Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why Candidates Running Unopposed Is A Bad Idea

In 2002, I showed up to vote in the local Democratic primary and found that there was no one to vote for. Perhaps I should have done some more thorough research beforehand (I was new to the area and just thought I had to be missing something when I did try to dig up information on the candidates and found nothing) and skipped the trip to the polls. In any case, in the fall, Republican Bob Ney ran unopposed and won another term in Congress.

A few years later, he was in jail on corruption charges.

In 2012, Republicans found themselves in a similar situation.  No one's running against Marcia Fudge in the fall, meaning she could vote for herself and win reelection to Congress.

Let's hope Fudge, unlike Ney, doesn't prove Lord Acton right that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  So far, Fudge seems to be all right, but Ney also seemed that way (albeit given the usual quality of Republicans of that time).  For example, he was one of the few Republicans to vote against the Patriot Act.

What's baffling is that any candidate runs unopposed.  Can't other parties find anyone, and I mean anyone, to run?

Hey, I'd run against Fudge, and I'm not even a Republican.  I wouldn't campaign or waste my own money and time otherwise, but at least I'd be a name on a ballot.  Can't these parties even find someone to do that?  Run a homeless person if one musts.  The person would probably appreciate the rubber chicken dinners at political events and would likely have plenty of time to campaign.  And, if in a fluke, the homeless person won, well, then Congress would certainly get a very different perspective from that of all the millionaires running around in the Capitol.

One reason the Democrats had such electoral success in 2006 and 2008 was that Howard Dean, the head of the party at that time, had a philosophy of running everywhere, even in the elections he was told no Democrat had a chance.  It was called the Fifty State Strategy.  Democrats seemed to abandon Dean's strategy and, not surprisingly, lost a lot in 2010.  If they're smart, they'll reembrace it this year, though some political types still think it's a waste of money competing in what they view as noncompetitive races.

But guess what?  The only way a candidate doesn't have a chance is if he or she doesn't run.

Even more locally than Congress, my little city is all in a tizzy because the local school district (shared with a larger, neighboring city) will be closing the only elementary school in the city.  But last fall, two candidates ran unopposed for the Board of Education.  Both were from the larger city.  Based on my attendance at a candidate forum, I thought both candidates were sensible enough.

I still didn't vote for them though as they were going to win anyway.  Why waste time coloring in an oval then?  I'm always amazed that as many as 124,372 people will vote for a candidate who will win anyway.

Perhaps if both candidates had competition from candidates in my city, then they might not be voting for closing the local elementary school since they would have had to pander to voters in my city in order to win (Who knows though?  The one board member from my city voted for the plan and two also from the larger city voted against it).

The "takeaway", as people love to say nowadays, is that if only one candidate runs for a public office, then don't expect democracy.

For that, it takes at least two.

1 comment:

  1. The school board actually changed their minds. Angry mobs apparently still can push politicians around.


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