Misunderstanding the Problem of the Master Lever


Sam Howard wants to conclude that the master lever (allowing voters to simply vote for a political party for all open offices) was never Republicans’ problem in Rhode Island, because he wants to believe that the issue is “their party’s toxicity to a state that overwhelmingly supports Democratic policies.”  One’s first thought upon reading that might be that RI progressives have to get their story straight.  Here’s Bob Plain reporting Progressive Democrat leader Sam Bell’s belief that “the people who dominate the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly … really seem to stand with the national Republican Party on the core issues that divide the two parties at the national level.”

But Howard wants to believe progressive policies are popular — perhaps because without popularity, they’d just be society-and-soul-destroying nonsense in the service of totalitarians — so he wants to conclude that eliminating the master lever won’t really help Republicans.  Mind you, he’s putting forward his evidence before there’s been a single election without the lever:

Eliminating the master lever was supposed to assist the RI Republican Party (and strengthen RI’s democracy) by assisting in one of the most important things a party needs: candidate recruitment. The problem, as it was posed, was that the prevalence of the master lever basically acted as a deterrent for potential Republican candidates for the General Assembly; why put in the effort of running if loyal Democrats, voting for president or US senator or governor at the top of the ticket, would simply pull the master lever and obliterate down-ballot Republicans? Eliminating the option would allow Republican candidates to run without fear of such occurrences, thereby assisting efforts to recruit quality candidates.

This paragraph shows a deep misunderstanding of the interaction of human nature in politics, at least on the Right.  Nobody should have believed that eliminating the master lever would be anything but a long-term reform.  Generally, conservatives don’t want to enter a lifelong swirl of politics and government’s rotating doors, certainly not to the degree of people who believe in big government, so there’s no giant wave of people so aware of the career path that they’ve carefully calculated their odds of winning, with the master lever considered.

Rather, potential Republican candidates see the current makeup of the legislature, they have a general sense of their odds of winning, and they know they’ll be a targeted minority even if they beat those odds.  That last is not a matter of the popularity of their beliefs; it’s a matter of the political machine, from the master lever to legislative grants to union thuggery to biased media.  It’s also a matter of accelerating from a near standstill.

Assuming digital-technology-enabled fraud doesn’t swamp its effects, eliminating the master lever will bear fruit at the margins, enabling a few more candidates already crazy enough to run to get in.  With each who does, the level of required craziness will drop and the field of candidates will broaden, with most not realizing the effect the master lever had.

  • Raymond Carter

    Unfortunately the majority of those who come out to vote DO support the suicidal, kleptocratic socialism of the Democrat party. No other way to explain a failed non-entity like Obama winning re-election over a heavyweight Romney with over 60% of the vote. Even in New York and California Romney won the majority of the white vote but not here. The car tolls will soon by here and the moron majority will STILL vote for the faux “party of da workin’ people”.

  • Mike678

    RI does live in a bit of an echo chamber–the media does tend to be biased to the left (understatement), the union controlled legislature does what it is told to do, and the public sector union personnel are motivated to vote for their self-interest while the average Joe is less so, in part, due to apathy and the constant media messaging/spin.

    Which is why I appreciate the Center, this blog, and the editorial efforts of those who try to counter the often fact-free messaging from the left and hold the people in power accountable. Education is key in this polluted echo chamber–but it is a long term effort.