This past Monday, I wrote a post for The Strike Zone blog over at SI.com in which I lamented Major League Baseball's team-specific get-out-the-vote campaigns directing fans to the All-Star ballots. My objection is simple: I believe fans should vote for the best players, not their favorite players. Yet, even the latter isn't as objectionable as simply punching out the chads for every player on the local nine, which is essentially what the Vote [Local Team] campaigns implicitly suggest. Sadly, that blind, team-centric voting seems to be disturbingly common. Consider that as of Sunday's update the San Francisco Giants had a player in the top three in the voting at all four infield positions and catcher, and all three of their outfielders were in the top 11.
Since penning that piece, I've come to realize why, beyond the basic injustice of it, those voting patterns bother me so much. It's because they are emblematic of what I see as very similar voter tendencies when it comes to politics and government. Federal politics in this country have become overrun by partisanship both on the part of the electorate (that's us) and the elected (that's them). Rather than consider the often complex and difficult issues at hand, votes are cast along party lines both at the polls and on the Hill. As a result, our government has become ossified both because of the resultant inflexibility of both us and them and because of the, sadly justified, belief on the part of our elected officials that any action that could be perceived as breaking with party orthodoxy would cost them votes in the next election.
I'm not saying that Giants fans voting for Pablo Sandoval or Brandon Belt to start the All-Star game are betraying the citizenry of our country, as I believe the majority of our legislators are. What I'm saying is that the intensity of my objection to that voting pattern (I wrote that "I personally loathe" them, a phrase I'm not sure I've ever used before in my baseball writings, which typically and intentionally avoid intense negativity) was in part, and largely subconsciously, triggered by its resemblance, and I would go as far as to say reflection, of the larger, to that far more significant problem afflicting the country.
I'm skirting a major sports-writing no-no here by dancing on the edge of politics, but to pick up the tempo a bit, one could look through the other end of the telescope and learn a similarly valuable lesson. If voting for All-Stars according to what team they play for is going to be as destructive to that exhibition as voting along party lines has been to our government (and, even if that's true, those levels of destruction don't even belong in the same conversation, but my feet are still moving, so dance along with me here for just a few more bars), then perhaps one could see that blindly voting along party lines, be it in November or, more importantly, in the legislative chambers, is on par with voting for Gregor Blanco to start the All-Star game (which more than 720,000 people had done as of Sunday).
I don't pretend that voting the issue (performance) rather than the party (team) would make the process in either arena cleaner, smoother, or less contentious, but democracy is not supposed to be any of those things. If it was, we wouldn't need ballots, we could all just come to a reasonable verbal agreement. However, we won't get anywhere if we're not, at the very least, all trying to solve the same problem, even if we disagree wildly on what the solution may be. If the problem you're trying to solve when you pick up a ballot is, "How can I get all the guys on my team to win," we've all lost.