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Hold Your Nose

Your Humble Blogger was listening, yesterday, to a bit on NPR’s Day to Day about Voters Who Plan to Hold Their Noses. I know that many Gentle Readers are frustrated by electoral politics, generally, and I know that not everybody here is a supporter of my Party, or of our nominee presumptive, and I haven’t used this Tohu Bohu to argue for that support. Perhaps I should. It’s not like I have a lot of platforms for such argument. Still, as much as I do support Sen. Obama’s candidacy, and as much as I do support the Democratic Party, I spend much more of my time supporting something much more vague and much less interesting: representative democracy, our constitutional system, our inheritance from James Madison, and the ideals of compromise and persuasion that I think go along with them.

So. Just in case nobody has said this recently, Gentle Reader, because I didn’t hear anybody say it on NPR, here’s the thing to remember: You are supposed to hold your nose and vote. Your candidate stinks. If you can’t smell the stink coming off your candidate, that’s because you haven’t been paying attention, and you are supposed to pay attention. We aren’t governed by angels. We are governed by ourselves, that is, by people, and people are different, one to another, which is what makes the world interesting and fun, and also means that you are different from your candidate, from all the available candidates, from the ideal candidate. Hell, even if you are the candidates, you should have to hold your nose to vote for yourself. You know better then anybody how bad you stink. You know the things you have done that disqualify you, the poor judgments you have made, the people you have trusted that didn’t deserve trust, the positions you held that were poorly thought out, or held for political advantage. So don’t waste your time and energy looking for a perfect candidate. Actually, it’s more than a waste. It’s an active disparagement of Madisonian representative democracy, and that search works to the detriment of actual governance, and thus to the actual lives of actual people.

Get your hands dirty. Not only do flowers grow in shit, but your search for clean chemical fertilizer is ruining the soil. Shit is better. It stinks, but it works.

I’ve never voted for a perfect candidate. The best I’ve ever had, Sen. Kennedy, was a drunk and a womanizer, whose personal irresponsibility made him a national laughingstock and undoubtedly made his (and his staff’s) work negotiating important legislation much harder. He is also one of our history’s greats, and I was moved almost to tears by the opportunity to vote for him, but I also held my nose. I held my nose when I voted for John Kerry for the Senate, and I held my nose when I voted for him for the Presidency. I held my nose when I voted for the local school board, where perfectly competent people have failed to see their way out of the financial pinch coming from the combination of retirees and young families. I held my nose when I voted for Barbara Boxer, and I held my nose when I voted for some Socialist instead of voting for Diane Feinstein (who was going to win anyway, and who I felt needed some reminding that the state was still on her left, and not just when she looked north). I held my nose when I voted for Bill Clinton, and I held my nose again when I voted for him again, and I would have held my nose a third time, had we not passed a bizarre and anti-democratic constitutional amendment that prevents us from voting while holding our noses.

Look, we stink. We all stink. We are all terrific, and we all stink. Every one of us is a compromise, and we all get votes, and every one of us votes for a compromise, and it all stinks. Hold your nose. But do it anyway, because the alternative, holding out for the guy who doesn’t stink, well, you may as well wait for Elijah to give the nominating speech and the host of angels to second the motion. And while you are waiting, people are dying.

And do you know what? They stink, too.

There is work to be done. Actual work, by actual legislators, actual executives and their staffs, actual people who actually stink. You can hold your nose and help, if you want to. And if you don’t want to, fine, but you still need to hold your nose. Anyone who thinks that they don’t need to hold their nose while voting for Bob Barr or Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney or Chuck Baldwin Brian Moore or John McCain or Barack Obama, well, they stink, that’s what.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


*cheers wildly*

I just wanted to get the applause out of the way, there.

I'm actually in favor of term limits for presidents, but I'm similarly in favor of term limits for congress and the judiciary. Limitless terms of power, I think, encourage the types of corruption that have been made evident in the last two terms, and I have no doubt that they were in place long ago: earmarking bills, presidential signing statements, the "revolving door" of the lobbying industry, and power struggles between the executive and the legislative branches to get the "right" justice on the bench.

