Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Role of Political Parties in CT Politics

After being re-elected just last week, Sam Kitzenberg a State Senator from Montana has changed his registration from Republican to Democrat. This action will break an even tie in Montana's State Senate. This is especially interesting because the Montana State Legislature has no tie breaking mechanism and there's a very real possibility that the State House could find itself tied as well. Details of the switch and the state of Montana local politics can be found here.

When reading about Kitzenburg's switch my first thought was that had I voted for this guy I'd be pissed. Political affiliation means something to me, and 99% of the time a candidate's party plays a role in how I vote. It's especially important for a legislative seat where an elected official is expected to caucus with one side or another.

Connecticut voters don't seem to share my feelings about party affiliation though. Unaffiliated votes outnumber those registered in both parties. Voters are happy to elect Rell while at the same time giving our State Legislature a super-veto-proof majority. Senator Lieberman won with a majority of the Republican vote, which helped to assure a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.

What role do you think political parties play/should play in Connecticut? If say Jodi Rell or Chris Dodd chose to switch parties tomorrow would it matter to you? And if party doesn't matter can you see Connecticut eventually holding non-partisan elections?

Robbins, Jim and Johnson Kirk. "Montana Balance of Power Shifts With a Single Seat". New York Times. 11/18/06


Anonymous said...

"If say Jodi Rell or Chris Dodd chose to switch parties tomorrow would it matter to you? "

If Chris Dodd joined the R's I'd become a libertarian

Anonymous said...

"If say Jodi Rell or Chris Dodd chose to switch parties tomorrow would it matter to you? "

If Chris Dodd joined the R's I'd become a libertarian

Genghis Conn said...

A good question. I tend not to vote for party, but for the person in question.

That said, party-switching post-election is a little disingenuous. Running as a member of a political party is kind of like a campaign promise--it's like saying throughout your campaign that you're going to cut taxes for the wealthy, and then end up sponsoring a bill to raise them. Running as a Democrat is like a promise to caucus with Democrats.

Joe Lieberman, because of his lack of party, actually had to come out and say who he would caucus with. For members of a party, this is assumed.

Anonymous said...

I think that people in CT are more aware of pary-id in senate, house and presidential elections than they are in state office.

Dodd becoming a republican would, therefore, have a much larger uprising than Rell becoming a democrat. CT residents know that there is something to be said for democratic v. republican majorities, and personality, while still a factor, is not the only factor in terms of who gets elected.

For example, I am a democrat, but I like Jodi Rell and hate Dick Bluementhal, so I voted for the Republicans in both of those cases, while still voting for Ned Lamont and John Larson.

In essence, CT Republicans are much more like national democrats than the ideologues who represent their party in Washington. Chris Shays and Jodi Rell are, on average, similar to Lincoln Chafee than say, Rick Santorum.

cgg said...

Speaking of Chafee he's considering a switch too, not that it matters now.

Avant-garde said...

Connecticut does already hold non-partisan, individualistic elections. Indeed, so are many other regions of our country. Two major parties are just not enough to advocate for all shades between red and blue. We the people of the United State…need more choices – major common sense alternatives. Eventually that’ll happen – sooner then we can imagine, the people have had enough. I hope.

turfgrrl said...

Political affiliation is just a branding attribute. There are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. The labels in the end mean nothing. Does anyone think that Michael Bloomberg (a life long Democrat) changed his political philosophy the day he registered as a Republican in order to run for mayor? The mechanics in a two party system though, puts one in party in charge of legislative bodies, and with it all the power to exercise agenda, issues and accountability. That's the hard reality of the business of politics. Both parties would be better off with more cross-pollination of ideas and philosophies. For that reason, I'm comfortable with the radical idea that politicians who switch parties should be encouraged.

Anonymous said...

Some points:

1. The fact that we have twice as many Us as Rs and Ds doesn't mean that CT voters disagree with you. Your point was just your point: for you, party is one factor that explains your vote and therefore post-election party switching bugs you. Same could be true of all the Rs and Ds in CT, no matter how many of them there are.

2. In fact, party-switching may bug Us in CT too. I say that because party affiliation stopped being relevant some time ago. It's not how people are registered that matters, it's how they vote. And its clear that in many districts, U voters are U in name only. There are plenty of Us that are as loyal to one party or the other as any registered partisan, they just feel no need to register with a party to be loyal.

