Monday, November 03, 2008

A Decision

As some of you know, to the fury of my friends and to some readers of this blog, I sometimes vote for minor-party candidates for President. To my mind, Democrats and Republicans are not better suited for office simply because their parties are more familiar and better-funded. We have more choices and sometimes we have better choices. So my presidential choice is not limited to two candidates.

We also had Cynthia McKinney of my old Green Party, Bob Barr for the Libertarians (both of whom, by the way, had long careers in the United States Congress previously, as members of the two "major" parties); we had Chuck Baldwin thumping his Constitution, Brian Moore explaining real socialism, and for a while we had Ron Paul making the best case possible for a libertarian administration in the White House following George W. Bush. And of course, outside the restaurant pressing his face against the window getting it all foggy, is independent candidate Ralph Nader. Don't stare at him.

I'll vote for any candidate who is offering the right message and the right platform for the time, even if that candidate isn't likely to win. I'd rather be right than vote for the winner.

Everything has already been said about the pet issues such as war, taxes, and healthcare. Too much, in fact, and at times we have given the most absurd lies equal status to the truth. In such an atmosphere, it is impossible to say anything sensible, and anyway it has all been said, written, blogged, robo-called, and spoofed on television.

Pulling backwards, then, to two "super issues," if you will. For a long time, this election was dominated by one super-issue for me: a return to Constitutional order after an administration that ran amok, rounding up human beings and keeping them imprisoned for years without any charges or basis. The wars, the torture, the denial of any Constitutional restraint on its power created a tyranny that defended itself with a craven nationalism - even when confronted with its obvious incompetence. This, coinciding with the crisis in confidence over our electoral process, threatened the very legitimacy of my country's government.

No candidate has answered my concerns on the issue of Constitutional order and the divisive, partisan strafing that has become the language of political discourse in the USA. Senator Obama has, however, offered something just as important: a strong message of American unity in the light of our differences.

If the conduct of a political campaign is any measure of how the candidate would govern, then Senator Obama looks fit for the job after all. The messianic nonsense around him will dissipate when reality takes office and the man must govern. His campaign suggests strongly to me that he will be thoughtful, sensible, principled, and will act decisively when the need arises. A politician could be more honest, more positive, and more right, than Barack Obama has been - but not by much.

And what is clear to me tonight, hours before I go vote, is that he is the messenger of unity that most Americans believe, whereas the Republican party is selling division, lying their souls into hell, and peddling discredited economic ideas. The minor parties aren't singing the song of unity and citizenship, either. Nader is - just Nadering. Somehow this razor-sharp kid from the Chicago Democrat machine is the winning spokesman for the idea that we are a union.

"Our opponent says that there is a real America, but ...there aren't a real America and an unreal America. Soldiers in the trenches don't ask each other if they are red or blue. You can support the war and be a patriot, and not support the war and still be a patriot. We are tired of these old divisions and ways of separating Americans from each other. We are all Americans and what we share is greater than what divides us."
Sigh. All right then. Fine. I don't think the arid deserts will bloom colorful wildflowers singing hymns of justice and prosperity, but Obama might just convince enough of us that we are one America. I have my doubts about him, but they aren't grave doubts. I'm not afraid of him, like the people who think he's a muslim Communist in cahoots with Al Qaeda. He is not the messiah, but he is not Satan, either. And he can be a good President. He doesn't believe insane things. He can lead. If anyone can put us on a better course at this moment, he can recruit the right cabinet and woo Congress, see it through and explain it to the people. And damn it, he has the right message, and people are buying it.
So I vote for Obama after all, with a rueful smirk but a dimming optimistic glint in my eye.


Pam said...

That's what is great about our Country. We can all vote for the candidate of our choice.

We don't have to agree on who we vote for or against, what party we see as having the answers we are looking for.

Let's just hope that the next President can make the right choices, along with the new Congress, and get this Country back on track.

Hal Johnson said...

This will be the first time in decades that I've voted for a candidate from one of the two leading parties, and for much the same reasons.

Blue said...

I’m curious as to which reforms should and need to be made to make some parties, other than the two biggies, more viable.

While I do empathize with the concept of voting your conscience, on the same token, in a very big way, with some elections literally being decided by extremely small percentages, those three to 5 percentage of voters who cast non-republican or non-democratic ballots really do throw their votes away. I feel shitty about it, but I subscribe to the more pragmatic and jaded view that you have to choose the lesser of two evils.

Not a popular opinion, to be sure, on this blog, but with things the way they are now, it’s the truth. I hate that things are this way, however, and I would love to see some change that makes the national public actually take these small parties seriously.

I dislike that there is always one or the other. Republicans are conservative and democrats are liberal. Sadly, that is not true. There are conservative Democrats and liberal republicans. Unfortunately, for the most part, we tend to get ideological representations of each party with no in-between. I would say that if there were as many as 4 viable candidates, we would have a true democracy with very real choices and options. But viable is the operative word, and I just can’t think of a way to make it happen.

