Monday, November 05, 2007

How To Defeat The People

"There is no better illustration of exactly how far right political discourse has swung, and how self-loathing and beaten down the Democratic Party has become, than that among its presidential candidates, the one most willing to consistently, unapologetically stand for the things on which the party is supposedly built (some of your more basic civil liberties) is also the guy who believes in aliens."

That is from Rebecca Traister's amusing piece on today, about presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. She is not saying anything especially new, just noting one more time with great amusement that a lot of Democratic voters will not vote for the candidate who actually represents their values and positions, because they have been told that the candidate they want will not be "electable."

This is exactly the way to defeat the popular vote. You have to train people not to trust the candidates who match their beliefs and aspirations. Instead, you train them to look for a candidate who has been packaged a certain way, and who has the support of the largest cash donors. You have to make people forget that any candidate who appears on the ballot is "electable." That's how you defeat the popular vote.

Ralph Nader is used for this end in most conversations I hear about him. To this day, there are people who sound sensible, blaming Ralph Nader for the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Ralph Nader was, after all, a third party candidate who appealed to left-wing voters that may not have felt represented by Vice-President Al Gore. It was a close election, and so one can understand the temptation to consider every vote for Ralph Nader a "wasted vote" or, worse, a "vote for Bush."


Let's look at some numbers.

In 2000, the number of people of voting age was 205, 815,000.

The number of registered voters? 156,421,311. Big drop!

The number of voters who actually showed up and voted? 105,586,274

(These figures are provided by the Federal Elections Commission.)

Number of popular votes cast for Ralph Nader, according to the Federal Elections Commission?


So we get opprobrium for fewer than 3 million who voted for the candidate they wanted, but no widespread outrage about the fifty million registered voters who stayed home? Just about as many people who cast a vote for the winner cast no vote at all, but shame on those three million people who participated in the process by voting for the candidate they felt was best.

And if you're going to tell a voter that they "wasted" their vote by voting for the candidate they felt was best according to their judgment and reflection, you are asking for a knuckle sandwich, brother. What about the vote you "wasted" voting for someone you didn't like, who lost the election anyway?

And what about the 50.4 million votes cast for George W. Bush? Here is the part where the "spoiler" bullshit actually becomes funny. The emotional logic here is that those three million people were doing some thing irresponsible by voting for a candidate they wanted; the 50.4 million people who voted for Bush are off the hook.

If we want our elections to be anything more than a sham, we are going to have come to terms with competition and the elementary concept that when one candidate wins, other candidates lose. And yes, a three-way election is more competitive than a two-way contest.

So I urge you registered Democrats to vote for what you want. If that's Hillary Clinton - wow, but okay. Vote for her. And if you read Dennis Kucinich's platform and find yourself nodding and wondering why the other Democrats aren't saying these things - maybe that's why Dennis Kucinich is there, and maybe he deserves your vote. Don't let yourself be bullied into voting for one of those other bastards just because they've got more money. And you right-wing Republicans, that goes for you, too. Get behind a good, sensible right-wing conservative who speaks to your values, and vote with all your heart. Put that person in the race and I'll have a look. You're not stuck with Giuliani unless you choose to be stuck with him. If we're going to think that way, we might as well dispense with primaries and elections and admit that large corporations really are in charge.

And that would truly, truly be sad. The one sacred choice left to Americans, minimized and rendered less meaningful already because of the way money dominates politics, finally neutralized by fear and shaming.


lauraj said...

Excellent post. Just finding you via Jane R. I went to my state fair and put a dot on a straw poll for Dennis. The lone dot. Hil had not only the most dots, but more than all other candidates combined, by far! Whatever. But as a former Nader voter, thank you for your perspective.

Algernon said...

Thank you for reading and commenting, LJ. Pleasure to have you as part of the conversation.