One of the axioms of small-d democratic piety in this country is that you vote for the person and not for the party. People just love to say, "I evaluate each candidate on his or her own merits"—even when it's not true. A related form of democratic piety is to refrain from voting at all if you know little or nothing about the candidates.
So writes writes Michael Kinsley in Slate.com, and I've been saying the same thing for years. In fact, I think I've been saying it as long as I've been voting. As cheap thrills go, none is more personally gratifying than to say in public, "I never vote for Republicans. I don't care who they are. I just don't vote for Republicans."
This isn't completely true, as I am not opposed to voting for Republicans at the city or county level, where party affiliation or political philosophy doesn't mean a whole lot, especially if Republicans are the only people on the ballot. Beyond that, though, I am a walking no-Republican zone.
Naturally this puts people who fancy themselves broad-minded in a slight tizzy, as they proceed to lecture me on how they aren't beholden to any party, they make up their own mind, and that they always, always, always base their decision entirely on the person, not the party.
And, of course, those people always, always, always side with the exact same party as they always have.
"The term 'yellow dog Democrats' used to mean someone who would vote for any Democrat over any Republican, even if the Democrat were a yellow dog. In recent decades, there has been no such person."
Not so. There are a lot of us dogs out here, defiantly refusing to sniff Republican butt. My explanation is more or less the same one Kinsley elucidates further down in his article. At the end of the day, I'm looking at the platform and overall goals of a particular party. If I reject your platform, your concerns, your ideas, you overall political philosophy, then why in the world would I support your candidate, no matter how good and decent and kind and green and humane and clear-headed he is? I wouldn't. And I don't.
Which is not to say I always vote Democrat, either. If a Democrat is sufficiently wretched -- by which I mean so mediocre I really can't weep if he loses -- I'll vote for a write-in. I've voted for Joe Riley for the Governor of South Carolina for the last 20 years, eventhough he's only run once, and never made it past the primary. Throwing away my vote, no doubt, but I like leaving the polling booth knowing I've done no serious damage.