Could a Democrat vote for Eric Hovde? Maybe

Tammy Baldwin is running unopposed in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. So what’s a Democrat to do?

Well, you could write in George W. Bush, just to remind the world that he exists and that his economic policies have stayed alive at least long enough to avoid being baptized into the Mormon faith by Mitt Romney. But why waste your vote? (Then again, there might be a certain ironic hipster cachet that goes along with voting for Dubya. Sort of like drinking PBR or carrying the mummified head of a 1960s Madison Avenue executive around in a Partridge Family lunchbox and calling it a purse. Or whatever hipsters actually do these days. I confess, I’m out of the loop. All my retro-nerdiness is, sadly, unintentional.)

Of course, if you don’t much care which of the sniping District 2 Dems gets in and have no rooting interest in any of the other races, you could vote for a Republican who’s currently on the ballot.

There are basically three schools of thought on this:

  1. You could take the straight-and-narrow path and simply vote for the candidate you want to win in November. (In my case, Tammy Baldwin.) That’s certainly the honorable thing to do. But to quote Dark Helmet from the classic American film Spaceballs, “So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.” There’s good and honorable and there’s just plain dumb. I don’t see any reason to just be dumb, particularly when everyone else in this thing is playing hardball.
  2. You could vote for the candidate you think is least likely to defeat Baldwin. The polls say that’s Jeff Fitzgerald. But that’s probably because most Wisconsin voters are unsure whether he’s the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly or a specialty Irish whiskey drink at Bennigan’s. He’s not running for office so much as crawling. (I think I got a Fitzgerald campaign robocall the other day from a Roomba.) So if you want to follow this strategy, I’d say vote for Mark Neumann. And if you really can’t bring yourself to do that, that’s fine. You’ll get another chance in no time.
  3. You could hedge your bets by voting for the most impressive Republican. In my book, that’s Eric Hovde.

Now, in a lot of ways, Hovde is a typical GOP candidate who says a lot of typical GOP-like things.

For instance:

  • He hates Obamacare and wants it repealed. (I love how much these candidates are falling all over each other to prove who can take away people’s health care coverage the fastest. See you in another 10 years or so, guys.)
  • He hates deficits but doesn’t provide much context when it comes to assigning blame. Republicans these days seem to think Barack Obama invented deficit spending. Upper-class tax cuts, unfunded wars, and the worst financial crisis in decades wouldn’t have anything to do with that now, would it?
  • He likes to repeat the meme, propagated by know-nothing Tea Partiers, that taxes keep going up and up and up under self-proclaimed Marxist revolutionary Barack Obama. On his website, he says, “Corrupt politicians have given us record high tax rates ….” Everything in that sentence is true except for “record” and “high.” In fact, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report, tax rates are the lowest they’ve been in 30 years. Maybe Tea Party supporters should dress up as angry apes and throw their calculators into Boston Harbor.

So why might a vote for Eric Hovde be a vote well cast? One reason: He seems to be serious about holding Wall Street accountable for its crimes.

If you need convincing, do two things: First, watch the movie Inside Job. Then, after you’re finished throwing up, read Hovde’s September 2008 Washington Post column on the roots of the economic crisis. It’s an honest and incisive piece that goes beyond the sorts of platitudes you usually hear from politicians. To quote just the first paragraph:

“Looking for someone to blame for the shambles in U.S. financial markets? As someone who owns both an investment bank and commercial banks, and also runs a hedge fund, I have sat front and center and watched as this mess unfolded. And in my view, there’s no need to look beyond Wall Street – and the halls of power in Washington. The former has created the nightmare by chasing obscene profits, and the latter have allowed it to spread by not practicing the oversight that is the federal government’s responsibility.”


Naturally, progressives will differ from Hovde on a lot of points, but it’s refreshing to read such a detailed critique of Wall Street from a candidate for office, even if it is four years old.

Incidentally, I’m not terribly impressed by the argument that Hovde is trying to buy the election. What was Herb Kohl doing? It’s not an ideal situation, to be sure, but I’d much rather have a senator who can afford to bankroll his own campaign than one who is beholden to big-money donors.

I’m not saying I’m necessarily going to follow this strategy, of course. There are other races to consider. (I’m still trying to decide whether I feel compelled to vote for Mark Pocan simply to punish Kelda Roys for dragging the 2nd District race into the mud. After all, other than their approach to the campaign, they look like basically the same candidate.) But if you think you’re going to be voting in the Republican primary, you could do worse than betting on Hovde.

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