What to make of the Lynch/Gomez Voter?

The logic of voting “the person, not the party” in federal elections has never been very strong, but in our present highly polarized national politics it is down right stupid. Paul Krugman’s recent praise of the South Carolina voters who just elected Mark Sanford to Congress makes this point quite concisely.

Nonetheless, we all know folks who take great pride in their willingness to “rise above” partisanship by casting their ballots for the “best person for the job.” It is these very folks that the campaign of Gabriel Gomez will be going after with great intensity. Frankly, without them Gomez’s slim chance of winning on June 25th would disappear completely.

Gomez won’t even try to disguise his strategy in this regard. He will openly avoid policy issues and argue that the real “issues” in this race are about “leadership” and replacing the “professional politicians” with non-politicians like him who will go to Washington and bring an end to “politics as usual.”

Some of the voters who came out for Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary will undoubtedly turn out on Election Day to support Gabriel Gomez. I personally know several, many of whom voted for Scott Brown…twice. No matter how clearly and explicitly you explain that the present US Senate is a highly partisan institution in which Scott Brown-like promises of moderation and compromise represent either pure fiction or extreme naïveté, these folks remain unmoved. Why?

Because they have internalized the notion that the act of voting is a deeply “personal” one, and that one’s vote is an expression of values, even a reflection of one’s character. Candidates like Gabriel Gomez in Massachusetts and Elizabeth Colbert Busch in South Carolina are all too happy to encourage this personalization of federal elections because they understand that were they to campaign on the issues that will actually matter to them if elected, they would lose badly.

Indeed, Stephen Colbert’s sister did lose pretty badly in her race for Congress in South Carolina because the majority of the voters in that district were not fooled into cutting off their noses to spite their faces. They voted for their “disgraced ex-governor” because he was not running for Saint or for the job of role model; he was running for Congress. Fifty-four percent of the voters in that South Carolina race voted their political and policy preferences because Congress is a place where politicians make policy.

There has been and will be no shortage of smug liberal pundits mocking the conservative voters of South Carolina because their social conservative values appear very much out of step with the personal narrative of their chosen Congressman. Oh the hypocrisy….they will lecture. Well, they are wrong and the conservative voters of South Carolina are right. If you are a conservative voter, voting for the Democratic candidate in a federal election does not evidence your higher moral or intellectual status; it shows that you have no idea what you are doing.

On June 25th, many self described “independent voters,” as well as some who enjoy claiming to be Democrats (but not the “blind partisan”kind), will vote for Gomez. When he is defeated, many of these folks will self righteously complain about the “sheep” who blindly voted for the Democrat, while they took the “high road” and chose the better man without regard for party. The reality is that these folks are either conservatives whose vote for the Republican candidate was a foregone conclusion, or suckers whose ignorance of how the federal government actually works makes them easy marks for politicians willing to exploit that ignorance.

The good news for the liberal voters of Massachusetts is that there won’t be enough of these voters to put Gomez over the top on Election Day. The good news for the folks who will vote for Gomez is that they will get yet another opportunity to lord their moral and intellectual superiority over all the poor slobs who “toed the party line” on Election Day here in the “People’s Republic of Massachusetts.”

Maybe this is actually a win-win situation? 😉

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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3 Responses to What to make of the Lynch/Gomez Voter?

  1. A major reason that Elizabeth Colbert Busch (ECB) lost was the fact that her issues platform was weak and full of boilerplate, Democratic Cookie-Cutter Committee (DCCC) talking points. She never laid out a compelling case of how she would use her skills in business and education to help SC-1. Lets look at some of the issues she could have championed:

    The Senate is voting on the Water Resources Development Act, a major infrastructure bill that deals with ports and harbors. ECB never mentioned WRDA or how she would push for funding for dredging projects for Charleston when the House takes up the bill later this year.

    SC-1 is 12.5% rural but ECB never spoke about how she would fight for rural development, food and nutrition programs and clean energy initiatives in the 2013 Farm Bill now moving through Congress. 70% of the bill is Food Stamps and WIC and the other 30% involves key programs for the rural portions of SC-1 to address: rural housing, water and sewer upgrades, community facilities, etc.

    ECB could have run hard on the issue of closing offshore tax loopholes which rob the U.S. Treasury of $100 billion annually from offshore tax haven and tax shelter abuses in nations such as Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland. There are a number of pro-taxpayer reforms connected to this issue that she could have run on and beefed up her fiscal toughness cred at the same time by challenging Sanford to join with her in supporting these reforms or spell out his own plan.

    ECB could have come out in favor of sponsoring a House companion bill to the Fixing America’s Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act – to ensure all energy producing states receive a fair share of the revenues they help produce. The Senate bill, introduced in March by Sen. Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) says that coastal energy producing states that produce any form of energy in the Outer Continental Shelf, whether oil, gas, or renewable wind or wave energy, will keep up to 37.5 percent of all revenues produced from that offshore energy production.

    We could go on and on with oversight of Afghanistan and the billions wasted over there, to ECB stating which committee assignments she would ask for and why. The bottom line is that outside of her fundraising, she executed a poorly run campaign including not using any of Sanford’s congressional votes/actions (1994-2000, Contract with America) against him early and often.

  2. Matt is absolutely correct in his assessment of the Sanford/ECB race. If I may I’d like to add a tiny bit of icing to the his comments as a progressive resident of the Palmetto state. As I’m sure Jerold is aware, a couple of weeks prior to May 7, ECB enjoyed a 9-point advantage over Sanford.

    Then came the debate leading to a 18-point reversal from disgruntled dems and fired-up right-wingers. Here are some ECB loss-enablers; “I fully support the Chamber of Commerce and their position on immigration.” This was followed by “I support Lindsey Graham’s bill.” Then there was “Obamacare is EXTREMELY problematic.” How about “I’m a fiscallyl conservative, independent businesswoman who pushed back on the Obama government.”

    Here’s her public school take. “we need choice.” Perhaps most egregious of all to progressives, “I am pround to support and live in a Right to Work state.” After labor did everything it could to support her campaign, especially money-wise. And who’ll ever forget, “I am a REALLY PROUD defender of the 2nd amendment.” Toward the end it was, “We have to reach across the aisle and talk to each other.

    Add to this, the cynical redistricting to chase the black vote out of town to district 6 and the fact that ECB is closely connected to a Clemson Wind Tunnel project with a payoff decades down the road in a state that climatologist have deemed as totally ill-suited for wind energy. As far as getting the “fiscal house in order” that’s what Sanford was best noted for in his two terms as governor. He owned austerity and had the veto record and services destruction to show for it.

    The comic’s sis was a pathetic affront to Democrats. Republican-lite works about 5% of the time and never in the Deep South.

    Duquette’s Antitrust positions must be a trip!

    • I was briefly “a progressive resident of the Palmetto state” and I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that you are waaaay too close to the race in question to see it objectively. While Republican-lite is a very weak approach, running as a progressive Democrat would NOT have resulted in a win for ECB. Your apparent belief that the polls accurately reflected the “state of the race” is misguided. The polls reflected the media narrative, not the actual “score” at the time.

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