Voting Out Incumbents: Getting Easier

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Voting out incumbents, whose results as elected leaders are disappointing, is getting easier. In prior elections, one of the main obstacles to voting out an incumbent has been getting enough information about challengers to afford voters a reasonable alternative candidate to vote for. The internet to the rescue!

A number of political action sites are now providing comprehensive lists of incumbents and challengers, to include links to their campaign web sites and much greater volume of information about their pasts and qualifications. One such site is SourceWatch which updates its site regularly, covering not only the politicians and candidates, but, lobbyists, and campaign financing, as well as who is behind the news stories.

Vote Out Incumbents Democracy has a continually updating list of challengers for every Congressional race in every state, as candidates announce and file their candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission. These listings all include the challenger's web site. This page also provides zip code look up of your incumbent representatives and their records (courtesy Vote Smart, see link below).

An outstanding organization and web site is Project Vote Smart. Vote Smart is the premier voters self-defense web site designed to provide voters with all the information they need to make an intelligent voting decision covering everything from where candidates get their money from, who they are likely beholding to, and how incumbents have voted on the many bills that came before them on the Congressional floor.

In researching this information as part of my responsibilities at VOID, I was struck by two main categories of information, 'Hype' and 'Record'.

Hype is the kind of information about candidates and politicians bought and paid for either by the parties, candidates themselves, or their opponents. 'Hype' is designed specifically to hide lots of factual information about a candidate or party, while accentuating either the positive or negative, often out of context of the record. Included in 'Hype' are the web sites of the candidates themselves, obviously designed to hide the negatives and highlight the positives as they think voters want to see them. Also included in this category are the partisan PAC (political action committee) sites whose purpose is to promote one party or political perspective over others, like Swift Boat Veterans, or MoveOn.org. While 'Hype' sites can be informative, in as much as they will provide factual information which clearly favors their slant, they come up very short in providing context and a complete picture or information base about their targets of discussion.

'Record' sites may have a slant or bias by their owners or funders, but, their mission statement, charter, and obligations under non-profit and tax exempt non-partisan laws, require that their main purpose be to inform and educate on a factual and more holistic information set. These sites often provide records of historical time lines, biographies, or fairly political records of candidates, (hence the term 'Record' site as opposed to 'Hype') These sites are far more comprehensive in the information they provide and are largely accurate and complete as far as context is concerned for the information they provide on candidates, parties, and politicians. More prominent 'Record' sites include Real Clear Politics, Open Secrets.org, and of course, the incredibly rich and diverse C-Span web site.

I don't think it is unreasonable to classify voters into 3 broad categories based on their information sources.

  • Party voters who seek information legitimized by Party sponsorship
  • "Handed" partisan voters who may not identify strongly with either of the major parties but have a strong left or right partisan lean who seek information from left-handed or right-handed partisan sources, and often read and cite 'Hype' sources
  • And true independent voters who rely in some major part on 'Record' sites, as mentioned above, and who seek amd are drawn toward candidates most likely to work to solve the problems and issues of concern to them, regardless of party affiliation.

America's future rests in the hands of these 3 categories of voters, and there are many new information sources springing up each election cycle to cater to each of these groups of voters. But, recently, elections have been decided by the "handed" and independent voters, making them the target audiences of candidates and parties after the primary elections. From this writer's perspective, it is very encouraging the number of new and varied 'Record' information sources arising out of the growth of that group of voters who identify themselves as Independents. Clearly, large numbers of independent voters remain biased against one party or another.

But if, and there is some evidence to support this, independent voters are more likely to acquire information from 'Record' sources as opposed to 'Hype' and clearly partisan sources, this group may indeed become the true political brokers of elections in the future. These swing voters are more inclined to give incumbents the boot for poor results. And because of their information sources, they are more inclined to focus on issue solutions and the pragmatism of the candidate they vote for, as opposed to political party ideology, spin, or rhetoric. And that would have to be a distinct improvement in American politics.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on October 6, 2007 12:28 AM.

Democrat's DREAM Act Defeated! was the previous entry in this blog.

Today's Politicians - Inept, Corrupt, and Wrong! is the next entry in this blog.

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