Michigan primary today. Big exciting stuff. Neck and neck race, the media would have you believe. It's times like these, when the system doesn't function as we expect it to (i.e. everyone just votes for the winner of New Hampshire and we phone it in for the rest of the primaries) that things start to get crazy. Those of us who love the messy process of politics embrace and celebrate the chaos. Some of us seek to create even more chaos. You saw it in 2008 with Rush Limbaugh encouraging Republicans to vote for Clinton to prolong the primary process and you're seeing it today in Michigan going the other direction.
I should point out right away that this issue, like voter fraud, is something that can be used to easily rile people up but doesn't actually occur on a large enough scale to be significant. Yes, there will be Democrats who vote for Santorum today to give Romney less time for his general campaign - or better yet make the unelectable Santorum the Republican candidate - but most Democrats will stay home or cast a symbolic vote for Obama. Which is why you won't hear any long-term talk about changing primary rules in states to prevent this, but it is fun to debate the ethics.
It's easy to see that this is weak politics, everybody knows that. Attempting to influence politics by selecting a candidate in a primary that you would never dream of voting for in a general election, while perfectly legal in Michigan, is a weak political game. It goes against the whole purpose of democracy, which is to allow people to select the leaders they desire. If you are a Democrat and you vote for Santorum today, you are behaving wrongly. This is the same to me as redistricting fights, or attempts to disenfranchise voters, neither of which I will ever understand. Yes, I understand the desire to have your party stay in power, but you choose a party because you believe that their views are what's best for the area they represent. If you believe so strongly in what they're doing, why not let the strength of their arguments influence the election instead of political trickery?
The question gets more complicated, though, when you get into this article I read today:
'Romney blasts Santorum for 'dirty trick' calls to Michigan Dems encouraging vote in GOP primary'
Two important notes first:
1) I don't normally get my coverage from Fox News (though I don't rule them out either - all voices are important) but this popped up on my Google News feed.
2) How have editors not figured out at this point to avoid phrases like "blasts Santorum"? Come on, guys. We know you know what it means.
So now Rick Santorum is (supposedly) sending robo-calls to Democrats, explicitly courting them to cross over. His campaign is itself engaging in sabotage of the Republican primary. And doing it in they shady political way of waiting until the night before so that there isn't time for your opponents to use this information against you. Everything about it is easy to villianize, especially if you're in the Romney camp. Yet if you think about it, if this is actually happening and not just a smear from the Romney folks, Santorum's not doing anything wrong. Rick Santorum is asking people to vote for Rick Santorum. Yes, he's asking people who wouldn't normally vote for him, but what's so wrong with that? Americans are frustrated with the deadlock and have been since way before this past year; what's so bad about a Republican asking Democrats to engage in some bi-partisanship? Of course, it should be noted that for the most part this is a political ploy to capitalize on the trickery of others. Still I can't find any argument that would make it unethical for Santorum to court Democrats, even if their reasons for wanting him to win in Michigan are so vastly different. Democrats shouldn't be crossing over in this primary, but why can't a guy ask for a little help wherever he can get it?