Tonight, at around 1045pm, my father conceded a Mayoral race to the incumbent Ed Palowski. I could write at length about the problems with this race, and about the admiration I have for my father for fighting as hard as he did (and accomplishing as much as he did), but I'll narrow it down to a few bullet points because there's a wider point I would like to talk about.
However there's one thing that I will remember about today more than anything, and that is the power of the party line. You see, something I never knew, is that in some states, you don't have to read the ballot at the top, one of the first things you are asked is "would you like to vote for a specific party?" Press the democrat button and voila, your vote is tallied, you didn't even have to see the candidates. The same goes for Republican. Now whether or not you agree with a two party system, this already put my father, running as an independent, at a severe disadvantage, because any party-line vote excluded him without his name even being seen by the voter. This meant at every polling station we were imploring people to not vote party lines, and to read the ballot. Even if they voted party lines in the end, they needed to take the time to recognize each race and who was running. According to the mayor's wife (who was at my polling place all day, and, by the way, is an extremely nice lady who had wonderful conversation with me for the 13 hours that we polled together, and I wish her and her family all the best in the world) a large amount of voters take this option and vote their party line.
Now I grew up in a state where I don't remember this being an option, ever, sure you could vote all in one party, but you still had to fill it in as such yourself, and when I voted in New York State, it seemed to be much the same. The reason that this is a problem, is it does not support the American people it supports the American political machine, locking in the two party system even more concretely, and not allowing people to make up their own minds, issue by issue, candidate by candidate. It locks out third party options and essentially nullifies their races. However there's an even bigger issue, and that issue came to play in Allentown on November 5th.
If no one is challenging the incumbent mayor, that mayor only needs 100 write-in votes from the others side in the primary to get their name on that ticket. That's right. Ed Pawlowski had 100 people write in his name during the Republican Primary where there was no candidate for a Republican to run in the election, and became both the Democrat and Republican nominee in the mayoral election against my father. I could talk for hours about the ethics behind this, but I won't, except to say this: By acknowledging that you think one way and simultaneously claiming that you think another, you are either showing yourself to be a flip-flopper at best, or showing yourself to be a career politician at worst. It shows you are willing to mislead a people in order to gain an upper hand, and that is an immoral way to lead.
However that's not the problem that happened in Allentown on the 5th of November, 2013. What happened in Allentown was Ed Palowski just stole the vote of every single person who decided to vote party line. Let's say a Conservative Republican walked into the voting booth, not knowing that Ed Pawlowski was the Republican on the ballot (something the Palowski campaign kept carefully quiet for this campaign, and something we fought to educate voters on at the polls). They get to the option of whether they would like to vote on a party line, and say vehemently "yes, I am a Republican, and dangnabbit, I'm going to vote only Republican. I don't want to select each option individually, I'm just going to click this button that says Republican." Congratulations. You just voted for Ed Pawlowski, a democratic Mayor. Let's say you're a Left Wing voter, who hates everything conservative, and is as liberal as they come. You walk into the booth and say "yes, I am a Democrat, and dangnabbit, I'm going to vote only Democrat. I don't want to select each option individually, I'm just going to click this button that says Democrat." Congratulations, you just sided with your arch-nemesis the conservative voter, and voted for Ed Pawlowski, a democratic Mayor. The worst part is, there's no way to check what happened. You can't select the option and have something pop up that says "Are you sure you want to vote for _____" or "Please review your choices". Your choices are set, and neither of those voters would have ever even seen my father's name on the ballot.
That is not right. You know what, no. That is dumbfoundedly, mindblowingly, outrageously wrong. It is unethical, it is governing by deceit, it is lying to the people, it is manipulating a system, and it is 100%, absolutely legal, it is good politics, and utterly immoral. In today's day and age of increasing partisanship, when people more and more are voting party lines, more and more people are going to take the option of voting by party; the inability for them to even know that a third option exists is a slap in the face to our political process, where an Independent on the ballot has just as much right to be there as a Republican or a Democrat.
Beware the Party Line Vote. Beware people who let their party think for them rather than them thinking for themselves. And beware systems that make decision for you based on a set of values that someone other than yourself prescribed for you.
It is time to bring the message to the people of Allentown, that this well-oiled political machine needs to be broken. It's time to start governing for the people of Allentown, not just the rich, white ones. It's time to start working to better the city, not line people's pockets. And tonight was the night that Allentonians announced they do not want a Part-Time Mayor, and I think that point was made, loudly and clearly with 40% of the vote.
Look, I'm not saying that W. Michael Donovan, the Independent Candidate for mayor would have won without the Party-Line vote option. However if we're saying that 40% of the voters who came out to vote, decided to forgo that option, and vote for my father, and the Mayor's Wife says that a large amount take the party-line option? Let's assume a large amount equals 30%, that means that the people who actively made a choice to vote for Pawlowski without the Party-Line option, comes to 30%, and my father takes it 40%-30%. Now I'm not naive enough to think that the people who chose party line did so without knowledge of my father. But many of the Republicans I met today who came out to vote, were unaware that voting the party line meant voting for Pawlowski. So all I'm saying is that if you take away the confusion, you force people to make a choice, then you actively reduce the gap between the two candidates, and I'm guessing (and this is all conjecture) down to at least 55%-45%, maybe lower.
It seems fitting that today was the Fifth of November. The day of the old Guy Fawkes poem. A man who decided that the monarchy had overstepped its boundaries, and that the citizens had been forgot along the way. A man who decided that the Monarch had taken over, and it was time for a citizen movement strong enough to overthrow the king and government, and give power back to the people. This poem calls for violence, and I disagree with that notion entirely. However as citizens of the United States, we are given the privilege to vote, and by not exercising that right, we are allowing the political machine to operate without oversight and without check. Citizens of Allentown, especially those who I talked to who are irate with the current mayor and his policies, and do not look forward to four more years of them, while he is off campaigning for a gubernatorial bid:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November. Remember, and work to increase voter turnout in the years to come, and beware the Party Line vote. It does not always bring the outcome that you think it does.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and plot.
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions did the scheme contrive
to blow the King and Parliament all up alive.
Threescore barrels laid below, to prove old England's overthrow.
But, by God's providence, him they catch
with a dark lantern, lighting a match.
A stick and a stake for King James' sake!
If you won't give me one, I'll take two.
The better for me, and the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
a penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
a pint of beer to wash it down,
and a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! Holloa, boys! Make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! Holloa, boys! God save the King!
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
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