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February 23, 2004

Your eye-on-the-ball report for today. Howard Dean takes Digby’s advice:
When I announced last week that I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency, I urged my supporters not to be tempted by any independent or third party candidate. I said I would support the nominee of the Democratic Party, because the bottom line is that we must defeat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes. […]

Ralph Nader has made many great contributions to America over 40 years. But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental, and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined. George Bush’s right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges fifty years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of, and for, the corporations—exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against.

Those who truly want America’s leaders to stand up to the corporate special interests and build a better country for working people should recognize that, in 2004, a vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush.

Mind you, I’m as weirded out as anybody by this strange idea of Democratic party unit—, I mean unif—, I mean, well, you can see that as a Democrat my brain cells can’t quite encompass the concept. Strange times. [05:28 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Your eye-on-the-ball report for today.:

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Good for Dean. The right thing to do.

Myself, I hope Ralph Nader chokes on a chicken bone.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 06:08 PM:

It is strange, isn't it? I may need to quit using the old Will Rogers line about not belonging to an organized political party.

Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 06:56 PM:

... in 2004, a vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush.

More accurately, it is one half of a vote to re-elect GWB (or whoever it is you wouldn't vote for if you cast your vote for a real candidate). It's essentially equivalent to not voting, or writing in Osama or the Pope. Though if you're going to go all the way to the polling place just to shoot yourself in the foot, why not get both feet? You deserve more than the lesser of two evils.

N in Seattle ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:43 PM:

Why is it news that Howard Dean is a Democrat and that he will do whatever he can to support the eventual nominee of his party? He never wavered from that viewpoint.

Nor am I surprised in the least that he strongly urges his supporters to do what it takes to defeat Dubya and his cabal. Sure, a few Deaniacs will momentarily talk the Nader talk, but they'll soon come to their senses.

Like many disappointed Dean supporters, I really do believe that Howard would both be a superior candidate to Kerry and also facilitate a transformation of the party to an institution that we can be proud of. But if I can't have Howard, I'll work to put the Democratic nominee (whoever he is) in the White House. Then I'll get back to the work of revitalizing the party in the image of its people.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:24 PM:

Now, if we can just get the Greens to make Kerry their nominee...

bark! bark!

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:00 PM:

Dang. My hero. Too bad we can't afford to wait for Dean in 2008, ain't it?

Lis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:00 PM:

I literally cheered aloud when I read that quote by Dean. I'd been worried that disaffected Dean followers might give up on the Democratic party altogether, and I'm pleased to see that he's still rallying the troops to unseat Bush, even though he's not the nominee.

Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Thank you, Howard, for proving that I wasn't wrong to support you with all my heart.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:28 PM:

Me, I'm thinking that we're not through with surprises from Howard Dean. He came from nowhere to invigorate the Democratic party by telling the truth as he saw it. He hasn't quit. He has money, an engine to raise more money, and no spending limits before the convention. Just because he's no longer saying "pick me as the Democratic candidate," that doesn't mean he has to stop saying what he thinks.

In fact, he has far more freedom to do that than he had before. With no personal axe to grind, he will be able to say things that a candidate might have to think twice about. This is just a first example.

I don't think he's going to fade into irrelevance.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Awesome. If Kucinich makes a similar statement (please G-d let him) once he leaves the race, Ralph is toast. Cold toast. Dry too. No raisins even.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:39 AM:

He has money

Well, actually, he's out of money. I got a letter yesterday asking for help clearing up his $400,000 campaign debt. (Which I will respond to with a small sum.)

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 08:55 AM:

Dean and Nader - two wounded self-esteems who need to be in the lime light in order to find a reason to live...

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:17 AM:

I give Dean much higher marks than that, Michael.

Sure, it takes a massive ego to run for president. Who would be willing to undergo the abuse a national political candidate faces, unless they have serious motivation and a personality that can hold up under the onslaughts they're sure to endure?

