Friday, July 20, 2007

Opinion: Voting patterns do not change randomly


Politics is not an easy thing to speculate about in Northern Monmouth County, among other places. Once a predominantly Republican area, Northern Monmouth is today seeing a shift in voting patterns that cannot be boiled down to a few arguments between individuals in partisan camps. Once-Republican strongholds like Matawan, Keyport and Hazlet have seen large increases in Democratic voting patterns, which eventually led to those communities having a new party with a majority of seats on the governing bodies there. Meanwhile, all of the towns in the Bayshore have traditions of strong Democratic representations.

There are bloggers and political people who will offer that spats between a few individuals within certain parties may have something to do with this shift at this time. I strongly disagree with the motivation for fundamental change and offer that the personalities involved on the inside of these parties offer little, if anything, of substance about the generalized movement of voters away from a one-party system of representation in this county, and in this area.

Anyone who believes what they write as opinion has the weight to sway even one informed person is thinking a bit much of themselves. Nationally and locally, the Republican Party has struggled at times. This is widely perceived as one of those times. At alternate times, the Democratic Party has struggled. It is the nature of democracy: Two opposing parties, acting in an adversarial way to ensure another system of check and/or balance.

Whenever things are not going well for any party, Democrats included, the inclination is to 'find blame.' So devout Democrats fume at certain public figures and publications when they are upset with the status quo and Republicans do the same. It is the way of the world, on every level of political life.

But Rush Limbaugh did not get George W. Bush elected, as much as he'd like to think he did. Meanwhile, Air America did not get Hillary Clinton elected as a United States senator in New York. In fact, most newspapers have given up the practice of offering endorsements of candidates because there is good research showing that newspapers cannot change anyone's mind about anything. Editorials serve to reinforce the existing ideas of some and offer dissenting ideas to others. Anyone who has made their mind up about any issue is likely to remain wherever they first arrived.

So what does change peoples' minds? I suggest it has something to do with their tax bill, their garbage getting picked up, the police and fire departments in their towns, perhaps the trend of the national dominant parties, or maybe it's all just the luck of the draw.

My opinion is that people vote for government that intrudes least, costs less and encourages commerce. In the Bayshore, home to a diverse group of middle- to upper-class families with a broad range of educational and vocational experiences, I think it is a bit much for anyone to put too much stock in any paper (let alone weeklies) to make much of a dent given the media carpet bombing every Bayshore resident receives daily as they wake up and trek to work.

If I were a Republican looking for why the GOP is more challenged this year than in those past, I might look to...the Republican Party and its elected and appointed people and how well or not these folks are: keeping taxes down, getting the garbage picked up, clearing the roads of snow, keeping out of peoples' lives, encouraging business and assisting police professionals and fire volunteers in protecting our communities. These things and not talking heads are what motivate voters.

What could Republican office holders do to secure their positions more comfortably in Northern Monmouth? Their jobs are great places to start, I think. The way it generally works is that if some party isn't doing something or a series of 'somethings,' then people can vote for the other party, to send a signal and to get desired public actions to happen. That is sort of the point of democracy. I think some people sell voters short. Political office is not an inherited right of kingship in the United States, it is a stewardship with serious responsibilities.

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