I voted last week, and I already regret it


Collin Peterson does not belong in the Democratic party.

I made a mistake in my ballot, and I can’t correct it. I mailed it in last week. I voted Democratic party across the board, and I came to Collin Peterson’s name (our conservative DFL representative, who is anti-choice and anti-conservation), and I hesitated — I generally don’t vote at all for that guy because he’s a regressive dinosaur. But then I thought, maybe this one time, because we have to crush the Republican party. And then I thought of all the laughable attack ads the Republicans made against him, painting him as hippy-dippy liberal who votes with Nancy Pelosi 4 out of 5 times, and … I moved my pen and blacked out the spot next to his name. I felt bad about it. But I felt worse about his Republican challenger.

Then I read this account of an encounter with Collin Peterson.

“Do you have any comment as to why you defended Ilhan Omar?” an employee with the National Republican Congressional Committee asked Peterson on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

“I don’t defend her. She doesn’t belong in our party,” the 16-term lawmaker responded.

When asked to clarify himself, a COVID-19-masked Peterson repeated, “She doesn’t belong in our party,” as he walked away.

I will have Collin Peterson know that an archaic toad who panders to the right-wing jerks that populate rural Minnesota and has spent his entire long career walking the line to avoid offending conservatives doesn’t belong in my Democratic party, while a Muslim woman who promotes progressive ideas and aligns herself with forward-thinking colleagues does. I won’t ever make the mistake of voting for him again. I feel like I voted for a Republican last week, and it leaves me feeling tainted.

Comments

  1. says

    Primary him next time around, unless a promising young candidate does so. You have a platform (actually, both a policy platform and a communications platform), experience raising money, some community name recognition, and the ability to build more. It’s a terrible thing to wish on you, but we’d all feel a bit better about our country with Representative Myers taking over his congressional district.

  2. Ewan McNay says

    And yet: I still agree with your choice. As Robert notes above: the time for anti-Peterson action is in the primary.

  3. PaulBC says

    Wow. I believe in voting strategically, but I would have a strong urge to abstain for an asshole like that. That’s a tough call. I suppose I would still vote for him assuming (most likely) the alternative is much worse. What if the Republican alternative was not a bigot but might otherwise be expected to vote with the GOP (e.g. on irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthy)? The choice could get harder. When I vote for someone, it does not mean I vouch for them personally. It means I have a preferred outcome in aggregate. So the straight party vote still makes sense.

    Peterson is the one who does not belong in the Democratic party. At the very least, a Democrat should respect the will of the voter.

  4. PaulBC says

    In California, the primary system results in the top two candidates running against each other independent of party. So on the House election, I’m faced with a choice between incumbent Anna Eshoo and challenger Rishi Kumar, both Democrats. I like those odds! Still, I am not sure who to vote for. I might go with Kumar, though I expect Eshoo to win anyway. I have never had a problem with her, and she’s been responsive to me as a constituent.

  5. says

    Hah. The one time I mentioned my willingness to run for school board at my local DFL meeting, I wish I had my camera ready to record the horrified looks on everyone’s faces. It was hilarious, if a little bit humiliating, too.

  6. says

    That’s a vulnerability in the two party system: they care for headcount and power not principles – so you can be a “democrat” while being a regressive troglodyte – so long as you represent a semi-reliable “seat.”

    I’ve been waiting for years for someone to exploit this. For example, what if a bunch of people defected to the other party with the intent of gathering intelligence and eventually monkeywrenching them at a crucial time? What’s creepy is that the only thing that keeps that from happening is the individual members’ love of power. None of them would step out of the limelight to go covert because it would be bad for their careers.

    Right after the election, the republicans could have a load of “defections” that are basically a bunch of Susan Collinses and the dems would accept them because they look like “seats”… if the republicans were smart they would do a fake “split” into a fake 3rd party and use the “split” to dominate the news cycle by spouting regressive versus ultra-regressive talking points, leaving the democrats (who are hardly progressive) upstaged.

  7. fossboxer says

    You took the only option you had. Nothing disgraceful about that.

