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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Democrats for Santorum

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney debate
I have a confession to make; in 2004, I engaged in voter mischief. I didn't vote for the candidate I most wanted to win the Wisconsin primary, but rather to extend the primary season. In my case, I didn't vote for a candidate from the other party, but John Edwards. See, the candidate who best fit my worldview was Dennis Kucinich. But, by the time Wisconsin's primary rolled around, it was pretty clear that Kucinich was a lost cause. I would only be casting a protest vote. I wanted it to count for something.

The reason I chose Edwards was a strategic one. I really didn't care much whether it was Edwards or Kerry in the end; both were fine with me, if not ideal (we didn't know what we know now). But I'd noticed that President Bush was dropping in the polls. Edwards and Kerry weren't spending much time attacking each other, but were instead engaged in a contest for the status as the one who thought Bush sucked more. Bush was the one taking the beating in the Democratic primary, not the candidates. Kerry was ahead in the delegate count, so Edwards was the logical choice. Bush didn't win by much in 2004 and I still believe to this day that had that Democratic primary gone on longer, Bush would not have been reelected -- assuming the primary had stayed so Bush-negative. In the end Wisconsin was a close one, but my single, strategically placed vote wasn't enough. Kerry extended his delegate count lead, effectively shortening the nomination process. And you know the tragic end to this story.

I say I was engaging in voter mischief because I didn't vote for the person I thought was best suited for the job. I didn't even vote for the man I thought had the best chance of beating George W. Bush (I thought it was about equal), I voted for the man most likely to keep the Democratic primaries going. It wasn't what the Athenians had in mind when they invented democracy and it probably wasn't what the founders intended either. My vote was based on math. But it was my vote, protected and defended by over two hundred years of heated debate and cold bloodshed, and I felt I could do whatever the hell I wanted with my tiny shred of responsibility in American government. I still do.

Of course, the problem with voter mischief is that it very rarely works. This is because -- unlike in my situation -- it requires you to vote for someone you absolutely do not want to win. Which means someone from the opposing party.

↓ CONTINUED AFTER THE JUMP ↓


See, in an open primary (where most mischief happens), you can't vote a split ticket. You have to vote for the Republican treasurer and the Republican state senator and so on. That means you have to either sit out down-ticket races or research which person is the least likely to win every single race. The first first option is hard emotion-wise, the second is hard legwork-wise. I suspect that a lot of people go to the polls, fully expecting to cast that one vote, but see the ballot and all the other things on it and decide against it. This makes pulling off a crossover voter mischief campaign very, very difficult. It's a good idea in the abstract, but when the chips are down it looks completely different and people abandon the strategy.

All of which is a lengthy setup to my point; "Operation Hilarity" may work, if only in Michigan. In any case, it's worth a shot.

A little background. Operation Hilarity is a crossover voter campaign started by posters at DailyKos. The idea is to get liberals to vote for Santorum in Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont, and Tennessee -- all states with open primaries or caucuses in the next three weeks. The best case scenario is to rob Romney of the nomination, put Santorum up as the nominee, and watch Obama glide to general election victory. But even a loss or two for Romney would damage him further. Mostly through self-inflicted wounds. Unlike Democrats in 2004, Republican primary candidates aren't aiming most of their fire at the White House. They're shooting at each other. In the meantime, they're also moving farther and farther to the right -- away from the mainstream. We're already seeing Romney's pander to the far right over the auto bailout hurting him in Michigan. At a certain point -- and he may have already reached it -- Mitt's not going to be able to reinvent himself anymore. People simply will not buy it.

So why is Michigan particularly ripe for this kind of voter mischief? For one thing, this race is going to be tight. Polling has been back and forth and the momentum may now be behind Santorum. It's possible that he may win this without any help from crossover voters. But a little push wouldn't hurt, either.

Another reason is anemic Republican voter turnout this primary season. This has the effect of magnifying the relatively small number of people you can usually get to go along with this sort of meddling.

But here's the big one; Michigan's primary is unique:

Talking Points Memo (emphasis mine):

Republicans tried to tamp down on crossover voting when they designed the Feb 28 primary, but the peculiarities of the state rules made that effort basically futile. Democrats will allow members of their party to vote in Tuesday’s primary and still participate in the March 5 Democratic caucus, so Democrats can ask for GOP ballots on Tuesday with impunity. Crossover voting is a rich part of the Michigan primary tradition (this Detroit News column explains the tit-for-tat crossover efforts both parties have engaged in over the years pretty well), and so was born Operation Hilarity, the DailyKos-led effort to drive progressive voters to the polls for Santorum and serve up a loss to Romney.

You see what this means, right? Unlike just about everywhere else, Michigan Democrats can cast what is effectively a split ticket. You don't have to give up your Democratic primary vote to cast a Republican one. All that stuff about sitting out down-ticket races or doing a bunch of legwork is out the window. It's practically designed for crossover voting.

Democrats for Santorum? Why not? It's your vote. Make it count any way you see fit.

-Wisco


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