When I was a kid – way back when people actually told jokes about Communists – there was the one that went like this: “did you hear that the Soviets are holding a two-party election? The Communist Party and the victory party.”
Well, here in New York state we not only we have two major parties (and then some), but each candidate can just institute his/her very own multi-party system – or at least represent multiple parties on the same ballot.
This seemed very weird to me at first (I grew up in another state). Something in my gut said that the corollary to the “one-person, one ballot” idea had to be “one candidate, one ballot slot.” That just seemed natural to me. But, honestly, I couldn’t tell you why. Is it just a culturally transmitted mental habit?
Really, what’s so bad about having your name on the ballot multiple times? Even if it gives you a probabilistic advantage (does it? Statisticians please weigh in – my math creds are not what they once were!), maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If you’re able to capture multiple ideological camps, (literally “reach across party lines” as politicians are fond of promising) chances are good that you – and hopefully your policy postures – appeal to voters who identify with those camps… so your statistical advantage may just reflect the will of the people.
Besides, it is New York, and we just have to do things a little differently from everyone else, just because we can.
Have you checked out the new congestion pricing ad? It asks: “what if congestion pricing prepared us for [the] future and started reducing overcrowding now? What if every penny went to improve public transportation and create new bus and subway lines for all New Yorkers? What if congestion pricing meant less traffic, cleaner air and a healthier environment?”
What if it didn’t?
Don’t get me wrong, I lean green, so I’m all for curbing emissions and spewing of all kinds. But a laudable goal isn’t a sufficient argument for any process that claims to further that goal. I worry about that second “what if.” Give me details on the transit improvements. Tell me how much money overhead and admin costs will eat up. And explain to me how a paltry new toll on vehicular traffic translates into all this extra spending money if it’s actually reducing traffic as suggested by the third “what if?” (Yes, I’ve read the proposed legislation and yes, I know how to parse these things).
Most importantly, will it reduce traffic? Some people involved in the London program we’re trying to emulate) say the pricing has to be much higher to have a real impact. The mayor himself has said that the costs aren’t that harsh, since people who drive in the city are usually the ones who can “afford it.”
Meanwhile, subway fares are going up on Sunday.
I voted for Obama. Mainly because I like the way he’s run his campaign better than the way Clinton has run hers. So, I was a bit disturbed to find the following email from the Obama campaign urging me to donate to it. It began this way:
“News broke yesterday that a few wealthy Clinton supporters are gearing up for a massive spending campaign to boost her chances in the big upcoming contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4th. The so-called “American Leadership Project” will take unlimited contributions from individuals and is organized the same way as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”
What does “organized the same way as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” mean? Isn’t it a little misleading to imply an equivalence between the two groups based solely on organizational similarity?
The Swift Boat Veterans campaign was a smear campaign based on lies. That was its problem. Whether 527s should be free to engage in candidate advocacy is really a secondary issue. Frankly, I am not even sure that issue advocacy groups should be prohibited from candidate advocacy. We might not want them to do it with tax-exempt dollars, but we can prevent that without stifling their free speech. For example, every dollar spent on election-related programs could be made subject to taxes (even if the organization as a whole is an exempt entity). But keeping them from vocally supporting or opposing candidates for office raises serious First Amendment concerns for me.
I care as much as the next guy about the equality of access to the public megaphone. There are other ways to address that: like requiring the broadcast networks (licensees of our public airwaves) to give free and equal time to all candidates. I’m sure there are better approaches still. In any case, I think that access is becoming much less of a problem with so much proliferation of new media.
Whatever else we do though, a restraint on political advocacy can’t be the way we safeguard truth and fairness in politics. And government can’t be the arbiter of that. That’s exactly the point of the first Amendment.