    Myself, I’ve become so stoic, nothing shakes me up anymore. I still vote for the lesser evil whenever I can, but the US is doomed and I refuse to waste anymore emotional energy on the inevitable. Stupidity and ignorance have become the pandemic coronavirus can only dream of.

  8. PaulBC says

    @7 I think it requires more coordination than could possibly be accomplished covertly. And a single covert defector would be nearly useless after a few votes that made it clear they were voting with the opposing party. You’d need them all to believe the races were mostly going to turn out the way they planned.

    Both parties side with their donors more than their constituents, and apparently individual members of congress, regardless of party, believe that their constituents are more conservative than they actually are (I don’t have references handy but it’s not hard to find). That suggests that some kind of open mobilization of voters would have the potential to reshape the US government without the need for any skullduggery. But apparently this doesn’t happen either. I think the explanation is just that it is really hard to get a group of people to act in concert in their own interest.

  9. kome says

    The time to not vote for a shithead conservative is every single time you have the opportunity to not vote for a shithead conservative. Relegating that to just the primary, and then falling in line and treating politics in general elections like a team sport, is how we get shithead conservatives in elected offices. Why the heck is this so hard to understand?

    An anti-choice, anti-conservation Democrat who doesn’t defend progressives is indistinguishable from an anti-choice, anti-conservation Republican who doesn’t defend progressives. You didn’t vote for a Republican, you voted for a Democrat. And that’s the problem. The problem is that Democrats can win on the conservative Republican platform because so many people approach politics with a tribal mentality and don’t vote for any of their values other than “I want my team to win / I want the other team to lose.” Democrats will not accept and fight for progressive values if they can win by fighting against progressive values.

  10. mnb0 says

    “I feel like I voted for a Republican last week, and it leaves me feeling tainted.”
    Good to learn that you buy my argument that voting for X just because you don’t want Y is not a good enough reason (some of your regular commenters still think so; I must assume once again that they would vote for Göring to keep Hitler out). Apparently you draw your line further to the right than I do. Your answer to this is simple – for me as a non-American it’s much easer than for you.
    “Disgraceful” is one of the typical signal words used in the comments of some of those so-called strategic voters (at all cost). They never specify at which point it actually becomes disgraceful. Hence my assumption.
    For them I repeat: voting for a sucker just to keep out someone who sucks even more legitimizes a corrupt political system, designed to benefit the happy few and avoid any subtantial change. Voting for Peterson seems (I don’t know the guy) to qualify. The question whether it’s disgraceful to vote for him doesn’t matter; what matters is the question if there is any positive reason – if we can expect to do something to make the world a little better.
    Regarding JoeB I’ve found thus far – and only recently – just one. The people in Northern Ireland/Ulster will be grateful for every vote for JoeB.

  11. PaulBC says

    I don’t vote to endorse or moralize. I vote to very very slightly increase the probability of my preferred outcome. Assume there are two candidates, one bad, one absolutely terrible (forget about parties). (And no third party choice, realistic or otherwise.)

    In a case where it’s a close election, there is no doubt in my mind that I will go ahead and vote for the bad candidate over the terrible one.

    Suppose I conclude it’s a “safe” election, so the bad one will almost certainly win over the terrible one no matter what I do. I have heard people say that they abstain in this case and feel better about themselves for doing it. But the fact that I think it “safe” suggests that I still prefer the outcome where the bad candidate wins. All I have done is cede any control over that situation by sitting out the vote.

    We are all entitled to vote as we see fit, so abstain if that’s what you want in a case like that. I just don’t see how it’s a morally superior choice. You’re still relying on other voters to elect the bad candidate, and if the terrible one wins, you are still disappointed in the result.

    I think it does make sense to make sure the bad candidate understands their need to earn your support as a constituent. So, no matter how you vote, you should be sending constituent letters expressing your dissatisfaction, making demands, threatening to vote 3rd party or for the opponent (whether you really will or not). And obviously, the primary process is useful as well.

    To be clear, I don’t think anyone is “right” or “wrong” morally based on their free choice to exercise the right to vote. But if you’re going to make distinctions, I do not see how sitting out a “safe” election is in any way superior to voting for the “bad” candidate.

