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Tomorrow -- yes, it matters
I've mostly kept my silence about tomorrow's election. Frankly, that's mostly because I'm so annoyed by the noise machines on both sides that I've been loathe to add anything to it. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a high-stakes election. So let's look past the style (which has been virtually all that the media has been obsessed with), and actually talk about substance for a change.

Let's be clear: Coakley is a mediocre politician, and her political handlers should be shot. Her campaign has been damned near as incompetent as Healey's flaming disaster a few years ago, and for many of the same reasons -- it's been consistently politically tone-deaf, crude, overly nasty, and generally unpleasant. Brown, by contrast, has played the body politic like a violin, with a good upbeat (if content-free) campaign for the first half, and smoothly sliding past all the hard questions in latter weeks with a patronizing "tsk, tsk" about anything that lands a blow on him.

But when I actually look at the candidates, rather than their political ads, I find it going pretty much the other way. Coakley may be a rotten campaigner, but as far as I can tell she's a pretty decent public servant. I've certainly disagreed with some of her views, but by and large I think she's saying the right things about the current issues. She has a tendency to get herself into trouble by getting a bit nuanced -- but I *like* my politicians to understand nuance. The fact is that the Senate, in particular, really only functions if the people in it can understand the messy, nuanced compromises that serious legislation requires.

By contrast again, Brown is an absolutely identikit Republican, far as I can tell. When he says *anything* of substance, it dead-consistently echoes the Republican party line -- essentially a consistent set of rationalizations for opposing absolutely anything that the Administration might suggest. As I mentioned the other day, I find this astonishingly irresponsible: the line they have wound up pushing is one that historically has tended to lead to major economic disasters. Basically, they're arguing that, now that we're a hundred feet from the iceberg, we should now begin steering back in the original direction again. After all, there couldn't possibly be anything more under the surface, could there?

Yes, yes -- there's the old argument that the opposition's job is to oppose. I call bullshit. A *responsible* opposition knows how to compromise, precisely because they're more effective that way. If the opposition dangles a decent willingness to compromise in front of the party in power, they have leverage, and can actually moderate policy. But when they simply insist on party purity, and march in lockstep, they remove that leverage, and force the prevailing party to say, "Okay, fine -- fuck you, we'll do it our own way". That's what we have today. Yes, the Republicans claim that both parties work the same way; again, I say bullshit. The Democratic leadership has demonstrated, time and again, that they carry centrism almost to the point of being a sin: that's why the progressive wing of the party hate them so much. If the Republicans were even remotely willing to be reasonable, they would make a big difference. But they aren't, and don't -- instead, they are focused on absolute purity and absolute power, and thus accomplish nothing except to pour a deep stream of sand into the gears of government.

(And *please* don't try the old saw about wanting government to do nothing. We have serious issues, that are *not* going to simply fix themselves. I find the market a useful tool when used properly, but IMO it takes delusion to believe that it's a cure-all after the past few years.)

So I'll say it plainly: if you are a resident of Massachusetts, I encourage you to vote tomorrow -- the primary price of citizenship is voting. And I'm not going to pretend to neutrality: in this election between essentially a stereotypical Democrat and Republican, it is fundamentally irresponsible to vote for the Republican, because the Senate Republicans are, more or less to a man, currently irresponsible as a matter of policy. I don't love the Democrats, but they are at least *trying* to govern. The Republicans aren't: they have demonstrated that they care about power so solely and completely that they have abdicated the moral high ground that the opposition *should* have. The idea of MA being represented by yet another of these -- of having to watch six years of Brown parroting the party leadership's "NoNoNoNoNoNoNo" line instead of actually trying to get things done -- appalls me more than I can say...

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Justin: Honestly, hasn't it become simply a one-state referendum on Helath Care Reform.

If yes, vote Coakley.

If no, vote Brown.

I also see this as a serious harbinger for November.

A Brown victory will really start the ball rolling.

It certainly may look that way to some of the voters, but has far-reaching consequences beyond it and not only for the fall elections (such as not being able to do *anything* in Congress). In fall, the R's can truly say "government is broken" because they broke it.

After the Healthcare Vote?

And what will Brown do for the remaining years of the term?

Re: After the Healthcare Vote?

I don't know. and I don't get to vote on this one, because I moved.

That's just the sense I get.

Re: After the Healthcare Vote?

As I responded in CVirtue's entry:
"For what little I know about sports, this feels like a baseball game, and we're deciding on pitchers. Many people seem to want to take out the current one and instead "send a message" with the replacement, to send in Brown for that one vote on healthcare. The problem is, if they do that they'll be stuck with him for the rest of the game. Is the one vote/pitch important enough to risk having him face the rest of the batters? There's no-one left in the bullpen until the next game..."

Re: After the Healthcare Vote?

Indeed. And it is all bundled up in a variety of intangibles around Coakley and her campaign, the general attitude people feel toward the Democratic Machine, the resentment over mandates in MA (and the fact that Obama ran explicitly against them). Few folks take hard looks at what happens a year or two from now when they desperately want some other bill to pass and Brown is voting in lockstep with the R leadership against.

Echoing the others who beat me to it: you're certainly correct that this is how Brown *wants* people to think -- his entire campaign is designed to take advantage of inflamed passions (and to inflame them more, and to do everything possible to replace reasoned debate with one-liners). Mind, the media aren't even remotely unbiased here -- they're playing up Brown's message because it's good political theater, and that puts butts in seats. So there's a powerful echo-chamber effect.

