Why I’m Voting for a Republican on Tuesday

Mathis: I'm a liberal. The Democrats are my party. But they take Philadelphia's votes for granted.

When I walk into the voting booth tomorrow, I’m going to do something somewhat unusual for me …  and vote for a Republican. I hope maybe you’ll do the same.

It’s not like I have a streak of conservatism suddenly flowing through my veins. And I’m not even going to tell you which Republican I’ll be voting for, because that’s not actually the point of the exercise.

The point is to deny the Democratic Party in Philadelphia yet another straight-ticket vote of support.

There is a lot wrong with politics and governance in Philadelphia — such a knotty knot, in fact, that I’ll freely confess that I probably don’t quite grasp all the factors at play. But one of those factors, surely, is how voting in the city has coalesced and then calcified around Democratic party favorites over the last 50 years or so — a process that sometimes seems (to me) to have isolated politicians from actual voters and cemented their relationships with special interests, instead.

We voters don’t have a lot of power in this situation. It’s certainly nothing compared to the labor leaders and business groups and the money and influence they wield by virtue of having an army of supporters who can be deployed on a candidate’s behalf. I’ve written recently that Philadelphia needs a better Republican Party — one GOPer even presented herself as a plausible alternative —  but maybe what Philadelphia also needs is voters who don’t vote a straight ticket, people who can’t be taken for granted quite so easily.

We do have our vote, after all.

Again, my vote isn’t all that remarkable. And neither is yours. But when we both vote, we double our power. And when we persuade others to vote with us, well maybe we eventually become one of those influential special interests by working together.

The only thing I figure we can do, then, is deny the Democratic party lockstep support for its major candidates. Maybe it takes a candidate getting less than a super-supermajority of votes to get their attention. (Bob Brady has never won his congressional seat with less than 74 percent of the vote  — and only once with less than 80 percent. That’s kind of ridiculous, actually.) Maybe it takes the threat of losing an election. Maybe it takes actually losing an election.

I don’t know: Maybe there’s nothing we can do to command a bit more attention from our leaders. Maybe the way things are is simply the way things have to be. That’s a depressing idea, but not necessarily untrue.

Until then, though, the best way to try to start to effect change in the system might just be to be somewhat strategic with our votes. It seems to me that using our votes to create a sense of competition in our politics might lead to the real thing. That means being less reliable, less automatic for whichever party we tend to favor. And that, hopefully, would lead to better governance.

I’m a liberal. I find the Democratic Party more congenial to the ideas I’d like to seen enacted in our politics. I’m not a centrist. But the Democratic Party takes urban, city voters for granted, period. I think that’s particularly true in Philadelphia. There’s only one way I know to begin to reverse that process. I’ll be voting for a Republican tomorrow.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.