    Caveats: if you’re a legislator with a public vote, then an abstention sends a message and potentially has an effect. In an ordinary election, maybe some kind of concerted effort to make sure the bad candidate wins only by a hair would be enough to send a message and scare them a little. So I can see that hypothetically, but I have rarely seen the case arise in practice.

  12. PaulBC says

    I must assume once again that they would vote for Göring to keep Hitler out

    It doesn’t seem like a fair comparison, because Göring could ultimately result in a worse outcome. Something like voting to restore the Kaiser and end the death camps but roll back to 19th century-level anti-semitism would be a better comparison. if that was the ballot choice and no others, I suppose I’d have to vote that way.

  13. kome says

    I vote to very very slightly increase the probability of my preferred outcome.

    How’s that working out for you?

    Actually, let me take that question back and ask a different one: How is that working out for women’s rights, refugees legally seeking asylum, or poor people trying to survive?

    Assuming you actually care about any of those issues or groups of people (and aren’t just engaging in some performative morality play), it might be time to rethink your approach to politics.

  14. PaulBC says

    kome@10 Do you get that my (almost always) straight Democratic vote has absolutely nothing to do with my “team” winning but is just an assessment of how very little power I have over the outcome?

    And Republicans are far more likely to vote by “team”. Do you realize how effective this strategy is? Maybe if we all got a little dumber and conformist about our votes, we would gain the leverage to do more than gripe.

    What I also find ironic is that the entire principle of a labor union is that groups of relatively powerless people can gain that power through collective bargaining. This is impossible if we all go by individual preferences. Solidarity, you know. The damaging myth of rugged individualism is just as effective in dividing up the left as it is in keeping workers fighting against each other.

  15. PaulBC says

    @14

    How’s that working out for you?

    It worked pretty well in 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. Certainly a lot better than the alternative. How’s yours working out?

  16. consciousness razor says

    But then I thought, maybe this one time, because we have to crush the Republican party. And then I thought of all the laughable attack ads the Republicans made against him, painting him as hippy-dippy liberal who votes with Nancy Pelosi 4 out of 5 times, and … I moved my pen and blacked out the spot next to his name. I felt bad about it. But I felt worse about his Republican challenger.

    I know you say you’re regretting it, but the thought process here is pretty mysterious…. What precisely did you think was supposed to be worse about Michelle Fischbach?

    Just going through his wikipedia page here…. He’s a conservative wingnut when it comes to all sorts of shit: gay marriage, healthcare, guns, abortion, stem cell research, physician assisted suicide, “flag desecration,” the death penalty, the border wall, the Violence Against Women Act, environmental regulations, supporting “FairTax”, no to Obama’s 2009 stimulus/recovery bill and Bush’s Medicare bill and Obamacare (all of them inadequate but better than nothing), subsidies for agricultural giants rather than small farmers, denying habeas corpus to “enemy combatants,” no on the Price Gouging Prevention Act, no on the hate crimes prevention act, no on climate change mitigation, yes on selling arms to Saudi Arabia and their/our intervention in Yemen (which bizarrely had something to do with a farm bill), no on impeaching Trump, no on D.C statehood.

    So I just look at all that, knowing there’s almost certainly more where that came from, and I have to wonder what kind of nightmarish hellscape you had imagined Michelle Fischbach would bring upon us. It’s got to be worse somehow if your assessment was correct, but it’s hard to say how you might have arrived at that conclusion. I don’t think voting for people like him is a way to “crush the Republican party.” What it does is give conservative assholes power in both major parties. At least if they were confined to one party, they could be opposed by the other. But not like this.

    Peterson’s had the chance since nineteen fucking seventy-seven to show that he could make things better, but almost every single time he’s wanted to make things worse. Doesn’t that mean anything? He doesn’t support most of the things you seem to want, and the same seems to be true of Fischbach. Like you thought initially, there just isn’t anyone to root for in that fight.

    Then I read this account of an encounter with Collin Peterson.

