April 30, 2015

Third Party Voting

Ralph Nader speaking in front of the White Hou...
Ralph Nader speaking in front of the White House at the September 15, 2007 protest against the Iraq War. The full speech (ca. 10 minutes) was broadcasted on C-SPAN on September 16, 2007. See: http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Ralph_Nader_how_many_Impeachable_offences_0916.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Election season already seems to be in full swing here in the U.S., and I'd be lying if I said the thought of it hadn't already made me feel nauseous. The colossal waste of money is hard to stomach, but that pales in comparison to the positions of some of the candidates on the issues. Watching mainstream journalists following Hillary Clinton around and reporting on where and what she eats almost makes me feel sorry for them and the sorry state of our news media. And then there is the spectacle of the political tribalism by which one is surrounded on social media. Not only is the 2016 U.S. presidential election "the most important of our lifetimes" (just like every other election), but anyone who does not agree with someone's choice of candidate must be characterized as morally defective.

Case in point, I recently encountered someone on Facebook who claimed that voting for a third party candidate in a U.S. presidential election "is morally and strategically wrong." How is voting for the person one most wants to see elected wrong in any way? Needless to say, I reject this claim. As I have mentioned previously, I have voted for third party candidates in some presidential elections when I found them to be much more representative of the sort of policies I'd like to see or when Democratic candidate was simply not someone I could support in good conscience. In fact, I did this as recently as the last presidential election.

Democratic loyalists love to blame their losses on those of us who sometimes vote for more progressive candidates than their party is willing to run. They couldn't possibly have lost an election because they selected an ineffective candidate who did not connect with voters or one who was too conservative for the base to support. No, it had to be our fault. At best, they insist our votes are wasted; at worst, they blame us for electing "the enemy." I still see some of them whining about Ralph Nader and insisting that anyone who voted for him is personally to blame for everything Bush and Cheney did during the 8 years they were in office. They demand that we ignore our conscience and vote against the Republican by supporting the candidate they think is most likely to defeat him or her. What we think of their candidate does not matter.

These loyalists rarely seem to realize how irrational they sound when they demand that we support someone we might not want to see in office. They do not stop to consider how uncritically supporting the Democratic front-runner makes it less likely that the candidate will move to the left on relevant issues. They do not seem to recognize how this keeps us stuck in the two-party system about which so many of us complain. But most of all, they do not seem to appreciate that our votes are our own to do with as we decide. And for some of us, what we choose to do is vote for the candidate we would most like to see in the office.

If I decide to support a third party candidate in any particular election, I can predict the over-the-top reactions I will receive. I get these reactions merely by saying that I am thinking about supporting such a candidate. The thing is, none of this makes me even mildly tempted to change my mind. The more I am accused of being morally deficient, wasting my vote, electing "the enemy," and the like, the less inclined I am to take the accuser seriously. If this is what supporters of a particular candidate are like, I may even feel better about not supporting the candidate.

In the end, I am likely to vote for the candidate I'd most like to see in office. I'm certainly willing to compromise and vote for someone who is less than ideal. After all, the ideal ones rarely seem to run for office. And yet, I'm only willing to go so far with such compromises. I'm not going to vote for someone who does not represent me if there is an alternative who does.
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