But Dean threw his hat in for the sake of his principles. This administration pissed him off royally, when it squandered the national budget, undermined our liberties, and lied to the nation to embroil us in a war.

He jumped into the ring, fought hard and (relatively) clean, and when he couldn't muster the votes, he bowed out with grace.

Nader, otoh, is a spoiler and a putz.


-l.

Katy ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:18 AM:

A pretty good column on Dean, Nader, and Democratic Party Uni-whatsitcalled:
here

Matt Sturges ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:50 AM:

On his website, Nader makes essentially the same argument for running that he made last time, which is that voters ought to vote their consciences, etc., etc., that you heard plenty of Democrats repeating in 2000. Though I will be casting my vote for the Dem. nominee, the siege mentality that many Dems seem to be taking up in response to Nader's announcement is a bit disspiriting. At this point in the ball game, we have every reason to believe that we can win in a fair fight against GWB, regardless of Nader's involvement. So, while Nader's involvement certainly does nothing to assist a Democrat's election to the white house, I can't see that it merits the wish that he'd choke on a chicken bone or any of the other such bilious sentiments I've seen floating around the blogosphere. Are we to believe that Kerry or Edwards, in their heart of hearts, are any less self-aggrandizing or attention-seeking than poor Ralph is? Or Al Sharpton, who is clearly *more* self-aggrandizing and attention-seeking, and who received no rancor whatsoever from the left?

It seems that when you tally up the balance sheet of what kinds of discourse Nader brought to the table in 2000, we were always better off *with* him. Let us not forget that Democrats *won* the election in 2000, Nader or no. We can do it again this year.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:09 AM:

"...the siege mentality that many Dems seem to be taking up in response to Nader's announcement is a bit disspiriting."

I dunno, it seems to me I'm seeing every bit as many statements on the order of "Nader isn't a serious threat this time, so relax." I mean, I even linked to one of those, in a post earlier in the day from this one.

If Democrats are displaying a "siege mentality," that may have just a little bit to do with having been under a siege for several years. On the bright side, being besieged is often a bonding experience; thus the recent outbreaks of Democratic uni-whatsit.

Just speaking for myself, I would like to note that I'd vote against Ralph Nader even if he were a major party nominee with a serious chance of being elected, for the simple reason that he would be an absolutely horrible President of the United States. I mean, if you think George W. Bush is narrowminded, petty, bullying, startlingly ignorant, and prone to bizarre lapses of judgement, try reading up on the life of St. Ralph. For all the fine things he did thirty and forty years ago, I wouldn't want Ralph Nader anywhere within a thousand miles of executive authority over anything I cared about.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Hey, I don't want Nader as my President either -- nor Bush -- but I don't want Kerry as my President either, so, naturally I'm going to stick to once again voting for Someone Else. (I would've voted for Dean, though.) Am I throwing away my vote? Only because people are so hung up on this two-party thing.

This sort of thing is why I've moved from supporting third-party votes to now calling for abolishing the party system altogether.

Yr friendly wild-eyed Radical

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:12 PM:

Am I throwing away my vote? Only because people are so hung up on this two-party thing.

I don’t understand — is it because people are “so hung up on this two-party thing” that you’re throwing away your vote, or are you saying that you’re not throwing away your vote, and the belief that you are is a perceptual problem on the part of said people?

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:46 PM:

David M:

A little of both.

People view it as 'throwing away' a vote, because they're so hung up on the two-party system being the only successful model. I've done this rant here before, but it basically boils down to this: "third-party" candidates don't get elected because people don't vote for them. People don't vote for them because they're so sure that it wouldn't do any good. It's a self-perpetuating problem.

I don't believe I'm throwing away my vote. I believe I'm voting for the person I want to see win, and that is the correct way to vote. Basing my vote on who I think stands a good chance of winning to me sounds a lot like conceding defeat. "Better than the alternative" voters, or "my party, no matter what" voters, can feel free to keep voting that way, but I think they're being foolish, just as much as they think I am.

