Why I’m voting for Chris Daggett

Actually, I already voted for Chris Daggett. Sent in my absentee ballot the other day.

To my New Jersey friends, I urge you to take the pledge, vote for Daggett, and declare independence from the corrupt and incompetent party politics of this state.

I’m a life-long Democrat but this time, in the race for governor of New Jersey, I’m voting independent.

It’s as if I got three votes in one:

daggettbadgeI’m voting for Daggett because I am confident he is the best candidate for the office. Daggett happens to be a neighbor of mine and I’ve gotten to know him better as I’ve helped the campaign in very small ways in recent days, shooting Flip videos and sitting in on strategy sessions. This is the first time I’ve ever done that; as a professional journalist I bought the doctrines of separation and objectivity and so actual involvement in my community was verboten. But online, I’ve been preaching the new gospel of transparency and interaction and after telling you that I voted for Clinton and then Obama, I’m now telling you that I’m voting for and actively supporting Daggett (I also contributed to the campaign).

Daggett is the one candidate making the tough decisions about the budget and taxation. He has a plan to reduce property taxes while also holding down local spending, which will force municipalities to find new efficiencies through collaboration. He holds a doctorate in education and I trust him to work to improve the schools. Daggett is an experienced manager and a good man. So he has my vote.

At the same time, I’m also voting against the two parties – and there are my other two ballots. Chris Christie is aggressively unimpressive and, worse, a cynic who tried to foist a platform without a plan on the state; I wouldn’t trust him any more than the worst Jersey pol – and that’s saying a lot in this place. John Corzine is a smart and decent man and has made tough decisions, I think, but he has not proven to be a good manager (I wish he’d stayed in the Senate). But as the Star-Ledger said in its endorsement of Daggett, it is time to repudiate the parties. They deserve it. We deserve better.

Daggett has had incredible momentum in the polls, passing the 20 percent mark more than a week ago while both of his opponents fall into a dead heat. All Daggett needs to win is 33.1 percent. But his biggest challenge is that people who want to vote for him fear that he can’t win or that they’ll be helping the person they don’t want get into office. Daggett’s answer: “It’s never wrong to vote for the right person.” He really can win.

It has been frustrating watching a campaign with little money fight the guys with too much money. I had no magic digital buttons to push. On my Guardian podcast (out next week), I said that I fear Joe Trippi is wrong: The revolution won’t be televised because campaigns will still be televised and that’s why there’ll be no revolution.

Oh, me of little faith. I’ve learned a big lesson about politics and revolutions in the last few days, thanks to Micah Sifry, who wrote a post suggesting that the Daggett campaign should overcome the I’d-vote-for-him-if-he-could-win threshhold by starting a vote-pledge site: If 100,000 people sign up with me to vote for Daggett, then I’ll vote for him. The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran said on Radio Times Friday that if people thought Daggett could win, he would win. That is, the state wants to vote for Daggett. So this was Micah’s idea to demonstrate that to the voters.

Before the campaign could do a thing, a supporter, Alex Higgins, put up his own pledge site at DaggettPledge.com. Isn’t this precisely how politics is supposed to work today: rising from the people. The voters are organizing voters for Daggett. They are using the internet, not huge war chests of party dollars. They are connecting online, without the interference of media. New Jersey voters are rallying behind Daggett and declaring their independence. It is inspiring to watch.

[* See update below.]

Go watch it. Really. The counter is ticking off more voters for Daggett every few seconds. Their names and towns are scrolling across the top of the screen. You’re watching the new democracy in action. Of the people. By the people. Thanks to the internet.

So if you’re in New Jersey, please go take the pledge. I know you’re not enthusiastic about Christie or Corzine. No one is. I know you’re not loyal to either state party organization. How could anyone be? We threw around the word “change” a lot in the presidential campaign. Well, this is real change, change you can count on, changing the party structure in our broken state. This will send a message not only to Trenton but to Washington. This will be a blow for independence.

Take the pledge.

: MORE: I asked Micah for more of his views on this and he sent this.

I’ve long believed that we need more competition in politics–in 2002, I wrote a whole book about third parties in American politics called Spoiling for a Fight, which argued that independent candidates and third parties can play a healthy role in putting new ideas into circulation, shaking up the system and opening up new political coalitions for change. Unfortunately our current system is rigged in favor of the two major parties. It shouldn’t be that the only way to get rid of one of the major party’s incumbents is to vote for the other major party. That just leads to a cycle where no one really has to take responsibility for anything, they just have to blame the other guy. Sometimes you want to vote for a third choice and say no to the other two! It’s long past time that we figure out a system that enables you to vote positively for what you want, instead of worrying that you might “waste” your vote. But that’s how winner-take-all systems work.

