Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Clear Message


I am sure that by now you have heard the results of the Massachusetts Special Election to fill the US Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy: Joe Kennedy pulled in 22,237 votes!  That was averaged out to 1% of the vote.  Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, claimed victory over the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley 52% to 47%.  The media outlets are calling this a clear message from the people of Massachusetts that they are frustrated with [pick one of the following: healthcare, the economy, President Obama's policies, the Democratic majority, et cetera].  That's a really long message.

This got me thinking: who decides what my message is?  Is my message automatically the primary platform of the winning candidate?  Where does this come from?  I've been asking a lot of people what drove them to choose their candidate and the most common response I get is that they were choosing the lesser of two evils.  Generally, this means that the voter doesn't really like any of the candidates or their platforms, but the one that received their vote was the most tolerable.  What about people voting party lines for whatever reasons they can come up with?

So lets take this example of the Special Election.  I work with a lot of people that lean towards the right and are very passionate about their positions.  It was no surprise to me that they were voting for Scott Brown when I asked them... what was interesting to me was that they all unanimously agreed that Joe Kennedy was more in line with their political view points.  When I pressed a little harder, all of them eventually admitted that while Joe Kennedy was their preferred candidate, they were going to vote Scott Brown because he "had a chance to win."  Of my admittedly small polling pool (tens of people), all of them thought that Joe Kennedy was the superior candidate.  So lets take some liberties here - if even 25% of the people that voted for Scott Brown felt this way and in stead decided to vote for Joe Kennedy, wouldn't that send a stronger message than electing a Republican?

Now it is true that 40% of Scott Brown's votes wouldn't have saved Joe Kennedy... but how many people that voted for Martha Coakley felt that casting their votes for her would save the Commonwealth from the Republicans?  What if 25% of Coakley's supporters actually felt that Joe Kennedy would make a better candidate than Martha Coakley but only voted for Coakley because she "had a chance to win?"  Combined with Kennedy's 1%, that is 51% of the vote.

Obviously I am throwing in a lot of speculation - there aren't any polls conducted that identify the public's opinion of the "better candidate" other than the way people vote.  My point here is that you don't win anything for picking the winning candidate - this isn't a horse race or your fantasy football league.  The truth is that you have a greater chance of seeing the real change everyone is hoping for if you were to vote for the candidate that best fits your personal beliefs rather than the one that has a chance of winning.  As I pointed out in my example: it only takes a small amount of people from both parties to make a real change.  Bottom line: vote for the candidate that best represents your point of view and more importantly understand what it is that you actually stand for.