That being said, I agree with this post in that Barrack Obama is the best representative for uniting us. Just listen to his speeches. He mentions John McCain, but only to link him to Bush, not to call him hyper conservative, or a republican, or to make references where we draw our own unfounded and fearful conclusions about him. Barrack has a positive message, talks to both parties, and says that we all have a natural grace and beauty; this portion of his speech takes up 90% of his message to the American public, while his references to John McCain take up the remaining 10%.. His message is powerful enough to gather some rather influential republicans to his side, and to even move them to repudiate John McCain’s tactics while doing so.

I feel sorry for John McCain because I do think he used to be an honorable man, and I don’t understand why he couldn’t play to his base, as he is so obviously trying to do, and remain civil. I think doing so would have more likely won him the white house, as more independent voters would have been drawn by his respectability and his pre-2004 record of hating George Bush.

Algernon said...

Voting for what you want, voting for what you believe is right, is NEVER throwing your vote away.

That is my declaration of voter independence. We're supposed to believe in competition, right? So let's have competitive elections. Yet no, we FEAR competition. Heaven help us if we elect anything other than a Democrat or a Republican to Congress!

Actually, we have a Libertarian in Congress, and a socialist in the Senate, both of them enormously popular and respected. One is a registered Republican and one is an independent. But they are there.

What is needed for other parties to be more viable? Two big things. One, they need money. If the Libertarians had the money that Ron Paul was raising during the primaries, Bob Barr would be a serious third-party challenger. H. Ross Perot pulled off his independent bid (and a stunning showing for a non-party candidate) because he had the money.

Second, the press needs to cover them. This will serve to hold them accountable. If they are actually getting watched and written about, they can't nominate nutcases or they will be laughed off the stage. (This does not prevent the national party from nominating unqualified nutcases, but hey, life isn't fair.)

It would do so much for our politics if we drop this irrational notion that we must only choose from the two national parties. 2-party rule has our country in a stranglehold.

The fact is, the 1992 election was improved by Perot's influence. And 2000 is a painful memory for some, but I am convinced if they had let Nader debate (even once), he would have lost votes to Gore and the outcome might have been different.

Algernon said...

P.S. Look at the man who is probably going to be elected President today.

Suppose he had listened to conventional ignorance? Suppose he believed it every time someone said, "You can't do that?"

He smiled and said well, let's see. That's what so many people admire about him.

Some countries have "democratic" rule where you can choose from within a single party. We don't call that democracy. Adding a second behemoth, also heavily bribed by business and wealth, doesn't make us a legitimate republic.

Blue said...

One would think that with this election being so much about how our government has become hyper partisan that those parties would be doing better. Really, what you say is true about the media coverage, and I do feel that people like Bob Barr have gotten a bit more exposure than he might have had if this been a different election. Money is naturally a huge component, which is another aspect of our elections I find extremely sad.

The congress and the senate, currently, are the only places where those smaller parties can get elected to. However, in a presidential election, I stand by what I said about throwing a vote away. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it should be that way, but until we get a third candidate who actually stands a chance, it is true.

I think making those changes on the local level will make huge strides towards eventually birthing such a third party candidate. The larger presence a party has in the senate and congress, the more media coverage, and the more people willing to give them money, or the better their ability to raise funds from their followers becomes.

That, I don’t call conventional ignorance. I call recognition of the way America works currently.

Algernon said...

Hi Blue,

It is possible we value our vote differently. I think voting for someone you don't like or believe in, just because you have accepted that the only 'real' vote is to vote for one of the two so-called 'major' parties, even when someone else is saying what you think is more truthful, is a terrible waste of your vote. To me, it is like saying that what you hold to be most truthful doesn't matter as much as someone winning.

Henry Clay said, "I would rather be right than be President." And I maintain that I would rather be right than vote for the winner.

That's why I have never cast my vote for the winning presidential candidate - until tonight.

Even so, the two-party monopoly on power, unquestioned, is an obstacle to republican democracy.

quid said...

I live in Hillsborough county, Florida, where, like in Alaska, all the votes haven't been counted yet. So, who knows if I'm counted or uncounted. I do believe I voted for the best man with the best plan, and oh, I don't for one minute not know that he is an ambitious politico who has chosen to pursue an agenda that I think will work a lot better for the common man/woman and the world than the one we've pursued for the last 8 years. Let us not forget that the best part of the election is that there are only 72 days left of Bush, with his form of cronyism and his pursuit of whatever he wants, no matter what part of the Constitution he tramples on.

And, I do need to know... did
"the arid deserts bloom colorful with wildflowers singing hymns of justice and prosperity?"

I loved that.