To sum up: If people would start voting for candidates instead of political parties, I think we'd be better off. Hence my new "kill the political party system" radicalism.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Tina, if your vote is an expression of your opinion, you're not throwing it away. If your vote is an attempt to contribute your small influence in a democratic system toward shaping that system to be more in line with your beliefs, you are throwing it away, just as if you hadn't voted.

In my opinion treating your vote as the former rather than the latter is irresponsible (in this coming election, downright criminally so). Eligible people who don't vote in November can be expect to be treated as if they'd helped elect Bush (in the event of a Bush win). This is for the same reason that standing around and watching someone bleed to death (not trying to help/get help) is considered more or less equivalent to murder.

Voting for an independent or third party candidate is in practical terms equivalent to not voting; people who do so (see above). Saying "I have a right to vote however I want" is like saying "well, it wasn't MY fault the guy was cut." Absolutely true; beside the point.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:00 PM:

Tina, simultaneous posts. But right now, this is not the time to vote to reform the system. Right now it's time to vote in a way that saves the system where you get to vote AT ALL.

dix ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:09 PM:

Tina

I'm not particularly "hung up on this two-party thing." However, our splendid winner-take-all/indirect-electors system is very much hung up on the two-party thing. Third-party votes have at most a negative effect, taking away votes from other candidates. I wish we had something closer to a parliamentary model but I wish I had lots of things I'm never going to get.

Yeah, I'd say you're throwing away your vote. But it's yours to throw.

hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:36 PM:

Look: The US has a two-party system. When it comes to the big Kahuna, only one of the major-party candidates is going to walk out of the Thunderdome.

If you care about introducing more voices to the conversation, the presidential election just isn't the right venue. With a few rare exceptions, all it produces is a handful of asterisks every four years.

I'm sorry, but parties are built from the ground up, with, y'know, work. Anybody who says voting third-party every fourth November accomplishes anything toward that goal is either a fool or a liar.

And I disagree that your presidential vote is a means of expression. The man in the Oval Office has the power, both on his own and through his appointees, to affect millions of lives all over the world. Most of those people don't get a vote, so you owe it to them to consider their needs, their dilemmas, their lives.

As some wag once said, "If you want to express yourself, make a f*cking quilt."

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:40 PM:

"Third-party" candidates don't get elected because people don't vote for them. People don't vote for them because they're so sure that it wouldn't do any good. It's a self-perpetuating problem.

I think the progressive's besetting wrong assumption is that really everyone agrees with you, or would if only they were in possession of all the facts.

If what you say was true, Ross Perot wouldn't have pulled in nineteen million votes in 1992, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn't have outpolled William Howard Taft in 1912, and Jesse Ventura would never have been elected governor of Minnesota.

There are plenty of reasons not to vote for a third-party candidate; being sure that it wouldn't do any good is only one of them.

Being sure the third-party candidate would do a lousy job if elected is (as Patrick points out) another. Disagreeing with some or all of the candidate's platform is a third. Finding the candidate's inability to build a broad-based constituency, or apparent lack of interest in doing so, extremely worrying — if not downright distasteful — is a fourth.

If you want people to vote for your third-party candidate, convincing them that your candidate can win — which voting for your candidate yourself does not, by itself, do — is only one of the things you need to accomplish.

What do you think voting for Nader will accomplish, beyond letting you feel good about yourself?

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:47 PM:

dix:

"Third-party votes have at most a negative effect, taking away votes from other candidates."

That is precisely the attitude I am talking about. You are hung up on the two-party thing, in precisely the way I mean.

Look. You're convinced it's pointless to vote for someone beside a Demopublican because they aren't going to win. Why? Because you know that every other person considering that choice is likely to go with that same conclusion. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. You're so sure there's no way an alternate-party candidate can win that you continue to propogate the two-party system by refusing to vote outside it.

I am not taking away a vote from someone. The choice is not between my voting for an alternative-party candidate and voting for one of the Republicrats. It's my voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all. I will not vote for the lesser of two evils. I like my third evil much better.

