Voting For The Party

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 20 2012 @ 1:18pm

Roberto Unger, a post-everything-but-"context-smashing" former professor of Obama's, recently said that the president "must be defeated" because he has "failed to advance the progressive cause in the United States." Garry Wills rolls his eyes:

The mistake behind all this is a misguided high-mindedness that boasts, “I vote for the man, not the party.” This momentarily lifts the hot-air balloon of self-esteem by divorcing the speaker from political taintedness and compromise. But the man being voted for, no matter what he says, dances with the party that brought him, dependent on its support, resources, and clientele. That is why one should always vote on the party, instead of the candidate. The party has some continuity of commitment, no matter how compromised. What you are really voting for is the party’s constituency. That will determine priorities when it comes to appointments, legislative pressure, and things like nominating Supreme Court justices. 

Jamelle Bouie nods

Even among political reporters, there’s a tendency to separate the candidate from the party, as if a president is somehow separate from the constituencies that he represents. But the truth of the matter, as Wills points out, is that in most instances, the president works to fulfill the priorities and demands of the groups who elected him. … If you want, you can play this game with Barack Obama circa 2008. Anyone who looked at the Democratic coalition at the time, and thought Obama wouldn’t try to pursue health care reform, or support our involvement in Afghanistan, is fooling themselves.