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William Cunion
Shaker Heights, OH

William Cunion

I hold a doctorate in American government, but I don't pretend to know everything. I'd like to speak for those who know that we can be opponents without being enemies.

Not much of an election

I'm finding it difficult to get enthused about the upcoming midterm elections. It's not that I don't care. In fact, I look forward to watching Republicans regain control of Congress. But watching is about the extent of it. This time around, I will be more of a spectator, even though I will dutifully cast a ballot. Like millions of Americans, I live in a district that is embarrassingly uncompetitive, so there is no real election going on here.

I live just outside Cleveland, in the heart of Ohio's 11th congressional district, represented by Democrat Marcia Fudge. She has held the seat for only two years, but it will be hers for as long as she likes. The district is majority African American, and therefore overwhelmingly Democratic. Sadly, the Republican Party doesn't even try anymore.

In the primary election in May, the poll worker handed me a Democratic ballot without asking for my preference. I couldn't tell whether she was repulsed or simply shocked when I handed it back and requested the Republican one. Maybe she just wondered why I was wasting my time. Other than a few statewide races, nearly every office had just one option: "No candidate filed," including the race for Congress. Ultimately, a frequent gadfly candidate, Thomas Pekarek, garnered just over 200 write-in votes, so he will represent my party next month. To date, he has raised no money, which is exactly what he raised when he ran against Fudge in 2008. No money means no ads, no yard signs, no organized activities. This might be the first time his name has appeared in print.

Some might shrug, since Fudge would easily defeat any Republican in this very liberal district. But elections are not merely one-day events to select leaders. They are important occasions for political dialogue. With no real opponent, there is no election -- just a vote.

Nonpartisan districting might help, but the real burden lies with party leaders, who must actively recruit qualified candidates, even in hopeless districts. Doing so will create inroads into portions of the electorate that have long been ignored. Imagine how different our politics would be if just 20 percent of black voters became Republicans. Unlikely -- but impossible if we never try.

Even in this year of the Tea Party, close to 90 percent of incumbents will be reelected, most by enormous margins, including Marcia Fudge. Not even fun to watch, really.

By William Cunion  |  October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Initial Entries
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Well, Dr.Cunion, I have the same problem, only I live in a non-competitive Republican district.

This year, we have two Republicans on the ballot. Well, not really....We have the Republican, and we have, the Democrat, who is a Republican "defector." If you'd have watched them going head to head on TV, as I did, the other evening, you might have gotten the distinct impression you were watching a primary debate. They were both reaching out to Republicans and assuming "everyone" held their same views.

So, what's a Democrat to do? I have a sign propped up against my back porch, which I can't bring myself to put up in the front. In my view, I DO have a choice this year, worse, or "worser."

Posted by: martymar123 | October 18, 2010 7:55 AM
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Dr. Cunion offers very insightful analysis as to the breakdown of American Voter participation: gerrymandered disenfranchisement! Excellent anecdote regarding his voting experience to bring the point home! I look forward to reading his perspective and his more insightful, less vitriolic discussion of volatile subjects. Good Luck!

Posted by: macydogz | October 16, 2010 3:53 PM
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Terrible. Says NOTHING. The lack of comments says it all. As an Editor's pick I can only surmise it was your smile or the I am a Republican they found attractive. Not Top 50. Not Top 50,000.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 14, 2010 4:19 PM
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@sciencetim
You "could never spend much time reading...." yet you obviously found the time to comment and read this in its entirety.

I might add from dictionary.com: "The verb enthuse is a 19th-century back formation from the noun enthusiasm. Originally an Americanism, enthuse is now standard and well established in the speech and all but the most formal writing of educated persons, in both Britain and the United States."

If this contest qualifies as the most formal writing to you then maybe your the one with the problem.

Posted by: DDOG | October 12, 2010 10:08 PM
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Hi SciTim!

Does the author want us to feel sorry for him that he lives in a hopeless district? C’mon. Lot of us do. We get over it.

How does the author propose the oppo party go about recruiting strong candidates in hopeless districts? Why would a potentially strong candidate even bother?

If the author feels he’s being ignored by his party, it’s up to him to get noticed. It is not the party’s responsibility to pay him lip service at the expense of potentially losing tight races elsewhere.

I wonder why WaPo is rewarding such victim mentality.

Posted by: MsJS | October 12, 2010 10:49 AM
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I agree with the point that I would like for the party-out-of-power to at least try to pose a credible candidate. Here in Maryland, the Republicans do try to run candidates, but they are usually not terribly credible as individuals or as policy-makers. Credible people don't waste their time in such circumstances.

Resources are finite. You can't expect a party to work equally hard for every election, when there are some that they obviously will lose, and some that they obviously will win. You have to concentrate resources where the decision is in doubt.

Having said all that: I could never spend much time reading the writing of someone who uses "enthused" unironically. The word is "enthusiastic", sir.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 11, 2010 12:22 PM
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