I suspect that a great many of the millions of people who refuse to vote are doing so because they don't like either major-party choice. I wouldn't want to lay bets on a percentage, but I'd lay bets it's non-trivial. If the rest of the country, the part that hasn't succumbed to apathy, would stop supporting the two-party system, maybe more people would feel connected to the representation process again.

Or maybe not, but hey, every once in a while I have one of these moments of optimism.

Lastly... how can it possibly be 'throwing away' my vote to vote my conscience? Isn't that the precise point of voting? Of the entire concept of voting, no less? That each person gets to say "this is what I think is the right choice", whether or not anyone agrees with them?

Xopher:

It is not irresponsible of me to vote my conscience. Ever. You think it's irresponsible because you think Kerry is better than Bush. What if I don't agree with you? What if I think that Bush is an awful President, but I don't think Kerry would be any better... just different? (Presuming Kerry's getting the nomination, and I'm presuming he is.)

If I really ever believe the country was going to completely eradicate the rights of its citizens, instead of merely erode them to a degree theoretically recoverable from -- and I concede a second Bush term may help take us there -- I will simply emigrate. But it's not just Bush making these decisions. It's Congress supporting them. It's the entire Federal level of government being fubarred and using the Constitution in place of their Charmin. It would help to have a better President in office, but I don't really think Kerry is that "better President", just like I don't think Clinton was a particularly good President and just like Clinton, for all he was supposedly liberal, was also signing away our rights -- you may remember a little thing called the Communications Decency Act, or the Defense of Marriage Act. To me, who is better is not remotely drawn along party lines. It's drawn along the lines of what people say and -- more importantly -- what they do. People like to say Democrats and Republicans are obvious polar opposites, but the truth is, they're not, and quite frankly, I do not and will never fall into the camp that says "Bush is a Republican. I oppose Bush. Therefore I oppose Republicans, and therefore I must vote Democrat."

I would've voted for Dean; I was willing to believe his rhetoric might have some action behind it. I am not confident that's true of Kerry, and I do not plan on voting for him. Period. Any more than I would vote for Bush.

PS: Upon preview, I see another response has crept in. DM, you are making an incorrect assumption. Go back up and re-read. I don't support Nader, either.

My point here is about no specific candidates. It is about the process, the idea I run into every time there's an election that there's no point in voting for someone besides a Democrat or Republican.

Yes, there have occasionally been third-party candidates who have won office. I think that's terrific. I'd like to see more of it.

Pop quiz: how many people ran for president in 2000? How many are running in 2004? Hint: the answer is not 3 any more than it is 2.

Lastly: Hamletta? I don't owe anybody ANYTHING.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Tina, it's not always a third-party vote. I was told I was wasting my vote in 1972 when I voted for McGovern.

Do what you think is right; that's what democracy is about. But please, if you don't want Bush for another four years, think *carefully* about voting for anyone other than the Democratic candidate. After all it will be the Democrat (probably Kerry but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for Edwards*) who will have the best chance of beating Dubya. And, with luck, even being inaugurated next January.

*and yeah, it's hard to type that way!

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:00 PM:

One last thing:

I am not endorsing a particular candidate here. What I am advocating is people considering each and every candidate based solely on how close their views are to the individual voter's views. Not their party. Not their chances of winning. The actual candidate's stance and record on actual issues.

Now, I'm done. I ain't gonna argue this one no more.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:03 PM:

PS: Upon preview, I see another response has crept in. DM, you are making an incorrect assumption. Go back up and re-read. I don't support Nader, either.

Sorry, Tina — I should have noted that (and it did occur to me as I was writing it that I might be reading too much in). The question, rephrased, still stands: What do you think voting for the third party candidate of your choice will accomplish, beyond letting you feel good about yourself?

Lois, I think you're wasting your time — Tina apparently really doesn't think Kerry (for instance) would be better than Bush.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:39 PM:

"Tina apparently really doesn't think Kerry (for instance) would be better than Bush."

That seems to be it, right there. And, well, if you think that's true, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, well, I don't know what to say.

