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

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

by Jeff Siegel

The pundits and apologists are already warning progressives not to desert Barack Obama. "True believers deny it, but [Ralph] Nader is the enabler of perhaps America's most disastrous presidency," wrote Joel Connelly in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Mr. Nader had been huddling with prominent crackpots over the weekend to determine whether he had enough support among his natural constituency, self-absorbed whack-jobs, to mount an entirely meaningless campaign," wrote Andy Borowitz.

Let's get two things straight: Nader didn't cost Gore the election in 2000. Gore cost Gore the election, with help from the Supreme Court. Gore was only the fourth Democrat to lose West Virginia in 100 years, and he didn't carry his home state, Tennessee, either. If he wins one or the other, Florida doesn't matter. And Nader's campaign will not be entirely meaningless. This time, with any luck at all, it will cost the Democrats the election — because they deserve to lose.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote in the Four Freedoms speech: "The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are: Equality of opportunity for youth and for others. Jobs for those who can work. Security for those who need it. The ending of special privilege for the few. The preservation of civil liberties for all." When was the last time the Democratic Party paid any attention to those concepts?

If I'm a self-absorbed whack job because I believe in Harry Truman's Fair Deal — an economic system that rests on a democratic foundation, where wealth should be created for the benefit of all — and the Democratic leadership doesn't, then so be it. If I'm a self-absorbed whack job because I want U.S. soldiers to sleep safely in their beds at night and the Democratic leadership doesn't, then so be it. If I'm a self-absorbed whack job because I think the American people deserve better than the 14 Democratic Senators who voted or said they would against the climate change bill, then so be it.

The Democrats are no better than the Republicans, and what's worse is that they don't care. They believe they'll get our support because they've always gotten it — the ultimate in entitlement. In this, they are as corrupt as the corporate fat cats who fill them with campaign cash. Eighteen Senate Democrats voted for the 2005 bankruptcy reform bill, widely seen as a payoff to the credit card industry for years of hard lobbying and campaign largesse. And, in fact, The Washington Post reported that those 18 Democrats received an average of $12,600 more in industry campaign contributions than the Republicans who voted for the bill, and $31,000 more than the Democrats who voted against it.

In other words, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. A recent CNN poll showed Nader with six percent of the vote, which could make all the difference in the world in November. A poll analysis site called Fivethirtyeight.com, which doesn't include independent candidates, shows Obama winning the election by tenths of points. (Though on June 8, it did post an interesting commentary about Nader hurting McCain more than Obama.)

The only drawback to Nader costing Obama the election? The Democrats are so out of touch that they still wouldn't get the hint.

(For the second part of the series, please go here. To read the series from the beginning, please go here.)

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(The photo of Ralph Nader campaigning in Illinois in April is by soundfromwayout of Naperville, IL via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hello Jeff

As a registered Independent I think I understand where you are coming from. I voted for Nader myself the last time he ran although I plan on voting for Obama this time around.

I found out about reform movements such as Instant Runoff Voting, Fusion most successfully used by the Working Families Party in New York, and the National Popular Vote and I think that these efforts have merit and deserve a wider audience.

I think that people who are disillusioned with major party politics need to be practical and think beyond the cycle of presidential elections to make their mark on politics. This is where these reform efforts and groups come in. People who are disillusioned with the two major parties need to find practical ways to express their political consciences and I think reform efforts like IRV, Fusion, etc. deserve a close look.

Jeff Siegel said...

Actually, I don't have a problem withe the electoral college. You only notice it when it doesn't work.

And I'm all for being practical. The first step in that is to stop enabling the Democrats.

Abigail DeRoberts said...

Voting for a party is supporting them, enabling them, and giving them a mandate. If you're disillusioned with the party, voting for said party's candidates is hardly practical. Sighing, throwing up your hands and voting for Obama is not how you make a mark on politics.

Also, Jeff, you put the whole thing much more eloquently than I do. Perhaps I'm too full of rage to articulate my argument.

Jeff Siegel said...

Rage is not a bad thing. Also, I've had more than a few elections to work on my rage, Abigail. I got to vote against Ronald Reagan twice, which helped me learn how to take long, deep breaths and wish I was in a better place at a better time.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Abigail -- I have no disagreements or objections to people voting for 3rd party or independent candidates in this coming election. My main point is after the election in which realistically, one of the major party candidates is gonna win -- then what?

I would like to see this rage at the two-party system channeled in practical ways -- hence my focus on structural reforms such as IRV and Fusion.

I've voted third party in the last two presidential elections so I understand the motivations for people wanting to do it. I'm not gonna criticize someone for voting for Nader if that is what they want to do. But I would like to ask: besides voting for a 3rd party candidate in the presidential election, what else do you think should be done?

I'm voting for Obama to prevent a President McCain from happening -- that is my motivation for voting Democratic this time out. But I will remain a registered Independent to signal that I hold no loyalty to the Democratic party. If IRV were legal for this election I would put a 3rd party candidate as my first choice and Obama second. If Fusion were legal, I would vote for Obama on the party line of a 3rd party.

Presidential politics is one thing. What do you think should be done after the elections are over to make sure alternative voices and political perspectives are heard?

Rick Rockwell said...

Not trying to get in the way of this discussion/debate… but I want to tidy up a few loose ends.

First, to his credit, Obama is the first Democrat running for president in a very long time who I have heard quote FDR on more than one occasion. So I think Obama wants to link the old traditions with the present. However, as I have delineated too many times here, I wish he had more than rhetoric. His record, thin as it is, so far doesn’t show he can deliver on his promises. And he has done little to heal the divisions in his own party. How he will undo partisan Washington remains a mystery. And I wish he would really take the hard stands that are necessary, as Jeff has pointed out here and elsewhere.

Liberal Arts Dude does make some good points however about politics beyond presidential politics. And Nader has been roundly criticized for walking away from grassroots party organization merely to show up every four years offering a non-corporate alternative. As someone who often doesn't vote for the mainstream parties, I wish there were better alternatives.

I can proudly say I voted against Reagan twice too. But I didn’t vote for the sell-out Democrats in either of those elections. And I’m still happy with my choices. I know I didn’t elect Reagan. All those people voting for him did that. And their poor choice pushed America so far to the right, that when the Clintons showed up they were mislabeled as liberals.

I have been fooled into voting for the party that calls themselves the Democrats a time or two since (not for the Clintons though), but not this time, and maybe not for a long time. When Democrats stop taking the left-leaning part of their base for granted (which they have often done since the 1960s) maybe some of us will give them a shot again.

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