This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #123, on the subject of The 2016 Election in New Jersey.
We are days from the quadrennial presidential election here in these United States, and I have, perhaps negligently, not written about the election at all since March. At that time I published Dizzying Democrats and Ridiculous Republicans,
a pair of articles in which I decried the nonsense happening in both parties and concluded with the words
…we are looking toward a highly polarized election which at this point looks like the exit poll question will be, “Whom did you vote against?”
(Those who follow this web log will already have guessed that I am far more afraid of Clinton than of Trump; those who do not follow my writing probably are not particularly moved by that.)
But even if it has not been negligent for me to have ignored this ludicrous Presidential race between the Jackass and the Snake (I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which is whom), the fact is that the election is about more than merely choosing the next President of the United States. Here in New Jersey, at least, we are electing a dozen members of the United States House of Representatives, and have two significant Public Questions on the ballot. You can learn more than you want to know about the Presidential candidates anywhere; I owe you the opportunity to learn more about the local candidates.
After the brief assessment of the candidates, we have some thoughts about voting for people, for parties, and for third party candidates, that apply to everyone, so if you’re not from New Jersey (or you are and have found the information on your district) skip down below the numbered list and read that part.
Fortuitously, we provided sufficient coverage of the election of the current office holders in 2014, including the election results, and so it is simple enough to find your incumbent–and since probably your incumbent has been the familiar name bombarding you with political ads in your mailbox, you can work backwards from that to your district. It is a bit tougher to find the opponents, but with the aid of sites like Ballotpedia you can usually find just about any politician in the country and his positions on a wide range of issues. Here’s a quick rundown, with links to that site for more information.
- In the First Congressional District, covering most of Camden and parts of Gloucester and Burlington Counties, Democratic incumbent Donald Norcross is defending his seat against newcomer Republican Bob Patterson, writer and lobbyist, along with three other third-party candidates including a Libertarian.
- In the Second Congressional District, covering all of Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, and Atlantic Counties plus portions of Camden, Burlington, and Ocean Counties, Republican incumbent Frank Lobiondo is defending his seat against young Democrat Dave Cole, a Rutgers political science graduate who sought this seat in 2014 but lost in the primary, and against five other candidates including a Libertarian.
- In the Third Congressional District, covering most of Burlington and portions of Ocean Counties, Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur faces Democrat Frederick John LaVergne, who lost this same race two years ago, plus a third-party Libertarian candidate.
- In the Fourth Congressional District, covering most of Monmouth and parts of Mercer and Ocean Counties, long-time Republican incumbent Chris Smith faces Democrat Lorna Phillipson, failed candidate for the New Jersey Assembly who was put on the ballot here when the winner of the Democratic primary dropped from the race, and by two other candidates one from the Libertarian party.
- In the Fifth Congressional District, covering northern portions of Warren, Sussex, Passaic, and Bergen Counties, Republican incumbent Scott Garrett defends against Democratic newcomer Josh Gottheimer, a well-educated former (Bill) Clinton speechwriter and Microsoft executive. Again there is a Libertarian party candidate in this race.
- Democrat Frank Pallone is the defending incumbent in the Sixth Congressional District, covering parts of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties, against Republican newcomer and small businessman Brent Sonnek-Schmelz, along with third party candidates from both the Libertarian and Green parties.
- Republican incumbent Leonard Lance is defending his seat in the Seventh Congressional District, covering Hunterdon and parts of Essex, Somerset, Union, and Warren Counties, against Democratic newcomer Peter Jacob, union supporter from an immigrant family, and against both Libertarian and Conservative Party candidates.
- Democratic incumbent Albio Sires defends in the Eighth Congressional District, covering parts of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties, against unknown Republican Agha Khan, and two others including a Libertarian.
- Democratic incumbent Bill Pascrell defends his seat in the Ninth Congressional District, covering parts of Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson Counties, against Republican Hector Castillo, previous candidate as a Republican for New Jersey State Senate and as an independent for New Jersey Governor, and against two third-party candidates, one a Libertarian.
- Democratic incumbent Donald Payne, Jr., continuing to hold his father’s seat in the Tenth Congressional District, covering parts of Essex, Union, and Hudson Counties, defends it against Republican David Pinckney, twice-failed candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly, and against two third-party candidates.
- The Eleventh Congressional District, covering parts of Morris, Passaic, Essex, and Sussex Counties, has long been held by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, who is defending against Democratic newcomer Joseph Wenzel plus two third-party candidates, one a Libertarian.
- In the Twelfth Congressional District, covering parts of Mercer, Middlesex, Union, and Somerset Counties, incumbent Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman defends her seat against former Libertarian now Republican Steven Uccio, failed candidate from both of those parties in several previous races, and against five third-party candidates including a Libertarian and a Green.
There is an argument in favor of voting for the candidate who best represents your views, regardless of his party affiliation. There is also an argument in favor of voting for the party that has the best chance to bring at least some of your views into action. Several of the candidates in various races this year are Greens, and quite a few are Libertarians, both parties representing some significant worthwhile positions–and yet their presence in the race actually decreases the probability that those policies will be enacted.
We have discussed the two-party system in our piece on Coalition Government, that particularly in Presidential politics but to a significant degree at every level elections are won by forming coalitions of disparate groups who can agree on a few policies they consider most important. The Democrats agree with the Greens on critical environmental issues, but the Greens feel that the Democrats do not prioritize these sufficiently; the Republicans similarly stand with the Libertarians on limited government, but the Libertarians believe that the Republicans do not go far enough in this direction. Yet every vote for a Green party candidate is one less for the Democrat who might have been elected and who would to some degree have supported Green policies, and every vote for a Libertarian is one less for the Republican who similarly might have advanced Libertarian causes.
The argument in the other direction is, of course, that the two parties which currently exist are not the original two parties, and over time coalitions dissolve and reform anew. Prior to the Kennedy administration the Republicans were the Civil Rights party and the Democrats the oppressors of minorities. Libertarians and Greens hope that they will attract enough support to become one of the two parties. Yet they are viewed as single-issue parties, and single-issue parties, again as we previously noted in The Republican Dilemma, fail to form the coalitions necessary to win elections. They work, generally, when a single issue has so divided the nation that many voters will support one side or the other above any other question and the two major parties have failed to take clear sides; but that is not the case in the present despite the severe polarization of our nation.
It is also worth considering that particularly in legislative bodies the party with the best representation often controls the procedural aspects of the agenda–a major advantage frequently that goes beyond what your individual representative can do. Thus if you prefer Republican policies but like the Democratic candidate, you should at least consider voting for the Republican you don’t like, because that will make it more possible for Republican policies to advance even if your representative does not support them entirely.
So with that advice, I encourage you to vote in this election, and promise to return before then with a look at the two public questions on the New Jersey ballot.
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