The thing about the internet is that it’s really good at solving the dilemma of collective action. That is, lots of us often hesitate to get involved because we think our individual vote can’t make a difference; our $25 or hour of volunteering can’t, by itself, change anything. It’s only when all those votes or dollars or actions get aggregated that we can see their impact. Deciding to risk your vote for a longshot candidate is a classic collective action dilemma. You want your vote to count, and you don’t want it to do harm. So very often we get candidates who try to run outside the two-party framework, and they sometimes get a flurry of attention, but when push comes to shove they fade because most voters rationally worry that the candidate they really want “can’t win,” and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But New Jersey voters don’t have to wait til next Tuesday to signal to each other what they’re thinking. When I heard that Daggett was polling at or near 20%, it occurred to me that if his numbers went up another 5% of the vote–roughly 100,000 people–that would put him into full contention. And 100,000 isn’t that large a number for the internet. You can get 100,000 views on YouTube or 100,000 hits on a blog post pretty quickly. If enough people talk to each other in New Jersey over the next few days, they could convince each other that there are enough switchers out there and the whole race could swing pretty fast.

That said, I have no idea if the Daggett Pledge will work. I think it’s great that Alexander Higgins just took the initiative and got it going without asking anyone for permission; it’s probably better that way. But people are probably going to have to do more than just sign their name on a website; I’m sure the major party campaigns will try to spread as much FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) among the public about how authentic this is, and it is the internet–people should ask for more proof that this trend is real. But the net can make that easier too. If voters want this badly enough, they can make it happen.

* UPDATE: I don’t know what’s happening with it, but the pledge growth seems a bit too linear, even overnight. I sense a clever geek at work. So I don’t know what the numbers are. Doesn’t much matter; the only numbers that do matter come Tuesday. Pledge or no pledge, I’ve cast my lot and vote.

  • louis muhaw

    i have one solution for yous go get a job because the two CHRISSES together cant beat corzine just live with the PAIN and TAXES because the Chrisses are bucking heads and its good for my MAN CORRZY GO GET THEM CORRZY.

  • Justin

    Great Article!!! We need change, and it’s not coming with Christie. He’s too much of the same old…

  • Daggett is just as entrenched in old politics. His “plan” to reduce property taxes is merely increasing sales taxes to transfer funds to a property tax refund account. As with anything in government, slippage will occur. Slippage is the measure of inefficiency in a system.

    Think about it: raise taxes in one area to reduce taxes in another. It’s silly, even if he is your neighbor.

  • Farce

    How can you claim to be voting independent when Daggett is CLEARLY another liberal???

  • Jonny Scrum-half

    Well, I’m a former (pre-Bush Iraq War) Republican who has contributed to and is voting for Daggett, as well. He seems like a decent guy with solid experience who is at least addressing the real issues, rather than obfuscating them. More important, a vote for Daggett (even if he doesn’t win, which unfortunately looks very difficult) should send a message to the two parties that the same-old-BS won’t cut it anymore. Both Republicans and Democrats have been two sides of a coin in NJ for too long, ignoring property taxes and fiscal responsibility while more people and businesses leave the state.

    Something needs to change, and a vote for Daggett is at least a start.

  • I don’t know much about Daggett, but I do know a thing or two about local government. Cutting local property taxes doesn’t force municipalities to work together. It forces municipalities to cut spending, most importantly on local education. Perhaps municipalities will work together to make up for the loss. But more likely, the school systems will stay separate and instead cut needed services to New Jersey’s most vulnerable student populations.

    My friend’s a councilman in Mass. trying to get municipalities to cooperate right now. Any significant project takes upwards of 5 years, even when the municipalities undoubtedly benefit from the exchange. But, if your local government is telling you that your kids can’t walk to school anymore because they’re being sent to another district, do you think you’re going to cooperate? No, you’re going to form a coalition and sandbag the entire endeavor. It’s likely that those “new efficiencies” are going to be rejected by voters through one democratic mechanism or another (i.e., electing school boards or zoning boards, etc.). So Daggett will strap cities of resources and city voters will reject the natural “incentive” to become more “efficient” (i.e,. take away service and eliminate needed bureaucracy).

