Monday, July 14, 2008

Third party candidates and you

I have a confession to make. I voted for Nader in 2000. Having recently turned 18, it was the first presidential election for which I could vote, and to say it was a memorable way to enter the voting arena would be quite the understatement.

Thing was, I rather liked Al Gore, but at the time he wasn't presenting himself as a terribly inspiring candidate, and I was chomping at the bit for a viable third party. Plus, I didn't believe that anyone in their right mind would vote for George W. Bush. The man could barely string together a coherent sentence, had ducked out of his armed services duties, and represented what looked very much like the continuation of a dynasty--something that struck me as decidedly un-American.

Needless to say, I was terribly, terribly wrong about how the election would turn out. For some unfathomable reason, people actually did vote for George W. Bush. There were also some vote counting shenanigans, and everything combined to form the perfect storm of gross disappointment. We've been paying for that messed up election ever since.

And I've taken a lot of shit for voting Nader. That's fine, I can take it. Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of the man anymore, as he appears to be going increasingly off the deep end. Still, I will defend my decision. If there's any blame to be handed out for "splitting the vote" in 2000, it should be placed firmly on the shoulders of the "Jews for Buchanan" phenomenon in Florida, and more importantly, on a Supreme Court that decided to favor expediency over accuracy.

But back to third parties and their candidates. I was just reading about the Green Party's nomination of former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to be their presidential candidate. McKinney strikes me as a fairly solid individual, with views and goals that line up fairly well with my own. Between that and me being a strong proponent of the importance of third parties in any political system, you'd think I'd be ready to vote Green come this November. You'd be wrong.

It's no secret that I'm an Obama supporter. I also don't make it a secret that I've disagreed with some of the positions he's taken. Still, I like him and the team he brings along infinitely more than McCain. And if the 2000 elections taught me anything, it's that you should never underestimate your opponents. Thanks to the disastrous policies of the Bush administration (and, to be fair, the policies of past presidencies as well), I believe our country has little wiggle room when it comes to these next few years. Several crucial decisions and actions need to be made regarding incredibly important issues like climate change, health care, the economy and global security.

We can't take any chances this time.

That doesn't mean I plan to go out of my way to ridicule people who may choose to vote for a third party candidate. This is my choice to make, as it is theirs.

Honestly, though, I wish the third parties would focus more on local and regional elections first, working to build their bases from the ground up before attempting to tackle national office. Still, there is merit in running a presidential candidate, in that they help bring up crucial issues that the major candidates might not otherwise address. This only works, of course, if the media decide to give them coverage, and allow them into debates. Ultimately, that seems to be the biggest sticking point, and it makes the viability of third party candidates into a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. It's hard to convince people to vote for you when they don't know who you are or what you stand for, and it's hard to convince the media to give you face time when people don't typically vote for you. That's got to change.

For now, though, I'm choosing to support Obama not simply because I want to hedge my bets and avoid helping to "split the vote" - but because, after all the research I've done, he still strikes me as the best current candidate for the job. And really, instead of basing our decisions on perceived party viability, isn't that what we should all be doing?


Palmer said...

Emily - what specifically about Obama's platform makes him the best candidate in your view?

Honestly, the more I hear him speak and the more I learn about his views, the less inclined I feel towards casting a vote for him.

You are too young to remember the 1992 election but this one reminds me of it. A lot of people were excited over Clinton because he was a Baby Boomer and it was the overthrowing of the old guard, etc. Not to sound too cliched but lots of people had a lot of hope riding on him and we ended up with a guy who would launch cruise missiles at baby food factories when the idiots in Congress started talking impeachment for a blow job. And we all know how history repeats itself.

If Obama wins, I can look forward to the coal and nuclear power industries making out like bandits, some troops coming home but a new imperial outpost in the Middle East, and who knows what else. He voted for cloture when he promised to filibuster the FISA bill. He seems to favor the politically expedient quite heavily.

3rd Way said...

I must confess that I too pulled the lever for Nader in 2000. It was a tough decision and I made the wrong one.

The best thing for this country would be an end to the 2 party system (hence the name 3rd way), but until there is a 3rd party with strong nation wide support all 3rd party presidential candidates do is pull votes away from the viable candidates.

Anonymous said...

Neither of you need to apologize for voting for Nader in 2000. It is your vote to make, not any one party's to take. It's your prerogative to feel bad about it, but there's plenty of us out there who don't. Nader's candidacy was one element among dozens that influenced the outcome, one that was a Gore win in the final count but thanks for the intervention of a party-line Supreme Court decision.

The only people who should apologize are those who voted for Bush.

clyde "Hearts and Minds" said...

Third (and 4th and 5th) parties are not viable because over the years, laws and administrative rules have effectively banned them. Unless and until we change that, we are stuck with two parties ruling our government (both of which are outrageously controlled by corporations and extremely wealthy people). The first and best reform to begin to change this is Instant Runoff Voting.

I did not vote for Nader in 2000, as I was concerned that the vote in Wisconsin might be close. But there is neither reason nor justice in blaming those who voted for Nader, and for their best principles, for the Bush Administration taking power. It is divisive and alienating, and it is water long over the dam.

There are three sequential reasons for the onset and consolidation of the Bush Administration.

One is the massive unpunished violation of voting rights of eligible citizens who were purged from the registration lists and illegally denied the right to vote. Many thousands of predominately African-American and working class people were so denied their civil rights before and during the election.

Two is the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to violate its own so-called conservative principles, and the clear direction of the U.S. Constitution (to place control of election administration in the hands of the individual states), and overrule the Florida Supreme Court's decision to conduct a recount. The U.S. Supreme Court properly should have required a full recount coupled with an investigation and correction of the massive systematic voting rights violations.

Three is the acquiescence of the American people and our institutions and officials sworn to uphold the Constitution.

Impeachment should have been the immediate response. Subsequent events have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that was then, and it remains now, the absolute imperative of our country and its elected officials.

Check out my solo race as an Independent for Wisconsin's Senate District 20, currently occupied by the worst of the worst elected officials.

The Lost Albatross