Politics is not very scientific – except, perhaps, in polling methodology. What is scientific about glad-handing one’s way along a rope line or eating whatever is shoved in one’s face with a smile for the camera? Politics is more of an art form or social experiment than scientific study.
There are fashions in politics, too. For example: strict party discipline has been in fashion since the second George W. Bush administration when Republicans began to apply so-called “litmus tests” for party “purity” to nominate their candidates. After President Obama’s election they enforced party discipline so strictly in Congress that no compromise on legislation has been possible. Voters, both Democratic and Republican, have been encouraged to vote straight party tickets in all elections.
Like all fashions, though, this one will change. And, like a connoisseur of fine art, you can be ready for the change. First of all, splitting your ticket isn't sinful, OK? Here are three excellent reasons to split a ticket:
1. You support an Independent, write-in, or third-party candidate for president: Normally, candidates for President of the United States get all the media attention but there are always down-ballot races that have much more direct bearing upon your life as you live it in your locality than the presidency ever will. Third-party presidential candidates do not, as a rule, field a complete slate of gubernatorial, senatorial, congressional, state legislative, city council, school board, county sheriff, and other local candidates. They simply do not have either the funds or the party organizations to do so. Therefore, splitting your ticket to vote for your favorite presidential candidate and to also do justice to all the down-ballot contests, is imperative.
2. Neighborhood solidarity for a significant local issue or candidate: Does every household on your street – regardless of whether they vote Democratic or Republican for president – support the same candidate for mayor of your town because, for example, you all want new streetlights and that candidate made streetlights an issue in the race? Is your next-door neighbor running for county sheriff? Of course you’re going to split your ticket to support these causes! All politics is local and it doesn't get any more local than dealing with the issues in your own back yard. Shades of Tip O’Neill!
3. Major party housecleaning in down-ballot offices: If the polls are indeed predictive then this is about to happen in North Carolina in November. The 2010 midterm elections swept a Republican majority into both houses of the State Assembly which proceeded to follow the ALEC/Tea Party template for severe budget cuts to state employees’ jobs and Planned Parenthood; institution of voter ID requirements; further abortion restrictions; as well as the notorious Amendment 1. Nearly all incumbents will face Democratic challengers vetted by Lilian’s List (see Part 1). Republican voters who will, without a doubt, cast their presidential votes for Mitt Romney may no longer support these radical incumbent state legislators.
Political outcomes are always a work-in-progress.