The Intersection

On Being Nonpartisan


Somehow when it comes to elections, lots of folks seem to get confused into thinking they’re watching ESPN. Sure it’s fun to feel part of a victory, but what matters politically far outweighs any championship ring, cup, or a trip to Disneyworld – even if the media would have you believe otherwise during Superbowl season. So while it’s easy rally around one side depending on where you fall in the old color scheme of things, the truth is that politics aren’t so black, Blue, right, white, Red, or left. These kind of delineations are enough to make anyone dizzy.

The myriad of vital issues at stake can morph even the most well informed citizen into a very confused voter. Compounding that is the fact most members are unwilling to take a strong stance on controversial issues because they depend on heterogeneous support to keep them employed. Very few are safe enough to disagree with some large component of their constituency. This isn’t news obviously, but it is extremely important to remember when criticizing policy or complaining about leadership. Checks and balances, for the people by the people and whathaveyou.

As for me, my decisions are dictated by content. The Republican Congressman from Maryland is a great example of someone with whom I often agree, even though many staunch environmentalists mistakenly believe they should always turn left. As far as global warming, I shoot straight for the best science available.

So while it’s easy to be so reactive to the fact that Congress often seems nonreactive, keep in mind a great deal is at stake. And the presidential election of 2008 will continue to be the enormous elephant (or donkey) in the room on everything from the war to the environment to healthcare. That said, yes the Dems have majority now… but remember, typically very little can be accomplished in the two years preceding a new president.

With that I’m off to a meeting, but another related post coming soon… In a few hours I’ll share a little anecdote from inside the office of a prominent republican committee chair on the morning after the 2006 election.


  1. #1 Amy
    September 24, 2007

    Gilchrest is a solid example and has been good for the environment. While he could never be a Sam Farr, such anomalies in Congress are important to recognize. I agree that many issues are more purple than we’d like to believe.

    Cool map.

  2. #2 someone who does
    September 24, 2007

    It’s not fair to compare Gilchrest and Farr. The latter is from the same state as Boxer for goodness sake, while Gilchrest is a Republican from MD. You should know better.

  3. #3 Philip Parker
    September 24, 2007

    Except that in a winner takes all, electoral college style election all the purple in the world is fairly irrelevant. Which is especially frustrating if you are in the minority one way or the other in your state. Your vote is essentially meaningless in the presidential context.

  4. #4 David Bruggeman
    September 24, 2007

    Rep. Gilchrest isn’t the only Republican Rep. from Maryland. Rep. Bartlett, represents the 6th district, is on the House Science Committee and holds a Ph.D. in physiology.

  5. #5 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 24, 2007

    …if you are in the minority one way or the other in your state. Your vote is essentially meaningless in the presidential context.

    I disagree. It’s not voting that makes one null and void in the presidential context. Participation provides presence and voice. The electoral process may not be without fault, but by not engaging, you lose.

  6. #6 Eric the Leaf
    September 25, 2007

    Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is THE MAN when it comes to Peak Oil. This sets him apart, and suggests that he is far more informed, than other environmentally conscious and concerned politicians (and people for that matter). He should be the next president of the United States. I’ve said it before, Chris or Sheril need to interview and profile this man and give him every platform possible. There is no more relevant topic when it comes to the intersection of science and politics. This is your turf.

  7. #7 Fred Bortz
    September 25, 2007

    I’ll echo Eric, especially to urge Chris to broaden his journalistic portfolio.

    The issue of Peak Oil is intertwined with global warming and geopolitics in that the best solution to numerous environmental and geo-political problems seems to be: “Burn less oil.”

    It gets even more complicated than that, since the short-term replacement for oil in many countries and applications will be coal, which produces more CO2 per unit of energy than oil.

    But these are the kinds of complications that Chris has a knack of putting into perspective in his writing.

    Chris, you haven’t responded in one way or another to our previous suggestions that you grapple with this. Are you willing to give a public “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” response?

  8. #8 Philip Parker
    September 25, 2007

    I’ll agree in principal that one should still vote, and I do, however there is a vast gulf between the warm and fuzzy you get from participation and meaningful action with our current electoral system.

  9. #9 Harry Abernathy
    September 25, 2007

    “remember, typically very little can be accomplished in the two years preceding a new president.”

    While there may be precedent to that statement, it certainly demonstrates why Congress, the President, and, by golly, the whole political system has such low approval ratings. By always framing activity/inactivity with election cycles, politicians only perpetuate the image of the career politician. They also feed the oscillations between Democrat and Republican control, as every few election cycles the party in charge gets voted out because they get nothing of merit accomplished.

    Washington needs a new generation of politicians who wouldn’t mind serving one term only and working as hard as possible to get done what they can. If their record or work ethic is demonstrably strong enough, then the public can choose to reelect them. When they push the idea of the long battle or the earth-shattering importance of THIS election and the NEXT election, they’re just selling soap.

    Unfortunately, the general population is too willing to buy into it all, absolutely treating elections like sporting events.