I have sometimes been asked, “Why are you a Republican, if this particular Republican did this, that, and the other?” Or “How can you support President Bush if he did/said that, this, and some other?” It really doesn’t matter who the person is, or the subject, there are people who can bring up examples of actions or statements that they disagree with.

First, I don’t feel the need to explain what other people said, or justify their actions. I figure that it is an individual’s personal responsibility to clarify his or her own position. A coworker came up to me one morning gushing over a comment by Bill Bennett and wondering how I could believe something like that. I had to explain that I hadn’t heard it, so I couldn’t comment on something I knew nothing about. And then I explained that since I hadn’t said it, it wasn’t up to me to explain or justify it.

I also don’t like being pressured to justify or explain the words or actions of others when I may not agree with what they said or did. I support President Bush, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything on his agenda. I believe he understands the problem we face with terrorism, but I can’t agree with his public statements about our illegal immigration problem. And I think his No Child Left Behind plan for education would work only if all kids were cookie-cutter duplicates of some ideal norm.

If I were to wait for a candidate that I could support and agree with 100%, I’d never vote. There are people I love and admire, and there are people with whom I agree in many areas, but there is no one whom I agree with 100%. I love my wife, but she is flat wrong about some things. And she knows it. (Hey! I call B.S. –TPK) Heck, I don’t even agree with me all the time. As I look back over my life, I can see how my philosophical and moral ideas have changed.

This is one reason why I don’t often rush to judgment. I would much rather wait for more information to come out than jump headfirst into the initial news release. Sometimes this means my comments are not right on the cutting edge of current events, but I’d rather have some time to get as much information as possible and think on it, rather than basing my opinions on gut feeling. When it comes to politics, I’d rather think than feel.

Since there is no one I can agree with 100% of the time, this means I can’t vote or support anyone, right? Heck, no! I would rather vote for someone good enough than hold back my vote, waiting for the candidate that is just right. Although my political leanings are more Libertarian and strict Constitutionalist, I usually vote for Republican candidates. I realize that in nearly every race, the Libertarian or other third-party candidate doesn’t stand a chance of winning, and I’d rather put a Republican candidate in office than split the vote and get a Democrat sworn in. I know I’m more likely to agree with the Republican’s position and ideas than I will with the Democrat’s. And while I would be happiest with many Libertarians in office, I realize that their chance of being elected is very slim.

Basically, I’d rather settle for achieving something good politically, than wait for the perfect to come along.

If you have done any driving in a city, you have seen a bumper sticker on the car in front of you. I like driving behind the cars plastered with lots of stickers. With just a little bit of reading, you can figure out the driver’s stance on current events, politics, environment, religion and business. The following are eight bumper stickers I have seen in my current neck of the woods and my response to them.

I’m too poor to vote Republican

Ah, yes, the old “rich Republican” meme. But if you look at the major movers and shakers from the last election, you’d find billionaire George Soros leading the Democrat side and forking out $26 million to pull President Bush out of the Oval Office. That ain’t chump change from a minimum wage worker, folks. If you look at how much money was contributed to the two main parties, you’d see that the Republicans were successful in raising more money than their Democrat rivals. Well, no duh, Republican = rich, right? Actually, no. In a yearly report on the 50 richest people in Congress, Democrats average $55.6 million each, while Republicans come in at $34.8 million each. As for contributions, the top five contributors to the Republican party gave just slightly under $4 million total, while the top five for the Democrats totaled up more than $46 million combined. But the Democrats are the party of the little people. Yeah, right.

Kerry / Edwards

Look–they lost. When you drive around with a Kerry / Edwards sticker (or worse, a Gore / Lieberman sticker) you are proclaiming that you voted for the loser. And while Americans do like underdogs, we aren’t all that fond of losers. We can leave loving the world’s losers (and Jerry Lewis) to the French. It’s time for both the Bush and Kerry stickers to come off. Whether your candidate won or lost, at this point it’s time to recognize that we are all Americans. It’s time that we moveon.org past our differences.

Frodo has failed! Bush has the ring!

OK, this one is funny in a geeky sort of way. Doesn’t really make sense if you realize that President Bush has to fight for his plans, but it is still funny.