    Taxes are necessary sacrifices that solve collective action problems. If you don’t believe that, say it. But don’t bury a political preference in pseudo-descriptive “incentives” talk, of the type used to justify Prop. 13 in California. It costs money to make money. Taking away funding won’t ALLOW, let alone FORCE, municipalities the time and resources it would take to create “new efficiencies.” And people certainly aren’t voting for Daggett because they want new efficiencies. They just want to stop sacrificing. Daggett is the political artist willing to tell rich New Jersey residents they can have their cake and eat it too.

    (btw, I don’t think the Republican or the guy from Goldman Sachs are any better. I just reject that this Daggett guy is any different if he had any hand in you using this talking point to defend him.)

    • Andy Freeman

      > Taxes are necessary sacrifices that solve collective action problems. If you don’t believe that, say it.


      One might imagine that govts won’t simply waste money or spend it on cronies, but in this world, that’s what they do. They’ll cut education and other worthy things to do so.

      > It costs money to make money.

      Not always. More to the point, spending money doesn’t mean that you’ll make money.

  • Jeff yes you are right. WE CAN !!! I am on 100% on your side

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  • New Jersey doesn’t tax its residents nearly enough. You need to keep raising taxes. Illinois can use all the help it can get.

    Once only tax eaters and politicians live in your state you will have done as much as you possibly can for Illinois.

    The States doing the best in this recession are governed by Republicans (mostly). Please do not elect a Republican. Please. For the sake of Illinois.

    In any case it is not the Governor that counts. It is the legislature.

  • Joanna

    Dear Mr. Jarvis,
    I just wanted to say that as an aspiring journalist myself (I commute to graduate school at Temple University while working part time and living at home with my parents in the middle of nowhere, Flemington), I’m very proud of your well-written and informative blog entry and your support for Daggett and a multi-party political system. As a young person and recent graduate I feel very disillusioned with our current system. I definitely think my peers and I have put in our time and some of us even put ourselves through college, and still struggle to find full time employment and afford healthcare and pay ridiculous taxes. And I was hoping someone would come along in our state who could really do something about this, and Daggett certainly seems right for the job. Generally I lean on the conservative side, but I like how he wants to work on the state’s educational system and the goals he has. And the best part is, is Daggett is sincere. Most politicians don’t come across that way, and many of my friends and I agree upon this and feel frustrated that we must always submit and pay attention to leaders who we feel do not represent us and are much older. (Please do not feel that I follow any parts of agism, as my parents are now in their sixties and I definitely relate to what they’re going through. I even used to worry so much I thought of changing my career path and pursuing something more lucrative to support them. Yet I’ve realized now that I cannot live my life for others and that things will work out.) But I’m certainly excited for him and hope the election turns out well!

  • Todd

    It would be easier to consider your argument more seriously if you had the ability to analyze the candidates without personal attacks and repudiations against the Republican. Your resorting to ad hominem belittles your argument, your candidate and your philosophies. Sadly, this is the type of discourse the left relies on.

  • Mr. Jarivs,

    I’m reading your book WWGD and it is fascinating. That said, I have a question for you regarding this post. I don’t object to you you’re supporting as you can support who you wish. I’m just curious as to your thoughts on what this does in the larger scheme of national politics. This election if your candidate wins will obviously be used to attack the person you voted for last year who is now the President.



  • Some Wednesday morning quarterbacking: herein lies the problem with abandoning journalistic neutrality. Now that we know that Daggett garnered only 5.7% of the vote, we look at your claims that he was polling in the 20’s, and had a real shot at 33.1%, and wonder if your sources were bad or if you were using your status as a journalist to mislead us and push your own agenda.

    I tend to think it was the former (and I’m certainly not accusing you of anything here…), but I would be curious about your thoughts on this. What made you say he was polling 3x higher than he was? Are you sorry you did? Is he? What do you say to people who, based on this, will now doubt your veracity on certain subjects? All subjects?

    • Jeesh. I didn’t take the polls. They were in the news. Blame the pollster, not the messenger.

    • Andy Freeman

      People lie to pollsters in fairly complex ways. Or, they change their minds when they’re actually casting their ballot.

      Either way, there’s a reason why we take the vote/play the game and don’t rely in surveys and predictions, no matter how seemingly well informed.