But it's astonishingly stupid and short-sighted to elect someone for many years on the basis of one vote. We're not going to get a man who votes "no" once -- we're going to get another Republican who is going to vote "no" on *everything*, because the Republican agenda is essentially to tear down Obama by preventing him from accomplishing much. (No, this isn't exaggeration: it's a straight repeat of the Gingrich strategy in '93, and is pretty blatantly what they're trying to do, with some fair success...)

I don't live in MA and hence have not been following the Senate race there at at all closely but I certainly do concur with your more general political remarks. Hope the Democratic candidate wins. Not a fan of the Dems, a party full of institutionalized incompetence IMHO, but the Republicans, oy. I have Republican friends whose plaintive cry is where did they put my party? This isn't my political party. )

Not exactly on this topic, but tangentially related to it: This afternoon I found that I’ve a few ideas I'd like to toss back and forth with you. Sparked by an offhand remark in another friend’s LJ, I was chewing over various thoughts about the corporate structure, representational government, human neural and social organization, and how computers organize and process information. I had to stop at “...given that kind of constraint, how would you set up a computer program to process this in a system and is there any sort of analogy regarding social organizations that can be drawn from it?” because the answer was “Since my ability to program a computer is, ah, extremely rudimentary to put it kindly, I really haven’t a clue.”

You obviously do know just a wee bit more about that, it being your profession and all, but moreover you seem to enjoy this sort of discussion about we humans and how we organize ourselves and our societies just to see where it goes. You want to play for a bit? I’ll try not to babble at you but in fairness I should caution you ahead of time that I do meander, rather. (“So many, lovely shiny thoughts to chase! Ooooh”!)

I have Republican friends whose plaintive cry is where did they put my party? This isn't my political party.

No kidding. I am not a Republican, and never really have been, but I would *love* to have a viable, reasonable alternative to the Democrats. The current Republicans aren't.

As for the processing in a computer -- I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here. Can you elaborate a bit?

I think I have to elaborate a lot! That's why I wanted someone to bounce ideas with. The pieces are there in my head but trying to write it out so that you would understand them has really shown me just how disconnected they all are. The necessity of trying to form it into a coherent verbal question is forcing me organize the various trains of thought that went into it. Of course once I've ordered it, I see other connections that I need to pull together. There were around four major thought trails (not sure what to call them) that went into this question, I've tied in the first two and am working on stating the third one clearly - I'll get back to you when I've come up with something that makes sense. :-)

We'll make a programmer out of you yet. (While there's a lot of technical stuff involved in programming, the *important* part is mostly about learning how to organize your thoughts precisely...)

We'll make a programmer out of you yet. (While there's a lot of technical stuff involved in programming, the *important* part is mostly about learning how to organize your thoughts precisely...)

Well, you might at that but I would for sure be a very SLOW programmer. I love language and languages and I really enjoy finding precisely the right words to express exactly what I want to say. The problem is I have too many of them! I have to write three to five paragraphs, then prune away all the excess verbiage and rearrange everything in order to extract one paragraph with the essential points.

I can't seen to do the editing in my head either, the ideas won't flow properly when I do that. (It's probably an ADHD thing, we're dreadful at internal organization. Now ideas, those I'm good at.) I just have to dump it all out on the page and sort through it there. Kind of like what I what I wind up doing with my purse on a regular basis...

My question has turned itself into an essay! Ack! I'll post it in my journal and give you the link .

It's an election between two party hacks.

The problem is that "Democratic party hack" at the moment is a kind of broken-down old horse, and "Republican party hack" at the moment is that impact from a machete.

A horribly good metaphor on both sides, I'm afraid. (Actually, that's a good quotefile entry: may I use it?)

Yes, you may. It was ... well, "It is just that I have never been able to see life as anything other than a vast practical joke, and it is far better to laugh than to cry" (my second-favorite Heinlein quote), trying to find a light side to the election, y'know? And "hack" is such a delightfully multivalent word.

Held my nose and voted. Even though some numbskull fatfingered my address and we had to call City Hall to verify that I exist. :P

Sympathies. For me, the voting was quite easy (Burlington takes elections very seriously, and is very good at them), but between the crowds and the snow, the parking lot was nightmarish.

For me, it wasn't quite at the "hold my nose" level. I don't find Coakley inspiring, but I think she's probably competent. (Unlike her political handlers, who blatantly aren't.) And while the healthcare bills at the center of the controversy are a messy hash, I do think they improve on the status quo. Just a start, and by no means a great one, but nonetheless the first progress in decades...

I'm walking-distance from our polling station - it's on the far side of a swamp, but there's a paved way through the swamp. There was no parking there, but department of not my problem right now. (Especially since apparently my learner's permit expired back when I was pregnant. Woops.)

Not pleased with her political handlers. For the nose-holding, I'm painfully burned out on "centrist" Democrats, personally. I don't feel that I have a chance of having a representative who genuinely holds most of my positions, so I have to hold my nose and go for "won't make it worse and will vote my way more than not."

Sure, I can understand that. I *am* essentially a centrist -- by now, I'm sufficiently disenchanted with most political philosophies that I tend to go for pragmatists and technocrats -- so it doesn't bug me so much. But the danger of big-tent parties is that they always wind up favoring one end of the party over another. The Democratic party currently makes a *little* more sense than the Republicans -- but only a little...

I would be considered a centrist in much of Europe; I'm basically a social democrat with a broad streak of American deficit-hawk fiscal conservatism.

Here, I'm some kind of deranged person with positions that have no bearing on reality and are proof that there are no sane positions among the radical left. This is kind of wearing.

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