    Frankly, this is a pretty weird story you’re telling. I like Omar, but if almost everything about his record hadn’t convinced you, then I don’t know what to say….. Maybe you weren’t paying enough attention earlier? It’s hard to imagine you were ready to put all of it to the side, until you heard that he said something dumb about a single person. Seriously, those are just words. But I guess one thing you could look forward to, if Fischbach wins, is that she probably wouldn’t have much to say about who belongs in the other corporatist party.

  17. PaulBC says

    @14

    Actually, let me take that question back and ask a different one: How is that working out for women’s rights, refugees legally seeking asylum, or poor people trying to survive?

    To keep it concrete, Hillary Clinton would have been significantly better than Trump on all of those issues. Definitely women’s rights, definitely nearly anything connected to immigration, and marginally on anything connected to the social safety net. She’d be a wash on “foreign policy”, that is, the ability of the US to kill people around the world with impunity. But the fact that Trump hasn’t started a major war is as much due to chance and personal vanity as anything predictable.

    Barack Obama was clearly preferable McCain or Romney. While I know that progressives are quick to tutor me on what a feckless “neolib” Obama is, landmark changes in culture such as a gay marriage happened under his tenure, and it is very likely that a Republican administration would have found ways to push back. He also managed to add Kagan and Sotomayor to SCOTUS, which no Republican would have. After 2010 (and mostly due to unforced errors) his power was reduced to figurehead but at least it was better than the alternative.

    Bill Clinton, don’t get me started. However, I still don’t regret voting for him.

    (And needless to say, this is just about presidential races.)

  18. PaulBC says

    kome@14 And I was pretty explicit above, so I think it is safe to ask again: How is your voting strategy working out for you?

    That’s not a rhetorical question. I’d like to hear.

  19. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    What I also find ironic is that the entire principle of a labor union is that groups of relatively powerless people can gain that power through collective bargaining. This is impossible if we all go by individual preferences. Solidarity, you know. The damaging myth of rugged individualism is just as effective in dividing up the left as it is in keeping workers fighting against each other.

    LOL, the left isn’t split on people like Peterson, because being a politician in the Democratic party doesn’t make one a leftist. This tendentious connection you’re making with “rugged individualism” is weird enough — the dude’s a personification of that bootlicking nonsense — but then you also ask this non-rhetorical question: “How is your voting strategy working out for you?”

    Your own premise is that we are basically powerless and need to stand together, so it makes little sense to ask this. And that has to mean standing with each other, not standing with the party establishment to give them the old fuckwit they wanted in the position. You’re the one who needs to move in our direction for this to work; there’s no good reason to believe we should go in yours.

  20. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@17 You make a strong case in this specific instance. I have never personally been faced with a choice quite this bad.

  21. PaulBC says

    And that has to mean standing with each other, not standing with the party establishment to give them the old fuckwit they wanted in the position.

    How do you propose to coordinate group action without some form of centralized messaging?

    Anyway, we have been through this before. We should probably just skip today and roll the tape.

  22. PaulBC says

    CR@17

    Obama’s 2009 stimulus/recovery bill and Bush’s Medicare bill and Obamacare (all of them inadequate but better than nothing)

    BTW, I agree strongly with your parenthetical comment, but I’d have a hell of a time getting my Bernie or Bust sister-in-law to concede this.

  23. kome says

    To keep it concrete, Hillary Clinton would have been significantly better than Trump on all of those issues.

    I didn’t ask how your political strategy would work out if it worked the way you hoped it would, I asked how it actually is working out. Clinton didn’t win, so your strategy of gaslighting and attacking progressives and bowing down and wagging your tail for corporate DNC shills who kowtow to the prejudices of conservatism doesn’t really seem to have made anyone’s lives better in those areas, only worse.

    If you can’t even answer the question posed to you, you’re not worth having a discussion with. You don’t come to these conversations in good faith. You never have, either.

  24. PaulBC says

    kome@24 (a) How is yours working out? (b) It came close to working in 2016. It worked a lot better in the elections I listed. I don’t expect it to work every single time.