3. This, of course, points to the issue of why the decline in partisanship (by that I mean decline in party registration) is a different issue than whether that decline matters.

4. Answering the first question requires only descriptive data. But answering the second (does it matter?) requires a serious understanding of not only why the registrations have moved to U AND an understanding of what role parties play in nominating, electing and governing.

GMR said...

I think party switching after an election is ridiculous. If you do it before an election, fine, but after is just pure opportunism.

I normally vote Republican but not always. When I lived in Stamford, I voted for Malloy for mayor over the Republican, and I voted for Lieberman this last time around. I'd be upset if a Republican who got elected switched, and I'd always be skeptical of a Democrat who became a Republican.

Avant-garde said...

Independent candidates usually don’t make it in United States, unless there’s a powerful force and/or rational providing them with a back-wind.

Anonymous said...

Only cowards switch post-election.

Anonymous said...

I would be suspicious if a candidate switched his or her party affiliation to join the majority party.

For example, here in CT if a Democrat switched to Republican I would view it as philosophical where an R switching to a D could simply be to join the party with the most voters.

Of course the opposite would apply for those living in Red states.

Anonymous said...


You state (I think wrongly) that party is mere branding, then contradict yourself by indicating one very large reason (the organization and operation of the legislative process).

In fact, party is one part brand--it is a signal of a general approach. And the fact that there are conservative Ds and liberal Rs doesn't negate the general philosophical foundation of the two major parties. Rs are the party of freedom and Ds are the party of equality. Both principles make up the principled foundation of our regime, and the two major parties get at least that much.

I will now let a dozen people post examples of why pro-life Rs are not for freedom before I elaborate on my point.

Avant-garde said...

GMR, how about a Democrat who become an Independent?

Avant-garde said...

How about an individual who is primarily pro-choice and secondarily pro-life?

turfgrrl said...

anonymous 7:49: My point, as it were, is that the label of Republican or Democrat is in practicality irrelevant to the candidate. Michael Bloomberg D to R. Jim Webb R to D. Did either change their political philosophy? No. Does either fit into the generally accepted philosophical foundation of the party they currently branded themselves with? I'd say no.

GMR said...

I think it's probably worse for a state senator to change parties than it is for a US Senator. Most people really don't know much more about the state senator than the party id, and a significant portion of the people voting probably use the party id in deciding whom to vote for. However, for US Senator, a larger percentage of voters probably know the stances of the candidates' positions on issues and vote accordingly.

I don't really have a problem with executive officers like mayor switching parties, since there's not control of the larger body at stake like there is with a Senator.

Anonymous said...

This question ties into the Lincoln-Douglas type debate between Shadow and Phantom over a proposed sore loser law. If Lieberman did such a bad thing by running as a petition candidate after losing the primary then why was he re-elected?

cgg said...

I sort of see your point GMR. IMO voters are more likely to vote for an executive branch position based on how much they like the individual, as opposed to their representative in a Legislative body. But I would apply that to the US Senate as well.

Aldon Hynes said...

I spoke about this on a panel at SXSW a couple years ago and was recently asked to speak about it at a conference in Toronto in October, which I couldn’t attend due to the election here. Party does matter in many ways.

First, as has been talked about, there is the ‘brand’. The brand is someone fluid and unclear, but I do believe there is a clear sense of brand. Yes, there have always been conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, but the most conservative Democrats are not nearly as conservative as the most conservative Republicans. The same applies to liberal Republicans and liberal Democrats.

Then, there are all the rules, both electoral rules of the States and Federally, and the party rules. Getting on the ballot and position on the ballot is determined by party affiliation.

A friend of mine, who is a registrar of voters regularly tells people that if you are registering as unaffiliated, you are throwing away half your vote. While we don’t have a lot of primaries here, it is an important point. The process of getting a Democratic or Republican nomination is determined these rules.

Also, I have to wonder if more than 93 people, or whatever the final number was in the 2nd CD voted for Courtney because of the D after his name and who he would vote for as the next speaker of the house.

Ask your friends in the Green party if these rules matter or are fair. You might get an earful. Look at what the Working Families Party is doing here and in other states to get recognition.

The same sort of thing applies with the media. For better or worse, party affiliation is a significant media story and ones ability to get media is effected by ones affiliation. Again, speak with some Greens.