But hey, it's your vote -- and your country too. I can be in Canada inside six hours if I need to be, and while I'm not planning to leave even in the event of a Bush win in November, it's not something I've ruled out.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:45 PM:

If I really ever believe the country was going to completely eradicate the rights of its citizens, instead of merely erode them to a degree theoretically recoverable from -- and I concede a second Bush term may help take us there -- I will simply emigrate.

So you won't do anything to try to prevent it from happening, and will just run away if it does. And you speak of your conscience? I'm having trouble understanding.

What I am advocating is people considering each and every candidate based solely on how close their views are to the individual voter's views. Not their party. Not their chances of winning. The actual candidate's stance and record on actual issues.

And I'm saying that this is a simplistic and short-sighted view. Suppose I decide I want Elijah Wood for my boyfriend. Well, it would be nice, but it's not likely. Should I refuse to date anyone else because I. Want. Elijah. (stamp foot)? What a pathetic loser I would be.

Life is full of situations where you choose the less-good thing you can actually get (or whatever) over the perfect thing you can't have. The fox, having proclaimed the grapes sour, goes off in search of other food: how much more foolish would he be to sit under the grapes whining about how it's grapes or nothing? (He'll likely starve, or get grabbed by a Spartan boy or something.)

I just think you're selling your birthright for a quarter-teaspoon of message.

Now, I'm done. I ain't gonna argue this one no more.

Yes, this would be consistent with your "I'll just emigrate" position.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:52 PM:

David, I would be repeating myself, but I'll do it once more to be civil.

I am voting for the candidate, whoever it turns out to be, that most closely represents and supports the issues I believe in. Period. It actually could be a Republican -- it hasn't been yet for President, but I voted for one for Representative once and have occasionally voted for them for state and county and city offices. It could be a Democrat; I've voted for them, too. But very likely it will be someone else, because I do not trust the Democratic or Republican candidates on average, because they have a solid history of promising one thing and acting in an entirely different way.

I don't trust Kerry. I don't trust Bush. I don't trust Nader. I don't know who else is confirmed to be running this year -- I suspect that won't be a static list for a couple more months -- but if I vote for anyone at all, it will be from the rest of that list. I prefer third-party candidates because I think that nearly everyone in office today is a liar, a cheat, and a crook -- there are exceptions -- and because at least someone else might be different.

I believe that Kerry is different than Bush. 'Better' depends on where one stands on trade-offs. So far, I haven't seen any reason to think that 'better' is the right word.

I may very well end up emigrating to Canada, but it won't be just because of Bush. It will be because of a collective 20+ years of slow erosion of what I believe the be the principles of this country, which have only been further eroded by Bush, not altogether by him. The man is clearly insane but he isn't acting alone nor is he the first to perform this sort of erosion.

BSD, "in spite all evidence to the contrary" is all a matter of opinion. One of the things I do love about my country is that I get to hold a different opinion. Less so than I used to, perhaps, but so far, it's still the case.

I submit for consideration: this argument wouldn't have happened the way it did if the voters of this country would ignore the two-party ideal, and go back to my original statement: I think we could do so much better if we abolished the party system.

Yrs in continued radical belief. -- T

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Ah, good. I was afraid I was going to have to take Patrick's fear of the non-Republicans uniting SERIOUSLY.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:43 PM:

Tina, you're still talking about cause. What I'm asking about is effect.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:46 PM:

Toward the bottom of this page is a short description of just how the Electoral College is chosen, and how that feeds into the process of electing a US President and VP.

Note what happens in the event that no candidate receives a majority on the one and only ballot of the EC.

There is no room in this process for a weak third-party candidate. It's simply not set up that way. Should a third-party candidate do well enough to take several states, a most unlikely event in itself, and thereby prevent any candidate from gaining a clear majority in the EC, the US House picks the next President and VP.

Voting is considered to be both a duty and a privilege of citizenship. As such, one cannot responsibly say of his/her vote, "I don't owe anybody anything." You owe your fellow citizens an informed vote, which includes knowing how the entire process works.

