Monday, April 19, 2010

Will Heath Care Really Doom Kissell and Shuler?

There's a story in the Washington Post about the 55,000 member State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) labor union taking their vengence out on U.S. Representatives Larry Kissell and Health Shuler, along with Mike McIntrye, by running candidates to the "left" in November's general election.

Putting aside the fact that the SEANC has to gain enough signatures to put their "new party" (North Carolina First) on the November ballot, they may have also missed some important polls in the 8th and 11th congressional districts that point to the fact that most constituents in those districts don't like the healthcare reform bill, and that Kissell and Shuler at least were voting their constituents' desires.

Looking at a poll from PPP in Raleigh from January, 52% of the voters in the 8th Congressional district were opposed to the Democratic health bill, with only 35% in favor. Granted, this was in January and the final vote was taken in March, but not much could have changed to make that big of a swing in support for the bill in this conservative district. Kissell's overall approval rating of 45% at that time was fairly good, along with 53% saying that they would vote for Kissell over "his Republican candidate," considering that the same poll found only 40% approved of the job Democrats were doing in Congress.

In a March poll, PPP found that in Health Shuler's district, 53% said they were opposed to the health care reform bill, with only 35% in favor. So if SEANC is so adament against Schuler and Kissell for voting the way their constituents want them to, how does SEANC think they will win an election in those districts? Which leads me to ask...

Will "NC First" be the "Tea Party" of the left? If so, they have some early lessons to learn. The key rule of American electoral politics is "first past the post"; meaning, that if you get one more vote than the person who came in second, you win (with or without a majority vote plus one). Both political parties seem to be suffering from the "you're not pure enough" syndrome, meaning that those on the wings of the party (Tea Party on the right, SEANC on the left) aren't happy when elected officials play to the middle (or worse, to their district's political leanings).

Of course, if the wings of the parties get their way, they will only create the "spoiler effect" of American parties: third-parties generally spoil the win for the candidate they are closest to politically/ideological, and help elect the person they don't want to win. Take, for example, Florida in 2000: not the "hanging chad" insanity, but the fact that Ralph Nader was on the ballot and took 90,000 votes that possibly could have gone to Al Gore. If Nader wasn't on the ballot, would we have had to deal with the Florida fiasco? Probably not, but the spoiler effect was alive and well.

So we have an electorate where the wings of both parties aren't happy, and the middle independents aren't happy--my question, is there ANYBODY out there happy in electoral-land? Well, besides us political junkies.