Power to the Peaceful

Peace is wonderful. Who doesn’t want peace? I have heard some people say that the military is a band of bloodthirsty warmongers, and they are always longing for war. Having grown up in the home of an Air Force fighter pilot, I can tell you that my dad certainly didn’t long for war, nor did any of the other servicemen and women I met. They knew very well just what their weapons would do to people and places. They trained for war so they could place themselves, as a certain old song puts it, “between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation.” They do this because they understand that peace has a price. A very strong, highly-trained military is the greatest instrument in the cause of peace that this nation will ever have. Certain people and nations will be quick to take away our peace if they view us as weak. So power to the peacemakers–the U.S. military!

No Violence / Know Peace

This is similar to the preceding bumper sticker in its misguided theme. We have peace here in the United States because we can threaten thugs with violence. We know that the September 11 plans were drawn up precisely because those thugs viewed the U.S. as weak. The peace we have enjoyed here in the States since that bright blue day in 2001 has been purchased with blood shed by the members of the American armed forces.

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

This one has been around for a long time. The Constitution gives the Federal government the responsibility for national defense, but it does not grant any responsibility for education. The 9th and 10th Amendments mean that education is the responsibility of the people and the individual States, but that hasn’t stopped the Federal government from appropriating this power to itself. But regardless of whether this is a role of the Federal government, there is an unasked question: at what dollar amount would a school be “fully funded”? At this point, Washington D.C. spends in the top three of the nation with over $11,000 per student in K-12, but its graduation rate is in the bottom third. Obviously, just throwing more money at the problem isn’t the solution. Jim Quinn has suggested a way of ending this “fully funded” myth: find out what the States say they need per student to be “fully funded,” and give them that amount for the next five years. If the resulting test scores, graduations, and overall numbers don’t show a massive increase, then the problem isn’t money–it is the way that money is administered.

Think. It’s patriotic.

The unspoken part of this statement is that if you don’t agree with the driver’s mode of thought, you have obviously failed to think. It may come as a shock for some people to realize that an intelligent person can look at exactly the same raw data as they did, and come to a completely different conclusion. I do agree that being thoughtful and engaged in current events makes one a better American, but I’m guessing that’s not what the owner of this bumper sticker meant. I read this as, “Think as I do. It’s patriotic.”

Celebrate Diversity

I would guess that diversity is one of the top three rallying cries of the Marxist Left. The problem is that they never bother to explain what they mean by “diversity.” As I see it, liberals want diversity of skin, gender, and methods by which Tab A can be fit into Slot B, but they don’t support diversity of thought. If the Left lumps you into a particular group, you had better think and speak the way the liberals think you should. This is why the Marxist Left will call people like Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” and Secretary Condoleezza Rice an “Oreo.” I found a great example of the liberal notion of celebrating diversity over at the Coyote Blog.

Fortunately, hat tip to James Taranto, the diversity term is clarified on the web site of an Oregon lodge. The page begins:

WE WELCOME DIVERSITY
Respecting the interdependence & diversity of all life.

Helpfully, they clarify what they mean by diversity a bit down the page:

No Smokers…No Pets…No Visitors…No Hummers, No RVs, No Bush Voters (due to his environmental destructive policies.)

Oh, and in the spirit of good customer service: no refunds for cancellations.

Since the Ocean Haven webpage and its strangled view of diversity was passed around and snickered at by numerous people on the Internet and talk shows, the website was updated last week. It now says that Ocean Haven respects the “diversity of all nature loving species.” The text about No Bush Voters is missing, but dislike of automobile diversity is still present.

Yep, that’s diversity for you. And this is the level of logical thinking you get when you resort to bumper sticker politics.

Last time I wrote about countries with single or multiple political parties. The American political system, however, is geared toward two major political parties.

George Washington decried political parties, but even before he left office, two parties had formed. To the right, I have outlined how the two major parties have shifted over the years. The first two to form were the Democrat-Republicans, centered around Thomas Jefferson, and the Federalists, centered around John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. Other than the election of John Adams after Washington, the Federalists failed to elect another president from their party. By the 1820s the Federalists had atrophied and disappeared. In fact, all four candidates for president in 1824 were Democrat-Republicans. The Democrat-Republican name was awkward and often shortened to either Democrat or Republican. At the time, the name Democrat brought to mind the mob rule of revolutionary France; it was sometimes used by the Federalists in a derogatory manner. Since the Constitution guarantees a republican form of government, this term was a neutral and vague title, and was generally preferred for use by the party. However, after his election in 1824, Andrew Jackson officially shortened the name of the party to Democrat. At this time, the remaining Federalists and the Democrats who opposed Andrew Jackson banded together to form the Whig party. The Whigs were strongest from 1824 to 1856, and they succeeded in electing four presidents during that time: William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore.

