman and against Lamont, in an effort comparable to or exceeding their usual support-efforts in secondary elections. Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called Lamont asking him to back off.
The ones victimized by all of this? The Connecticut voters, that's who. The cure for all this? Adopt range voting!
Then Lieberman would not be a "traitor" for running independent, and his "threat" would be a non-issue, and the voters could concentrate on who was the best, rather than on this silly infighting, name-calling, and hypocrisy.
Hillary Clinton(D) is running for re-election. She has a lot of money and a lot of "name-recognition."
But there are Republicans also with considerable money and name recognition that could run against her. For quite a while the top such Republican was Jeanine Pirro, the long-time DA of Westchester County. It would have been interesting to have two women running against each other for a Senate seat for a change, maybe the first time that happened. It did not terribly help that J.P. was married to Albert Pirro, a rich slum lord who combined psychiatric problems with extramarital affairs (e.g. he denied paternity of one illegitimate child but court-ordered DNA testing showed he was lying) and was imprisoned for tax fraud. But never mind that. (Hey, Hillary also has husband problems.)
Now here is the thing. Pirro was pressured to drop out of the Senate race by New York Republicans! For a while she angrily refused, but eventually announced she was dropping out. As far as New Yorkers can tell, the GOP intends not even to contest Hillary Clinton or to run some essentially non-supported non-entity against her (which is effectively the same thing). Later note: The Republicans eventually ran little-known former mayor of Yonkers John Spencer against her. The New York Times (21 Oct. 2006 page B6) described him as "abandoned by the national party, hardly recognized throughoout the state... [funded with] a pittance... run a lonely race with little aid even from other Republicans in New York. 'I've been stabbed in the back,' Mr. Spencer told conservative columnist Robert D. Novak, who wrote that Mrs. Clinton was getting a 'free pass to pursue both national party-building and her own presidential ambitions.'" Why? Apparently the GOPer's logic was that no Republican was likely to beat Clinton, and the spectacle of some fairly prominent Republican getting clobbered by Hillary was somehow going to hurt the GOP Party image, was supposedly was not worth it. (The Republican leadership all contend Hillary is the antichrist, but when it comes to running against her, they've got higher priorities.)
Well great. That GOP image sure is wonderful these days. Wouldn't want to mess it up. But the trouble with that decision by these spineless cowards is: the New York voters now get zero choice – which is even worse than their usual tiny amount of choice. Thanks to the plurality voting system giving us 2-party domination (which in New York now looks like it might unfortunately evolve into 1-party domination by the Dems) there is no other viable choice. Incidentally, the fact she was running unopposed in no way prevented Hillary Clinton from raising $22 million in "campaign contributions" as of mid-July 2006; by October (by which time an actual opponent had materialized) she had raised nearly $50 million.
Again: the victim is the voter and democracy, and the solution is range voting so we can have a choice even if a major party drops the ball.
But that is far from the only problem with New York politics.
George Pataki(R) is leaving office in 2006 and the top Democrat contender is Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, but Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has also thrown his hat into the Democratic Primary. That is pretty good; the NY voters (albeit only the Democratic ones!) are being offered a good choice here.
But where are the Republicans? It looked for a while like the top contender was going to be (former MA governor) William Weld. But assembly minority leader John Faso had a lot of buddies among top GOP movers & shakers at the NY GOP convention, and could abuse his office to grant favors behind the scenes (not that I claim he did, but he had that power) whereas Weld was an "outsider." Also Faso billed himself as a "true" Republican because, e.g. he had a strong anti-abortion stance. From a 1987 floor speech by Faso: "I think that the issue is not the question of whether or not we are going to spend money on Medicaid funding for abortions. It is not a question of whether or not poor or rich women are eligible for abortions. In my opinion, the issue is whether or not we think the entire concept is appropriate, and that is why I will vote for this amendment [to outlaw medicaid funding for abortions]. The Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, to me, stands as a black mark upon this Country and upon the Supreme Court that rendered that decision... The Roe v. Wade decision stands as a hallmark to our inability to appreciate now, in 1987, how science has thrown to lie the notion that you can have abortions up to six full months of gestation and, Mr. Speaker, the Roe v. Wade decision in that instance, that we are asking today to legalize the Medicaid funding to allow it or continue the Medicaid funding of abortions, in my mind, Mr. Speaker, is something that we cannot countenance any longer, because Medicaid funding of abortions allows children who would otherwise be able to live to have their lives snuffed out." (The fact that abortion would seem to have little to do with governing New York was not remarked upon. And why people would criticize someone for being an outsider to the most dysfunctional state government in the Union, I don't know.) Consequence: Faso got 61% support at the GOP convention. That however meant nothing because what matters is the statewide primary vote, not the convention vote, and Weld clearly had more support statewide, especially if you also count Democrat support.
Weld then dropped out of the race for Governor! "It's no secret I'm a believer in the utility of primaries in many contexts," Weld said at a news conference at his Manhattan headquarters. "But I do think there's a time to look beyond your aspirations for the bigger picture. This is not a time for a contested primary."
New York Republican Party Chairman Stephen Minarik responded "I applaud Bill Weld for his selfless act of courage; his actions today will help bring unity to the Republican Party and make our party's chances to win the governor's race even stronger."
Well, that is just peachy. We wouldn't want those Republicans to have to ruffle each other's feathers. And after all, it is so much cleaner if the fat cats at the convention decide everything in a smoke filled room, than to make those dumb old regular voters decide.
(And again, of course, Weld, being a party faithful robot, was not going to run Independent or Third Party and risk the spoiler pathology of the plurality system.)
Result: again, New York voters are victimized and choiceless. Cure: again: bring in Range Voting and this pathology largely vanishes.
According to Richard Winger, no Democrat will be on the November 2006 ballot for US Senate in Indiana. The only two candidates listed will be a Republican and a Libertarian. This is the eleventh time (and twelfth if Hillary Clinton will be unopposed in New York) in the last 16 years in which one of the major parties had not nominated in a US Senate race. The other instances have been: no Republican in Massachusetts 2002, Arkansas 1990 and Georgia 1990; no Democrat in Idaho 2004, Kansas 2002, Mississippi 2002, Virginia 2002, Mississippi 1990, and Virginia 1990.
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