Political Parties Should Be So Last Year

25 September 2012

Recently I was sitting in an airport, waiting for a delayed flight, aimlessly watching people wandering about. Then I glanced up at the headline of the current interview on CNN Airport Edition. Usually they are mindless stories about puppies being saved or sound bites from the most recent political announcement. Today it was former Governor Jessie Ventura of Minnesota and they were interviewing him about voter education. But it wasn’t who they were interviewing or that there was nothing else to do that caught my attention, it was the headline. My Idea: Remove Political Parties from the Ticket.

Now you could take that headline 2043 different ways, and I am sure that is exactly why CNN wrote it that way. However, as I read the subtitles, the genius (and absolute absurdity) of this plan began to take form. Governor Ventura’s idea in the simplest form was to get rid of political party names from ballots. Simply have every person’s name and a tick box next to it. And what would this exactly do to the electorate? It would increase voter education.

Now many supporters of our political system would point out the absurdity of using this method. How it would lead to random third party candidates with ‘interesting’ names getting larger segments of the vote. They would lambast how a voter would have no idea which candidate to vote based on their values simply by looking at the ballot. Most would say that we already have one of the lowest voter turnouts of first world countries, and that this would cause more confusion and less turnout. In fact, every argument you can make against idea goes exactly towards the fact that the United States electorate is currently two blocks of mindless voters.

While register rolls are keep private, recent research shows that 59% of voters always vote straight ballot, or vote the same party for every position available on the ballot. While a percentage of voters would do this regardless of voter education, the swing voters (or ‘independents’) that actually decide the election are much less likely to do this. This method would not only require them to become more educated on the candidates, but since voters could not make last second decisions at the polls, most voters would actually have to become better educated.

There are lots of reasons this would lead to greater voter education. Candidates and special interest groups would begin to digress from trashing the opposing party (and trashing ones own party, see: Tea Party) and instead focusing more directly on the issues. Candidates would actually have to work on their own name recognition in association with their opinions and stances, rather than spending 80%+ of their ad revenue ripping someone else. Not only that, but I am pretty sure we would get back to an era of quippy campaigning slogans (I’m with Ike).

Additionally, in an era of Super PACs already having such a large influence on the election, how different would it be to treat political parties the same way. Is it really asking that much of a candidate to stand for their own values and opinions, rather than a platform they may not agree in full with. With the candidate not being labeled, it leaves the choice up to them to accept money from political parties and special interest groups, and be labeled as such.

Yes, there are other methods to increase voter education across the nation. The state of Colorado sends a ‘blue book’ to every address in the state that spells out every issue with a pro and con stance on each of them. Voter registration drives get more people involved in the political process. There are dozens of ways to get people more informed and out voting year after year, but something has to be done to change the stagnant, uninformed US electorate.

For once, the crazy interview on CNN actually made sense.

Also, don’t forget to register to vote!
Today was National Voter Registration Day http://nationalvoterregistrationday.org

Photo courtesy of the Times-Union.