On Voting the Party, Not the Person

image001 (6)

The Political Party conventions for 2016 are now history.   More people than ever before seem to be talking about them.

The Democrats had better orators than the Republicans.  Unfortunately, the American people don’t believe the “hope and change” thing anymore, so they probably didn’t believe a word the speakers said, however eloquent.  The speech writers obviously did not get the memo.

The Republicans have the edge on the “blow it all up” message.  That seems to be what people want to hear right now.  Unfortunately, the Republican nominee gets a little carried away with himself at times, and you have to be concerned about whether he’ll do it for real if he gets the nuclear launch codes.

Should qualifications matter?  In the real world they do, and how could anyone honestly say that Hillary Clinton is not “qualified” for the job of President?  But this is politics, so we hear about emails and chants of “criminal” instead of having an honest debate about any candidate’s resume.

It is all very confusing for people who don’t follow politics as closely as the readers of this column.  This time, maybe it is even confusing to some of us.

It is elections like this when it is good to be a party person.  For those of us who are unabashedly unashamed to admit that they vote for the party, not the person, this election is just spectacle and good theater.

In his speech to the Democratic National Convention, President Obama urged attendees to “vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.” His words echoed those of Harry S. Truman. During a campaign speech in the 1948 election when he famously stated:

“Now, it’s in your interest to see that that party which has the interest of the people at heart is in control of the Government. In order to get that done, on November 2d you should go to the polls and vote a straight Democratic ticket, and then you won’t have any trouble.”

Both Obama and Truman refer to voting a “straight party ticket,” where all of the candidates chosen are either Republicans or Democrats. Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, straight-ticket voting was the norm. In fact, voters would receive a colored ballot that included just their party’s nominees. Today, 16 states still allow voters to “vote straight-ticket Democrat” and “vote straight-ticket Republican” via a special ballot that casts a vote for all party candidates in all races where the party is fielding a candidate.

As many in New Jersey might joke, in places like Hudson County it is still that way.  Maybe in this election, it is good to be from Hudson County and vote the party, not the person.  Then just sit back, enjoy the show with a box of gummy bears and help your party.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.