If you want a third alternative to the current two parties, be prepared to work your ass off for the rest of your life to build up enough grassroots support for that party to be a serious player on the national level. And also be prepared, if you succeed and your party becomes a serious contender, to see it merge with one of the two majors. That's how it works in the US. There is no room for a third party above the local level.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:27 PM:

Xopher: No, not arguing any more is actually a clear expression of my policy to not bother arguing with people on points they aren't going to budge on, and taking myself out of arguments when I'm not going to budge either. But think what you like of me.

Peri: It's nice to know "If you weren't so ignorant, you'd agree with me" isn't confined to the far-right side of the spectrum. Also, check your assumptions. I don't want a third party. I want none at all.

David: Actually I am talking about neither cause nor effect. Just principle. My net result is that either way I don't get a candidate I support, except in my way, I'm actually voting for one I do, instead of tossing my vote towards someone I don't.

Ken: No, no. The Democrats here are united. Against me.

Last time I express a political opinion around here, I guess.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Nader got only a couple percent of the vote in 2000, running with a national party behind him. Even then, he was only on 43 ballots; without a national organization, and with less time to prepare, it is quite doubtful that he will get on anywhere near as many states this time. For that matter, independent and third-party candidates rarely do anywhere near as well in Presidential elections the second time around.


Politics is the art of the possible; any action which is outside the realm of the possible is just noise.

I would suggest that this election needs to be about results -- noise, even beautiful, pure noise, is a luxury that America cannot afford this time around.

David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:02 PM:

Tina- You, and other third-party supporters, seem to be voting as though this were a parliamentary system. In such a system it makes sense to vote for the candidate who most closely conforms to your views (even if he will only get a small percentage of the vote) because representation is proportional, and coalitions are formed after the election.

We do not have such a system. And we aren't going to have one anytime soon, no matter how hard you wish it were otherwise. In our "first past the post" elections, coalitions are formed before elections... inside the major parties. In a FPTP system, the most rational voting strategy is thus to support the major candidate whose positions are least unlike your own.

It boggles me how many people do not acknowledge the real structural differences between our system and a parliamentary system. They matter. They really do. Don't get me wrong, parliamentary systems have some significant advantages. If you would prefer a representational parliamentary system then by all means push for it. I might even support you.

But to ignore the structural reality of our system as it exists today is to be either willfully blind or quite ignorant of the differences between electoral systems. This isn't England and we shouldn't vote like it is.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 06:24 PM:

Peri: It's nice to know "If you weren't so ignorant, you'd agree with me" isn't confined to the far-right side of the spectrum.

You've no call to pick a fight with me. Is it your understanding that the EC works in some other way? Or that voters should cast their ballots without considering how those ballots influence (or fail entirely to influence) how candidates are elected?

Also, check your assumptions. I don't want a third party. I want none at all.

My apologies. Someone with the same name as yourself wrote:

I prefer third-party candidates because I think that nearly everyone in office today is a liar, a cheat, and a crook

which led me to believe your preference was for a third party candidate.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:02 PM:

I don't want a third party. I want none at all.

That's good. I'd also like a world without poverty, war, and injustice, please. Political parties arise because organized groups are more effective than unorganized masses of individuals, even if the latter significantly outnumber the former in actual bodies. The only way to prevent political parties from arising is to abolish them by law, which results in people forming "non-Party organizations" which are in effect political parties, leading to a ban on those, and so on until it becomes illegal to have a gathering of more than three people who are unrelated. You don't want to live in such a society.

Ken: No, no. The Democrats here are united. Against me.

No, we're united against your positions. I, for example, think the views you've expressed on this matter are short-sighted, to say the least, as well as historically unaware. I think the position of "don't contribute to making it better; emigrate if it gets bad" is cowardly. If you agreed with me on that point, you'd have to be a coward to hold that position. I'm hoping that you aren't, and that if I can convince you it's a cowardly position that you'll change your mind about holding it.