Incumbency has a power that is virtually impossible to overcome, unless the incumbent does something flagrantly illegal*, and when an incumbent is a divisive, vindictive, greed-head of a villain (Ted Stevens of Alaska leaps to mind, but only because he is so very flagrant - there are many others), they require ouster, but it doesn't happen because incumbency is a powerful force of inertia.

It's true that these people stink (as do we all), but I don't think there's any reason that the Congressional chambers should wear the same stale stink for decades. People stink differently, one from another, and that's what makes life interesting, fun, dynamic, and not-so-stagnant, after all.


* and gets caught...

* Also cheers wildly! Then cribs letter and sends to New York Times under assumed name *

(As a former resident of Alaska, I must object to the inconsidered comment about the honorable Ted Stevens. The reader seems to have forgotten the other upstanding representatives from the 49th state. There is Rep. Don Young - the man who can't be bothered to attend the House because he is too busy brokering shady back room deals. And let us not forget former Senator Frank Murkowski - the man who wants Federal money to build the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, who on becoming governor of the largest state of the Union, appointed his own daughter to finish his Senate term. No, my dear, compared to the rest of the Alaska delegation, Ted Stevens can hardly be called "flagrant".)

Quite correct. I only chose Stevens because he leaped to mind. There are numerous examples of flagrance to choose from (or is it fragrance?), and I would happily have included the stinks of Young and Murkowski if I'd remembered their names.


First, thanks for the flattery. Feel free to send your versions to whatever newspapers will print something so long and rambling.

The problem, as so often, is who decides. I would rather have the constituents decide when flagrancosity rises to the level of throw-him-out than have it done by statute. In case of clear and immediate danger, there's impeachment or expulsion, or conviction in a court, but my preference is for the voters to get to make that call. If they want to re-elect a Ted Stevens, feeling that the good he does outweighs the corruption, well, in the case of Sen. Stevens, I would argue strongly against it, but it's their call. Just as if his constituents keep re-electing Barney Frank, despite the whole allowing-his-boyfriend-to-run-a-prostitution-ring-out-of-his-apartment thing, it's their call. But as I say, our system generally focuses on who decides, and in general we let the voters decide whether they want a new stink or whether the old stale one is better.


And that would be fine with an informed, interested, not-so-much-lied-to populace, but who do you know of such a persuasion?


Well, and I know I sound like a jerk when I say this, but who decides if the populace is informed and interested enough to be trusted? I mean, yes, I totally agree, speaking for myself, that it's obvious that far too much of the electorate is politically ill-informed, misinformed or uninformed, or just unformed, but then it was obvious to many of the Founding Fathers that the way to deal with that was to restrict the vote to landowners.

I understand both the sentiment and the practicality of term limits, but (a) in practice, I don't think they, like most such restrictions, work to the benefit of people with more power and to the detriment of those with less, and (2) in theory, my inclination is to minimize restrictions on who can vote, or for whom. So even if term limits worked, I'd still be against them, unless, you know, I changed my mind.


Dude, if you're worried about coming across as a jerk to me, you haven't been paying much attention to my posts. I will happily wear the crown of King Jerk, 'round hyah.

To wit: I understand the sentiment and practicality of Free Market economics, too, but that doesn't mean that deregulation is a good idea.


Ah, and let me say that if I were making the rules, I would probably suggest that terms be limited to X* consecutive terms at a time, such that a politician could be re-elected again after someone else has had a term. I think the problem is caused by a lack of circulation in the pool, not by the pool itself.


* where X is a variable containing the ideal number for this model

I'm suspicious of term limits, since the people that run on them almost never step down, nor are they particularly effective at getting a term limit law passed.

King Jerk, Matt? I must remember to use this, but only when it's both funny and painful...

if any of us were perfect, we wouldn't come in bunches.

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