    BTW, all other things equal, I would have preferred a different candidate to Hillary Clinton, but it was still pretty obvious who I was going to vote for in the general election. (I did vote for her in the CA primary as well, though I voted for Sanders in 2020.)

  25. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    How do you propose to coordinate group action without some form of centralized messaging?

    I haven’t said a word against “centralized messaging,” and I have no clue why I would take that kind of position, whatever that’s supposed to entail. Do you think I should be against it, and if so, why?

  26. PaulBC says

    If you can’t even answer the question posed to you, you’re not worth having a discussion with.

    In @16 I wrote

    It worked pretty well in 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. Certainly a lot better than the alternative.

    How is that not an answer? In 2000, I voted for Al Gore (who I actually appreciate a lot more now than I did then). You can say that my strategy did not “work out” (it was pretty close), but how about the Nader voters? Did their strategy work out? I cannot see any conceivable interpretation in which it did (unless you uncharitably see them as intentional spoilers).

    My “dumb” strategy of a lever welded to one spot is clearly not always effective, but the strategy of moving votes around to the next big progressive champion who will finally work out this one time seems if anything much less effective.

  27. PaulBC says

    CR@26

    Do you think I should be against it, and if so, why?

    No, I don’t, and obviously progressive campaigns also have centralized messages. But I am still going to try and figure out which herd looks bigger before casting my vote. In my experience, the establishment party usually coordinates the activity of a larger herd and is therefore more likely to win.

  28. PaulBC says

    A couple of points here. First, I am not telling anyone else how to vote. I like explaining how I vote and maybe that’s a personal failing of mine that I indulge in this. I think votes should be as dispassionate as investments: stick to a strategy and don’t make rash changes. You can certainly “game” my behavior if I’m tied to a party that no longer represents what I thought it did. But you can also game me just my trying to appeal personal charm or promises of some new, previously unrealized vision. I do not really trust my judgment over candidates that much more than I trust my judgment over investments. Unfortunately, the idea of diversifying doesn’t work, so I’m often stuck with a really bad decision. On the other hand, the differences tend to be clear enough that there is almost never much thought that needs to go into it, and virtually no regret that the candidate I voted against would be any better.

  29. methuseus says

    I’m really curious what people think PZ should have done in this case? I think either voting for the bad D or abstaining are both acceptable choices. The D is going to vote for progressive bills more often than the R is. Yes, even a regressive D like him.

    The big problem is when abstaining will cause the worse outcome, like GW Bush or Trump. In the general election is it really better to abstain or core third party when that could cause the worse outcome?

    If you’re trying to get enough people to vote third party so that they’re a viable option, then say that. Don’t say, “you’re horrible for voting for the lesser of two evils.”

    Five me a concrete reason to vote for Nader or Stein or whoever is the green candidate this year. Otherwise shut up. Negging doesn’t work well in romance, and it works even worse in political discourse. Tell me who to vote for and why, or tell me to abstain and why. Don’t call me stupid or misguided or whatever other shitty negative thing you prefer.

    Also, the people here are a pretty small voting Bloc. You have to convince the people who don’t pay attention to political discourse and vote for Trump because he was on the apprentice (lots of people) or Biden because he had a kind face (yes, even with his creepy hair sniffing thing). If they won’t vote third party, third parties will never get even 5% of the vote.

  30. consciousness razor says

    It worked pretty well in 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. Certainly a lot better than the alternative.

    What you’re apparently thinking of, when you express this certainty, is one election at a time, one candidate versus one other candidate. Two personalities, one better and one worse, removed from all context. Bad guys who should lose: Bush, Dole, McCain, Romney.

    What I guess you don’t think about is the damage this has done over nearly 30 years (and for all we know, maybe 30 more) to the left or to working class people or to the party’s credibility when it claims to represent us. I’m nowhere near certain about that.

    (Really, we should probably say it’s more than 30…. The party could’ve nominated Jessie Jackson in 1988, but of course it didn’t. Thanks but no thanks, Dukakis, Gore, Gephardt, et al.)

    You can say that my strategy did not “work out” (it was pretty close), but how about the Nader voters? Did their strategy work out? I cannot see any conceivable interpretation in which it did (unless you uncharitably see them as intentional spoilers).

