Opinion
10:15 am
Wed August 20, 2014

It's OK to support a candidate even if you don't agree with their every position

Both major political parties have their state conventions this week. Republicans are meeting in Novi; Democrats in Lansing.

There’s always an element of the high school reunion about these conventions; people, including the press, look forward to them in part because they get to see old friends.

However, there are also squabbles.

Most of this year’s focus has been on the Republican gathering, where Tea Party insurgents are attempting to throw Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley off the ticket.

Democrats, however, have their own struggle behind the scenes.

In case you are new to this, these conventions actually nominate most of each party’s candidates for statewide office.

True, the nominees for governor and U.S. Senator are selected in a statewide primary election, but the party activists at the conventions select the candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, as well as a slew of names for education slots – the state board, plus trustee candidates for the three major universities.

There are seldom big fights over the unpaid school seats. There can be over the attorney general and secretary of state nominees, though this year, both parties have already worked all that out.

And the conventions pick candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court. You might think that a bit odd; other judges run as nonpartisan, and technically, Supreme Court ones are nonpartisan too.

But though they can run as independents, the parties generally pick them. And this year, that’s meant trouble for the Democrats. The problem is abortion, which is becoming the ultimate partisan litmus test.

Thirty years ago, there were plenty of pro-choice Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats.

... democracy for grownups means supporting good candidates even when you don't agree with their every position.

But not any more.

These days, it is harder and harder to get very far if you are a Republican who favors choice or a Democrat opposed to abortion.

William Murphy would seem to be a superb candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court. He is the Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals. He is experienced and qualified.

He is also geographically appropriate. Murphy lives in East Grand Rapids, and there hasn’t been a state supreme court judge from the Grand Rapids area in 70 years.

But he doesn’t believe in abortion, and that has some Democrats in a tizzy.

Something called the Justice Caucus has put out a press release saying the Democrats should never select any nominee for the court who opposes a woman’s right to choose.

The question is, will this turn into a nasty fight?

There are two other things that may be relevant here. First of all, if the Roe vs Wade decision permitting abortion is ever reversed, it won’t be by one of the seven judges on the Michigan Supreme Court.

Only the nation’s highest court can do that. And second, the odds against Judge Murphy being elected are long. He would be running against sitting Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra, and incumbent justices nearly always win.

But beyond that, democracy for grownups means supporting good candidates even when you don’t agree with their every position.

Single issue voting is not very mature, and doesn’t tend to produce good government. Democrats are supposed to be diverse.

We’ll see if they remember that this weekend.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.