Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Logic of Team Politics

One common theme I keep hearing from liberals is an expression of puzzlement at the fact that so many people support McCain. And they conclude that this is proof of how stupid Americans are. But why? Because, to be perfectly honest, I am a straight-ticket Democrat who would vote for absolutely any Democrat that I felt wouldn't hurt the Democratic Party. And that's really the only logical thing to do.

Because presidential elections aren't really about the two guys we're choosing from. Those people are symbols of what we're voting on. We're really voting for a bureaucracy. For judges. For ambassadors. Diplomats. Wars. Treaties. And overall, our reputation in the world and in history. That's what's really on the line here. Compared with all this, it doesn't really matter who it is that is sitting in the good seat in the Oval Office. What matters is the people they surround themselves with.

And so even if I preferred the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate, I would almost never even think about voting for him. Because even if the Republican would do a better job as president, he'd be stuck appointing a bunch of Republican cronies to run our agencies, and those agencies would be staffed with Republican hacks, and most of the judges he'd pick would be Republican jerks, and he'd put Republican embarrassments in embassies all over the world, and all that. And sure, not all of these people would be bad. But I can guarantee that there would be a higher percentage of Republican hires I'd dislike more than the Democratic hires.

And I really can't conceive of any Democrat that would be so bad that I'd prefer this. I suppose I'd pick McCain over a Hitler-clone, but that's only because I wouldn't believe that the Hitler-clone would actually appoint Democrats to these posts (and he might appoint many of the same folks McCain would). In the grand scheme of things, there is a finite number of people who any Republican or Democrat could hire, and I like the Democratic hiring pool a heckeva lot more than the Republican one.

Majority Rules

And the same goes with our Congressmen. It really doesn't matter much who you send to Congress, because he'll just be one of many. It's unlikely that this one dude is going to do much of anything. Even the famous Congressmen who want to stand up against the status quo aren't really going to achieve much beyond impressing people who are sick of the status quo. Sure, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are radicals, but exactly what are they actually achieving?

But one big difference they can make is who controls Congress. For whatever reason, Congress decided over the years to give magical powers to whichever side has a majority, no matter how slim. So it's essential that we get as many of our guys there as possible. And that's much much MUCH more important than who the individual is or what they plan to do. The more radical your Congressman is, the less he'll be able to get anything done. But a radical Democrat counts just as much as a pliant one when it comes to the majority. Sure, it's better to have a good Democrat over a bad one, but it's almost always better to have a bad Democrat than a good Republican.

And so that's a big part of the reason why McCain and Bush can retain their support. It's not necessarily that people like them or are being fooled. It's because it's irrational to vote against all this stuff just because you don't like the guy at the top. Of course, that's not to say that most folks are really thinking it through to this level, but they don't need to. This is where the "team" aspect of politics comes in. It's an ingrained instinct in us to side with our team, even if we don't always agree with what it's doing. You might raise bloody hell to get your guy to run the team, but in the end, the team is more important than your guy.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this post doesn't track. If party affiliation was enough, we wouldn't have the Blue Dog Democrats acting like Republicans. Assuming the label equals behavior is very dangerous. The reason people are surprised at McCain's continuing support is that the entire Republican brand is in the toilet. There are very senior Republicans renouncing their own party membership because republicans (small 'r') are no longer Republicans (capital 'R').

Doctor Biobrain said...

First off Anonymous, I was only speaking of this as an issue of voter choices, and why it almost always benefits a Dem voter to vote for the Dem candidate. Secondly, there are always exceptions to this. There are Democrats who will vote Republican and vice versa, and I'm suggesting that these people aren't voting logically. Presumably, Blue Dog Democrats get many votes from Republicans, which is damaging to the Republican Party.

But the existence of Blue Dog Democrats is an entirely separate issue. They vote out of their own self-interest, as they believe they wouldn't be in Congress if they actually voted like Democrats.

And there shouldn't be surprise about people who dislike the Republican Party supporting McCain, as part of his appeal is that he's a "maverick" who plans to clean up the Republicans too. Even the jerks at RedState now admit that Republicans screwed everything up. The only difference is that they still believe there are good Republicans that McCain will bring to Washington. Crazy, I know. But that's their theory. But in any case, McCain isn't running as a Republican and is hoping that people don't really consider him to be one.