HE WALKS THE LINE

Eugene Volokh votes for the party, not the man person-type individual.

Which particular people are in the legislature definitely matters — but which party has a legislative majority matters far more. Legislative power is generally exercised by organized legislative party blocs, not by individual representatives who make up their own minds.

I generally think the country would be better off if the Republicans (for all their warts) are in control than if the Democrats are. So if I and those like me vote for a Democratic candidate over a Republican because we think that this particular Democrat is better (smarter, more honest, or even more in agreement with us on many issues, despite his party affiliation), and this candidate’s election ends up giving Democrats control of the relevant legislative chamber, then we’ve hurt the causes that we favor: By electing this candidate, whom we like, we’ve essentially elected a party that we dislike. And even if the candidate breaks with the party in some cases (which may be part of why we voted for him), in most situations — both when voting on legislation, and, as importantly, voting on whom to put on various legislative committees and the like — he’ll follow party discipline.
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Presidents and governors ostensibly exercise executive power by themselves, so I may well imagine that an honest, smart Democrat may do a better job than a dishonest, dumb Republican.

But in reality, electing a President or governor also means electing his party, and not just him. First, he’ll probably select a cabinet that’s drawn from a wide chunk of his own party (since, among other things, he needs to maintain good relations with the party faithful). He may well appoint some judges that he might not much like, but that help cement relations with various wings of his party. And a Democratic President may let a Democratic Congress get its way on more issues (even ones on which he doesn’t fully agree with them), or may block the Republican Congress’s proposals (even ones which he doesn’t much disagree with), because that’s what his party base will want. (Naturally, all this applies equally to Republican Presidents.)

Consequences: This suggests to me that one should basically ask “Which party do I want to see in power?,” and then vote for candidates of that party nearly all the time — because you are in effect electing a party, more than you are electing a person. There are, of course, some exceptions . . .

which he explains at length.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.