    What “spoiled” it is the fact that we used the electoral college at all and the fact that the Supreme Court gave it to Bush.

    By the way, where is all of their support for abolishing the electoral college or for passing the national popular vote interstate compact? I can see excuses and finger-pointing, but nobody’s making a big deal out of it. Same thing with statehood for D.C., Puerto Rico, and our other “territories.” Why is that?

    Some analysis stated that Nader acted as a third-party spoiler[5][6][7][8] in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, while some statistics showed that the numbers of Democrats who voted Republican outweighed those who voted Green,[9][10][11] and Nader himself disputed the claim of being a spoiler.[12][13][14]

    Even if you preferred him, as I did, you have to realize Gore wasn’t a strong candidate. Somebody like Bush should never have had a chance. This is the Democratic party’s fault, not nonvoters or Greens or anybody else.

  31. consciousness razor says

    In my experience, the establishment party usually coordinates the activity of a larger herd and is therefore more likely to win.

    So you should follow polls to see whether the Democrat or the Republican seems to be doing better, then just bet on the winning horse. The content of each one’s “message” has nothing to do with it. It really sounds like you want to be the one controlling the herd, not for anyone to care about the perspective of the livestock, and that will be done by one or the other of the parties. What are we supposed to say when you “win” some of these “elections” … congratulations?

  32. PaulBC says

    CR@31 I’m all for reforming the Democratic party and abolishing the electoral college.

    I did not think 2016 was the right year to try, however. I thought it was the year for holding on by the skin of our teeth. This year is very different. I think on the one hand the stakes are even higher because an empowered Trump (or Trump-McConnell junta or Pence-McConnell junta) will take us straight into uncharted territory (the “chart” in question being the constitution).

    On the other hand, it’s all such a fucking dumpster fire that maybe there is more room for actual reform, not because it is any more likely to happen, but because even holding onto the semblance of a status quo looks increasingly like a pipe dream.

    I.e., if I’m betting on the impossible, I suppose it ought to be the impossible that I actually like.

    So I guess the progressives kind of win my longterm support by default in that scenario. I still don’t think it is a very effective strategy, and I still wish Al Gore had won in 2000 (or Kerry in 2004, though I like him least of all) or that Clinton had won in 2016.

  33. PaulBC says

    So you should follow polls to see whether the Democrat or the Republican seems to be doing better, then just bet on the winning horse.

    No. I look for the first and second largest herds and pick the one that is closest to my preference even if it is not all that close to my preference.

    Seriously, I think you knew what I meant the first time, and it’s not like this is an uncommon strategy.

  34. Garvis says

    PZ, you can still spoil your ballot and ask for a replacement. Talk to your county clerk, or whoever administers elections in your jursdiction.

    I understand the argument that we must put up with horrible Democrats in deep red districts. I also understand that you have to live with yourself.

  35. Mobius says

    Maybe we should start using the acronym DINO, Democrat In Name Only. It also makes a great pun, short for dinosaur. (I am sure you got that, but just in case…)

  36. says

    @#7, Marcus Ranum:

    What do you think the Lincoln Project is? For that matter, the Democratic Party is basically a bunch of Reagan Republicans now — they had Colin Powell, a man who is now best known for telling lies which killed a million people, speaking at the convention, and nobody batted an eye.

  37. beholder says

    @7 Marcus, @38 Vicar

    A good case may be made for the military/intelligence complex fielding a bloc of Democratic representatives in 2018, and again this year. In 2018, fifty U.S. house seats had Democratic candidates running for them who had a primarily military, intelligence, or federal law enforcement background. Of these, eleven won the general election.

    This year, they’re running at least twenty-three candidates. The Democratic establishment is desperately posturing to be more interventionist than the typical neoconservative; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re thinking along the same lines as Marcus and trying to exploit or completely take over a major party.

  38. logicalcat says

    @CR

    Bush wasnt the result of the electoral college. Its the result of Florida having a republican governor. Gore won Florida and thus won the presidency.

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