The modern Republican party was formed in 1856 with a strong anti-slavery plank, and John Frémont, the first Republican candidate for president, ran on the platform of “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Frémont.” This party incorporated many former Whigs, and as the Republican party ascended, the Whig party ceased to exist. With the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to be elected president. Since this time, the American presidency has passed between the Democrat and Republican parties. There have been numerous third-party candidates, mostly formed around a specific person (the “Bull Moose” party around Theodore Roosevelt, the Reform party around Ross Perot) or an idea or philosophy (Anti-Masonic, Free Soil, Greenback, Socialist), but none of these parties has succeeded in electing a candidate to the presidency or generating long-term support.

The American system works best with two large political parties. This is caused by ballot laws that promote the major parties, but also by the “winner-take-all” method of votes. Basically, winner-take-all means that in an election for a position like mayor, the candidate with the most votes will “take all” — being elected to the mayorship, while the rest get to make concession speeches. This is known as “Single-Member District Plurality” in political science, but other than poli-sci majors and Jeopardy contestants, who really cares? OK, I like Jeopardy, so here’s a great Final Jeopardy answer: “This principle asserts that a winner-take-all election system naturally leads to a two-party system.” If you said, “What is Duverger’s Law?”, you should look at competing against current Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings.

People have made a big deal over Vice President Al Gore getting more votes than President George W. Bush in the 2000 election, but Americans do not elect their president based on the popular vote. The Founding Fathers of the United States were hesitant to create a true democracy, where the majority vote wins, since they knew that system is inherently unstable. Once a democracy learns it can vote itself goodies from the public coffers, the people quickly vote themselves into bankruptcy. It is also susceptible to the tyranny of the majority, where the rights of the few are trampled by the mob.

Rather than the popular vote, the president is chosen by the Electoral College. The individuals in a state are not really voting for a president; they are voting for an Elector who will then vote for the candidate. Each state has the same number of Electors as it has people in Congress. So Wyoming has three Electors for its one Representative and two Senators, while California has 55 for its 53 Representatives and two Senators. In our “winner-take-all” system, the political party whose candidate gathers the most votes gets to select all the Electors for that state, except in Maine and Nebraska where the winner gets two votes (for the Senators) and the rest of the votes are distributed according to the winner of each congressional district. Confused? You can read all the trivia and history about this that your poor eyes can stand at the Electoral College’s website.

With the closely-contested election of 2000, and in pretty much every election cycle, people have discussed getting rid of the Electoral College and shifting to a nationwide election for president based on the majority of votes. While we now have the technology to do this, I believe it isn’t a good idea. First, it would require changing the Constitution, an act not easily achieved. Second, it would negatively affect states with smaller populations. Let’s pick on Wyoming with its sparse population to illustrate this. In our current system, Wyoming’s 3 electoral votes out of 538 is more than three times the percentage of Wyoming’s population divided by America’s population. In an election determined by popular vote, the candidates would only need to campaign in the most populous states and kiss off the smaller ones. But since the president represents all Americans, it’s a good idea to all states from populous California down to meager Wyoming.

Since 270 electoral votes or more are necessary to elect a president, it is critical that a presidential hopeful have the greatest number of votes in each state. In our two-party system, the voters may chose to elect either a Democrat or a Republican for president. A commonly seen corollary of Duverger’s law (and you thought I wouldn’t bring it up again) is the spoiler effect of a third-party candidate, effectively siphoning votes away from one of the two leading candidates. You could make the argument that Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential run pulled enough votes away from George Bush to push Bill Clinton into the lead. This was definitely the case in the 1912 election. Theodore Roosevelt pulled enough Republican voters away to his “Bull Moose” party (officially called the Progressive party) that Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected. You can spend some time (as I did) at Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections site and look at elections such as 1884, 1888, and 1892 when third-party candidates had more votes than the difference between the first two candidates. Had these third-party candidates not run, the numbers had pulled could have thrown the election either way.

My wife asked if there had ever been a third party that managed to get a president elected. In a word, no, and for a tautologous reason: once a third party succeeds in placing one of its candidates in the presidency, it has become a majority party. This last happened 144 years ago when the then four-year-old Republican party succeeded in putting Abraham Lincoln into the White House.