2008 Election Manifesto: Voting Your Conscience isn't Wasting Your Vote, Part I

(Editor's Note: This is the first part of a three-part series. To read the next part, please go here.)

by Jeff Siegel

In 1992 and 1996, I held my nose and voted for Bill Clinton, because he had to be better than Bush I and Bob Dole. In 2000, I held my nose and voted for Al Gore in the Democratic primary, because Bill Bradley couldn't possibly win. And then I held my nose and voted for Gore against Bush II, and we saw how much good that did.

In 2004, I stuffed cotton up my nostrils and voted for John Kerry, who may well have been the worst major party candidate since the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern got back-shed whoopings, but at least they stood for something. Kerry believed in nothing, stood for nothing, campaigned for nothing — other than that he wasn't Bush. And he even did a lousy job of that.

This time around, I'm not holding my nose. I'm voting my conscience. I will no longer contribute to the charade that has become the American political system. I will not be responsible for the final act of The American Experiment, which almost certainly seems ready to begin. Our run was a good one, lasting some 200 years and showing what a determined people who governed themselves could do without kings or dictators or politburos.

In those 200 years, we may have accomplished more than any nation ever had — saved the world from fascism, made genuine progress toward ensuring that every citizen, regardless of birth, had the same opportunity for a better life; and set an example for the downtrodden and the oppressed throughout the world. Yes, we screwed up and made mistakes, not the least of which was about race. But our great gift, which so few others had, was that we learned from our mistakes. Barack Obama as candidate is proof of that.

But no more. Now, we are content to let our political and economic elite run our country for their benefit. Our food supply is increasingly contaminated, and no one cries out. Our economy has been so badly managed that our children and grandchildren face the almost unprecedented prospect that their standard of living won't be better than ours, and no one cries out. We face a planet-ending crisis over global warming, and no one cries out.

Instead, we nominate two men for president who are more alike than they are different. They want to bail out Wall Street. They want to cut taxes. They want to bomb Iran and fight the Iraq War until the bitter end. John McCain calls himself a Reagan Republican, and Barack Obama — who is what passes for a progressive these days — praises Ronald Reagan. Reagan opposed abortion, consumer protection, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement. What part of that doesn't Obama understand?

Yes, say my friends, perhaps all this is true. But you can't waste your vote. No matter how bad the Democrats may seem, they are still better than the Republicans. We need regime change!

Clever, of course, but meaningless. Two of the three Democrats elected to the House in special elections, a result which fills the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) with such pride, are more conservative than most moderate Republicans. Which means nothing will change, no matter the regime.

(To read the next part of the series, please go here.)

(The political cartoon is by Thomas Nast of Harper's Weekly from the 19th Century. This cartoon is now in the public domain.)

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