Then, there is what is commonly referred to as ‘institutional memory’. The folks in the local parties have a great amount of knowledge of who the players are and what works and doesn’t in a given locale. This would get lost from campaign to campaign if there were mechanisms, primarily as part of the party structure, to save the institutional memory.

When you bring it down to an individual candidate, the importance of party affiliation varies. In Bloomberg’s case being a Republican was more advantageous for him to get elected than being a Democrat. He probably couldn’t have maneuvered the Democratic party structure to get the nomination, but he could with the Republicans. I suspect it had little to do with beliefs. I don’t know enough about Webb’s case to comment one way or another. Likewise, in our state legislature, changing party affiliation wouldn’t make a lot of difference. In Montana, it does.

Yes, it would be good if we could move beyond thinking Red and Blue, Republican and Democrat or even conservative and liberal, but to get there, there are a lot of changes that need to be made in terms of identifying political beliefs, changing electoral laws and changing the way institutional memory is preserved and the way people work on campaigns.

Anonymous said...

i find the logic of this post fairly specious, insofar as it's author held up two examples in which party really didn't matter to support the thesis that party doesn't ever matter to the voters of the state. Sure lots of folks, dems included, voted for Rell, but why wouldn't they? it wasn't a contested election. maybe she was just too popular from the get go, maybe the fault lies with dems for nominating the failed mayor of a failing city instead of a legitimate candidate. Either way, the race was academic since late august. As for the senatorial race, it's true that liebermann was reelected largely on the strength of his republican support (though it's not as if he was shunned by dems at the polls), but what choice did republican voters have? Alan Gold? This was clearly a race between two Democrats, so republicans (wisely) cast their votes for the Democrat they preferred.

To assume that party doesn't matter to CT voters based on these two examples is therefore far-fetched.

Go ask Rob Simmons if party matters in Connecticut.

Anonymous said...

Two words..

Stupid republicans!!!

Jodi Rell is basically a lame duck governor. How about that car TAX Mr. Annan. He will squash that bill like anybody who dares to run agaisnt him.


any other great idea she has will be you gussed it


Lieberman is stil a turncoat, but if it means him helping the democrats have majority I can live with it for now.

mirror said...

the american political system has long depended on a simple two party system. Now it is breaking down with amost half of the voters refusing to align with either party. This gives far less credibility to either party candidate and encourages minor party candidates. "Party platforms" are ignored and instead there is this vaque fuzzy feeling that one party is for this and the other that. Good or bad, the clear definitions are gone and accountability nonexistent. Celebrity is all.

Anonymous said...

If the two party system thought the two most qualified senate candidates from our state were Neddie Warbucks and Alan Gold, than the two party sysytem got exactly what it deserved this November

Shadow said...

> If Lieberman did such a bad thing by running as a petition candidate after
> losing the primary then why was he re-elected?

Your premise is that no politician who has done a bad thing has ever gotten re-elected?

You act as if in no time in American history have media perception and the familiarity of incumbency decided an election that voters later regretted. It's happened MANY times in modern American politics, and not every majority decision is absent of regret in hindsight; however, we live in a system where democratic legitimacy is ensured by accepting the results of elections, and it would be just as ridiculous for me to say that Lieberman's victory should not be allowed to stand as it would be for Lieberman to say he would not allow Lamont's primary victory to stand.

Oh wait, Lieberman did say that. But he was re-elected, so I guess he couldn't have done a bad thing.

wtfdnucsubsailor said...

Although some people do not see it, there is a definite difference between the Republican philosophy and the Democratic philosophy. Democrats generally believe that Government can do good and help the human condition. Republicans believe that the individual is most important and that the goverment just gets in the way of individual achievement. You approach government in a very different manner when you have those two philosophies. Democrats want government to work and work for the betterment of all. Republicans want the individual to suceed and for the government to be minimal (Defense and foreign policy only). One of the reasons that the federal government is in such bad shape now, is that the Republicans that believe in minimal government have succeeded in cutting taxes to benefit individuals that 'have made it' to the detriment of those that have not. Unfortunately, they have also lost their way in an expensive overseas adventure that is bankrupting the minimalist government they have created. You see a similar difference at the state level where democrats have endeavored to make government work for the benefit of many, while a republican administration worked to benefit its individual friends. Not that there are no corrupt dems - there are - but that does not change the basic party philosophies which influence the approach Ds and Rs have when in government.

