Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Contra 1994 III: Counting Voters Who Weren't There

Republican Brian P. Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby were not the only candidates seeking to represent California's 5oth Congressional District. Independent William Griffith and Libertarian Paul King also sought that honor. Yesterday, 1.53% of that District's voters (1,875 voters) favored Mr. King and 3.67% (4,492 voters) favored Mr. Griffith.

It is a notoriously dangerous game to assume that if a multiparty election were winnowed down to only two candidates, voters for the minority candidates would vote in any particular fashion (or vote at all). That doesn't stop some people from doing exactly that, as Ralph Nader discovered when Al Gore's supporters accused Mr. Nader of stealing what might have been Mr. Gore's margin of victory in Florida in 2000.

But it seems to me that if one is looking to the 50th District for indications of whether the Democratic ideas and principles (as contrasted to actual human candidates) have gained in popularity nationally since 2004, it is perfectly legitimate to look at the ideas and principles favored by the minority candidates and ask: Do these ideas and principles of such minority candidates in general resemble more those of the Republicans or the Democrats nationally?

Mr. King is a Libertarian. While some ideas and principles advanced by Libertarians resemble those of the some Democrats, such as the right to use the drugs of one's choice and perhaps to abortion - as a consequence of one's right to control one's own body, although Libertarians deeming a fetus to already be an individual may not favor abortion rights at all. But on the whole, Libertarian ideas and principles are generally seen as more resembling those favored by national Republicans. That suggests that Mr. King's 1.53% does not represent much (probably no) increase favor for Democratic ideas and principles.

What about the Independent Mr. Griffith's 3.67%? Well, Mr. Griffith's campaign website has this to say about his ideas and principles:


Taxation: … I pledge to work to repeal Amendment XVI and the Federal income tax (AND the so-called "inheritance tax"….

Budget: The budget and deficit are seriously out of whack. .… The fiscal woes of our country can all be traced to gargantuan federal spending.

The United Nations: GET US OUT!

Gun Control: … I am unalterably opposed to "gun control legislation" in any of its insidious forms….

Abortion: I oppose Roe v. Wade. I am unalterably opposed to abortion as a birth-control method. …

Environment: We need to CONSERVE our environment. … [W]e ought to be doing all we can - without infringing on property rights, without crippling business - to ensure a healthy environment for our children, and for THEIR children. … I will not classify myself as an "environmentalist" … but I WILL go on record as being extremely concerned about conservation, and preservation. I am in favor of reducing, if not eliminating, dependence … on fossil fuels - and of developing naturally renewable energy sources. I am a proponent of nuclear (pronounced NU-klee-ar) power. I will seek to advance research and development of nuclear fusion, solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power.

Mr. Griffith also has things to say about “Executive and Judicial Cowboying,” Technology” and “Elections,” which the reader can peruse for herself. But to my eye, it is very difficult to see in anything offered by Mr. Griffith a movement towards anything Democratic. With some quibbles, the drift seems to be quite the opposite. For example, Mr. Griffith deplores the federal budget deficit - a position often taken by Democrats. But he is also clear that he would not support reducing that deficit by increasing taxes - only by reducing spending. In fact, he wants to eliminate the income tax completely. None of that seems to be a shift to the left from where the country is now, but rather to the right (if one forces things into a one-dimensional model).

According to the California Secretary of State, Mr. Bilbray enjoyed a margin of 3.87% over Ms. Busby, prior to accounting for late arriving absentee ballots. It is by no means clear that voters favoring Mr. King or Griffith would have voted for either of the main party candidates if the minority candidates hadn't been in the race.

But it also seems that those 5.2% of voters who favored minority candidates in the 50th District exercised their choice in favor of people having ideas and principles a good deal more akin to those of the Republicans than the Democrats. In other words, by a margin of 9.07% (pre-absentee ballots), the voters of the 50th District seem more unhappy with Democratic ideas and principles than they are with those of the Republicans. That seems significant in terms of viewing the 50th as a "bellwether" of the November elections, as the Democrats and mainstream media - and some others - have been insisting for months.

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