Monday, October 11, 2010

Vote Your Conscience; Not Your Party

 I submitted this draft op/ed to the Washington Post for the America's Next Great Pundit Contest.  Since my submission was not chosen for online voting, I decided to share here with everyone. 

More than 200 years ago, George Washington warned Americans about the rise of political parties in his farewell address.  "It serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration....agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one....against opens the door to foreign influence and corruption...thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."

In 2002, Democrats saw an opportunity to unseat a popular incumbent in the House.  Connie Morella had held the 8th Congressional seat in Maryland since 1986.  Despite being a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, she was widely popular among her constituents.  Democrats gerrymandered her district, which led to her loss to Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) -- a prime example of partisan politics that continues to plague our country.  Here was a legislator who not only had the best interests of her constituents and country, but also sided with Democrats on many issues. 

As I look at the 2010 midterm elections, all the pundits focus on which party will take over Congress in January.  President Obama recently spoke at a rally to spur the youth vote.  Unlike 2008, where he was seeking their direct support, he asked them to vote for Democrats.   

If I understand this correctly, out of all 37 Senate and 435 House seats up for re-election, there’s not one Republican or Independent candidate the President endorses?  What if the two Republican Senators from Maine – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins – were up for re-election? Would he disdain the only two potential Republican allies he has for party unity? Or do they have to switch parties like Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa).

There are rare instances of politicians making choices based on conscience.  Former Republican Senator John Warner made the courageous choice not to endorse GOP-backed Oliver North for Virginia’s other Senate seat in 1994.  President Gerald Ford, knowing it would likely help lead to his defeat to Jimmy Carter in 1976, pardoned President Richard Nixon because he felt it would help the country move on from “our long national nightmare.”  History proved him right when he was acknowledged with the JFK Profile in Courage award in 2001. 

In today’s America, no one seems to state their real views let alone stand by them.  It’s all about partisanship.  What would Washington say today?


  1. On the other hand, Connie voted the party line on several issues that were important to me. I forget the details, but I remember having remose for my vote for her. If it was about individuals, things could be different. But they don't have party whips for nothing.

  2. My submission wasn't chosen, either. I thought it was clearly better than those selected.

    Quick questions: When you entered, did you get e-mail confirmation? I've received no e-mail confirmation of my loss, either. Something, both times, would have been nice.

  3. The Ravens are roadkill on Sunday.

  4. Barry, I did get confirmation when I submitted it, but was never notified that it was not selected.