Anonymous said...

Shadow when you speak of legitimacy you really mean fairness correct? I mean you admit that the electorate sometimes does realize it makes mistakes when it re-elects incumbents. It is not fair but the election is legitimate.

I have been involved in several campaigns and there were many times when I just knew my candidate was right on all the issues but it did not pan out because there was not enough money raised or the name recognition was not on our side.

So in theory if you can agree that candidate A is better than candidate B but if B has more money
and gets dirty and it works for him/her that is not fair but if they win that way it is legitimate
and shame on the electorate for voting for the "wrong" person.

This is politics and you speak about fairness?? Give me a break!

I will fight any Sore Loser law attempt
The Phantom

Anonymous said...

If you are stuck on "legitimacy" so much Mr. Shadow, perhaps you should be advocating that it ought to be law that all eligible voters are required to vote. Forget a Sore Loser law.

I am not for either because I
support liberty.

Yet the voters have some responsibility here too you know.

The Phantom

Shadow said...

Liberty and legitimacy are not an either/or situation, you are presenting a false choice by suggesting as such. Over two hundred years of Constitutional history consistently agrees that you need both liberty AND legitimacy in order to have a successful democracy; to choose only one is to reject both.

No one was ever "forced to vote" or any such nonsense as a result of the Supreme Court holding up this principle in the past, nor was anyone forced to vote as a result of the Supreme Court holding up other states' sore loser laws IN EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE, so there's no need for paranoid delusions at this point.

Legitimacy is not the enemy of liberty; it is the verification of it.

I hope someday you will understand that.

Anonymous said...

Shadow I am for legitimacy and liberty. We have differnt opinions on exactly what these beliefs mean.
I have a higher threshold for the legitimacy question than you. Also, I have a different understanding about what it means.

I do no recall all the facts but remember when that district judge ruled that petition candidates would need only 3% signatures instead of 15% to get on the ballot because he felt the 15% rule was to restrictive? Well with 3% you would have literally tens if not hundreds of candidates on the ballot for the same office: or so the theory went.

The State fought this and it came to 5%. My facts may be a bit off but this is generally what happened.

My point here is there currently are restrictions on running for office. Some are resonable, some are not. Now is the 5% to low or too high? Well I think it is too
low but one needs to look at any empiracle evidence to see and I do believe the 5% threshold has not been a problem in CT yet.

We have term limits for certain offices depending where you live.

Now I generally speaking I do not believe in term limits for any office but President yet I have not explored the question throughly on Constitutional grounds. My point again is there are restrictions that I may or may not agree with to running for office that reasonable people can disagree on.

I happen to believe the Sore Loser law makes no sense because the power at the end of the day remains with the people to decide. I have faith in the people. Now that may sound naive, it may sound idealistic but it is how I feel.

The ironic thing here is you are idealistic also. You believe in fairness. Forgive me but I am sorry
if someone told you when you were growing up that life was fair.

I aim for the ideal that the electorate would see Lieberman was making a desperate attempt to hold
onto his seat. However, I am an old campaigner who is realistic and accepts the fact this may not happen.

Truly Yours

The Phantom

Anonymous said...

Is Diana Urban's defection to House Dems not newsworthy enough for coverage on this Blog? I would think it would at least be an interesting story.

Shadow said...

> Phantom: I aim for the ideal that the electorate would see Lieberman was making
> a desperate attempt to hold onto his seat. However, I am an old campaigner who is
> realistic and accepts the fact this may not happen.

Sounds quite reasonable on the surface. To me, though, the question is how far would you let this bear out?

The electorate as a whole did not see the desperate attempt this time, that much is clear from the results, but what if this happened again and again regularly? At what point would we have to step in? Never? If we were to reach some Orwellian era where up is down, would it still be OK then?

If you are truly realistic, how can you really say that the ideal is important, but if it ends up being completely abandoned in practice, that's just fine?

One of the best things about the Constitution is that is protects our liberties with more than just the good judgement of the electorate. Whereas all other laws can be written and re-written by Congress, our Constitution lists our most vital liberties and protects them, even when it means protecting them from the majority views of the electorate.

I think our elections need to be protected with more than just good will, and every successful democracy in human history has agreed. To argue with that is like saying that cases of election fraud should not be pursued by the state, because the people in the electorate should catch on for themselves and not vote for that candidate anyway.