by Doctor Science
The rest of New Jersey is going to the polls on Tuesday for state and local elections: Governor (& Lieutenant Gov. running mate), legislature (one state Senator and two Assemblypeople per district), county Board of Chosen Freeholders and Sheriff, and township Committee. There are also School Board elections, which are explicitly non-partisan, and a couple of ballot questions.
I won't be going because I already voted by mail-in ballot. I knew months ago that I would be voting for Democrat Phil Murphy for Governor, and to re-elect my state Senator and Assembly reps, all of whom are Democrats. For the county and township offices, in the past I've normally gone over material on both Democratic and Republican candidates, choosing on a case-by-case basis. This year, though, I didn't even bother: I voted the Democratic party line all the way down the ballot.
I changed my policy because over the past year I've repeatedly seen (apparently) nice, rational Republicans go off the rails--injecting anger, political rants, and nutty conspiracy theories into all kinds of conversations, activities and settings. It's happened to me, to Mister Doctor Science, to Elder Daughter, and to my parents, and it's just so exhausting.
Basically, I don't feel I can count on a Republican not to derail a random Township Committee meeting because they've become exercised about uranium or a planned civil war or amoral college students or whatever the meme of the week is.
I do know a few Republicans who are consistently rational, regardless of topic. But I've been surprised and disappointed enough by some Rs I know personally that I'm not going to bet on the rationality of a random R politician. Judging by my friends, even if they're rational now they might fall into the fever swamps at any point.
Local politics is usually not particularly ideological: it's about small-scale, pragmatic issues, with lots of room for common ground and cross-party alliances. But these days my biggest disagreement with many Republicans seems to be about the nature of reality itself, and I can't expect small-scale disagreements to stay that way.
I'd rather not vote the party line, but until Republicans break their conspiracy-theory habit I don't have any choice. I don't know if this can be done without a major shift in the conservative media landscape. A Harvard study of online media during the election found that news sources on or linked to by the left are broadly distributed, with their center of gravity in the center-left. On the right, there is no such thing as too far right:
*"Inlinks" refers to the incoming cross-media hyperlinks to stories and media sources.
From Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, by Rob Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Nikki Bourassa, Ethan Zuckerman, & Yochai Benkler.
I have no idea what it would take to break this cycle. Removing a single news organization, even Breitbart or Fox, doesn't remove the incentives that push them ever rightward, chasing and being chased by their audience.
I wonder---it's conceivable that the incentives are not what they seem. It's not clear to me that Breitbart is making a profit: everyone talks about how it's funded by the Mercer family. FoxNews is highly profitable, but its tone and direction were set by Roger Ailes for political purposes. And then there's the Russian-bot angle. Maybe the conservative audience is being dragged or lured ever rightward, and an actual, functional free market in right-side media would reset to something like center-right sanity. A scientist can dream!