Voting by absentee ballot this week.
I don't spend a lot of time on US politics here -- it's not that sort of blog -- but I guess I can make an exception every two years.
I'm still registered to vote in new Haven, Connecticut, so I actually have an interesting ballot this year. If you care how I vote, it's below the fold.
Voting -- I vote with an absentee ballot. To get it, I have to fill out a form (which I can download from the internet) and mail it in. Then they send me my ballot.
This is a simple system, and the New Haven staff were all very friendly and helpful... nice ladies who called me "honey" and were very interested in Armenia. ("Oh, that is a long way off!") It does seem a little vulnerable to cheating, but presumably someone is taking care of that. Right? So, moving along.
Senator -- If you've been following US politics, you know that the Connecticut Senate race is one of the weirdest in the nation. 18-year incumbent Joe Lieberman was defeated in the primary by novice challenger Ned Lamont. (Lieberman is a "centrist" Democrat who has been a little too friendly to President Bush.) Lieberman then turned around and ran as an independent, making this a three-way race. But the Republican candidate is pathetically weak -- he has a well-publicized gambling problem -- so it's really a two way race between Lamont (the official Democratic candidate) and Lieberman (former Democrat, now independent).
Lieberman ran a miserable primary campaign, but the loss seemed to energize him -- he's become a very aggressive campaigner, and is currently leading Lamont by about ten points in the polls.
I'm going to vote for Lamont, because I just don't like Lieberman much. There's a smug sense of entitlement about the man that really gets on my nerves. Lamont will at least be a fresh face.
But... reality check, people. Lamont is probably not going to win. And if he does win, he'll probably be a rather mediocre Senator.
Meanwhile, if Lieberman wins, he'll pretty quickly return to the Democratic fold. Oh, he's swung far right in this campaign, to pick up all those Republican votes that he needs to win. But that's simply what he has to do. Lieberman is a Democrat, albeit an annoying one. He's not going to turn Republican and he's not going to stay independent for long.
Furthermore: even if you think Joe is a dirty traitor who's a secret Republican at heart, there's still a good reason for him to rejoin the Democrats. To wit: the next election, in 2008, will probably add several more Democrats to the Senate.
See, Senators have six-year terms. Only one-third of them run for re-election in every two-cycle. So, only 33 out of 100 Senate seats are open this year. In two years, it will be a different 33. And more of the 2008 seats are Republican, meaning the Democrats have more chances to pick up seats. In fact, a lot of them are unusually weak or vulnerable Republicans. So, while two years is a long time in politics, 2008 should be a more favorable year for the Democrats than 2006.
So: right now the Democrats have 44 seats and the Republicans have 56. To gain control of the Senate this year, they need to win seven seats. I think this is unlikely. But... if they win four or five seats, then they should be in a very good position to gain control in 2008.
Lieberman, a professional politician, knows this. So although he has reason to be unhappy with the Democrats (a lot of his former friends and colleagues have been campaigning against him), simple self-interest should move him to their side of the aisle.
So, while I'm voting for Lamont, I'm not going to be too upset if Lieberman beats him.
Governor: I'm voting for the Republican, Jodi Rell.
Yeah, I know. But. I lived for two years in New Haven, Connecticut. Nice little city, great location. It's on major rail and highway lines and has three colleges, including Yale University. It should have a lot of potential. But it's never recovered from the urban blight of the 1960s and '70s. The downtown remains feeble or dead; walk off the Yale campus in most directions and you're either in a concrete mess of overpasses or a slum. Most American cities underwent a revival in the 1990s, but it passed New Haven by.
Why? Well, one major reason: crappy, corrupt city government. And the long-time Mayor of New Haven, John DiStefano, is now the Democratic candidate for Governor.
Also, Jodi has been a decent Governor. I don't say great, but okay to good. She'd have to be a real howler to make me vote for DiStefano and, well, she isn't. So.
Congressman, we have a decent, undistinguished Democrat, Rosa DeLauro. She holds such a safe seat that it's hardly worth voting. She's in her 8th term and is likely to go on as long as she cares to. Just for the hell of it, I looked up her Republican opponent, Joseph Vollano. Ouch: a complete no-hoper. 28 year old former McDonalds manager turned network administrator, running for office for the first time. Seems like a nice guy, but come on.
There was a time when I might have voted for the no-hope candidate, out of some combination of sympathy for the underdog and sheer perversity. In recent years I've swung the opposite way: I find I don't care to give my vote to candidates who aren't serious. I mean, get real, people -- if you want my vote, run someone who has a chance in hell of winning.
If any non-American readers are still with us, let me add that this is a big, big problem with the American system: roughly 90% of all districts are totally "safe" for one party or the other. So, even if De Lauro were a horrible Congresswoman, and Vollano was an excellent challenger, she'd probably still win, because her district is very, very Democratic. So the Republicans don't bother to run a serious candidate.
I don't approve of this, but there's not much I can do about it. As for DeLauro, while she has some problems -- she's a little to close to the DiStefano machine -- she's not bad. I could wish there was more of a choice, but since there isn't, she gets my vote.
(Oh, and there's also a Green candidate. But he's another no-hoper: another first-time candidate, an assistant professor of English who writes poetry. Don't think so.
(There might also be a Libertarian candidate, but brief googling didn't turn one up, and you know what? It's 2006. If I can't find your website in 30 seconds of searching online, you don't deserve my vote.)
Then there are several statewide offices: state treasurer, state comptroller, state attorney general. Because I haven't lived in Connecticut for a while, I don't think I know enough to cast a meaningful vote. So I won't vote for any of those, except one: State Attorney General. That's held by a guy named Richard Blumenthal. He's been SAG for sixteen years, which is incredible... most SAGs use it as a stepping stone, either to higher office or to a great job in the private sector. But Blumenthal seems to have no higher ambition than serving as SAG. And he's done a pretty good job. So, he gets my vote.
And that's about it. There will be many other races on the ballot, but they're all local New Haven races. Since I don't live there any more, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to vote in those races.
Prediction: Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and make some predictions.
House -- Dems pick up 18, giving them a razor-thin majority.
Senate -- Dems pick up 4, making the Senate 52-47 Republican with one "independent" who'll caucus with the Dems.
Governors -- Dems pick up 4.
If I'm going to be so foolish, I'd like the rest of you to join me! Readers, what think you?