It's a useful distinction that you should learn to make. If you say intelligent, insightful things we'll react accordingly; we won't say "Well, that was intelligent, but since it was That Bad Tina Person I'm going to attack it anyway." Give me a break.

Note too that being called on expressing an ill-thought-out opinion is far from unique to you...I myself was recently washed and spun dry after making what I now realize was a fairly boneheaded comment about Al Sharpton (or was that on Making Light?).

We're not just here to express ourselves and practice our discourses. We're here to argue for what we believe in, and be argued with, and yes, occasionally have our minds changed. The only way to avoid being convinced of something you didn't believe before (once in a while) is to completely stop listening.

Last time I express a political opinion around here, I guess.

Why? Because many of us disagreed with you, at some length and with some force? I don't suppose you'd consider taking a look at your positions, instead? Maybe some of them could use a little tweaking, if so many people disagree so forcefully. There are names for people who are never convinced of anything by anyone; you don't want to be called those names, and I'm sure you even less want to deserve them.

That doesn't mean you should necessarily change your mind. Just consider what we've said. If there are logical flaws in any of the arguments, poke holes in them. If we're overvaluing the importance of one or another thing (in your opinion), point that out (actually you've been doing that, though not explicitly). And I hope you have an open enough mind that if there were no flaws, and no significant value differences, you'd change your opinions.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:12 PM:

I'll chime in with David Bilek above as he has brought up a very important point. The writers of the Constitution knew parliamentary systems very well indeed -- and decided against having one here. They had already experienced the problems of a fragmented and factionalized legislature in various state bodies and the Confederation Congress -- in these cases the divisions were often driven by region and not party. One president, Jefferson, wanted our system to be a bit more parliamentarian, but was not successful. The institutional bias against small minority parties is not something created by politicians or special interests recently. It was carefully designed into the U.S. Constitution.

And I am sorry, but there are times when the decison on who to vote for must be simple and pragmatic. My home state, Louisiana, has always the most interesting politics, but the high point must surely be the 1991 contest between neo-nazi David Duke and "ethically challenged" Edwin Edwards. That campaign resulted in the unquestioned champion of political bumper stickers:

Vote for the crook, it's important.
This was a situation where neither candidate was desireable by any stretch of the imagination -- in fact both are now serving time in federal prison. But there definitely was a lesser of two evils. Witholding your vote because none of the viable candidates is particulary attractive is a luxury you cannot afford.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:39 PM:

Xopher: Why 'last time'? Because I hate discussing politics as a general rule, especially stuff like this. Because I know damn well that my positions are radical and centrist and therefore piss everyone off, and because I know damn well that most people have very strong opinions, and never the twain shall meet. I broke one of my cardinal rules.

But let's sum up, for the people over in the corner watching:

I believe the electoral system should be abolished. I think it once served a purpose, but now doesn't, much like daylight savings. I believe in a popular vote system. I realize that's not what we have, but to me it's all tied together. I think that the more people express a desire for alternate choices besides a two-party system, the more likely we are to get rid of both the conception that only two people should be able to run for President and that only two parties should make up Congress and that the idea of passing the popular vote along to another level is just silly. Therefore, I promote 3rd-party candidates.

I think it's a remarkably bad choice to support someone you don't agree with just because you disagree with them less than the other guy. I think throwing your weight behind someone just because the person you ought to be supporting has no chance of prevailing is a very bad idea, because that way, nothing changes. And it's not like I'm going over to the cafe' and being stuck with egg salad or tuna when what I want is ham, it's like I'm going over to the cafe' and being stuck with botulism or salmonella when what I want is ham.

If I don't like it, I can emigrate -- that's part of my freedoms. If I don't think things will ever change, then obviously the America that I feel patriotic to is dead and leaving its corpse behind is the best option. I don't even see how you can equate leaving with cowardice, frankly. Is it cowardice to break up with a lover when things no longer work? I think some mass emigrations from this country might wake people up. Remember that bit where I said I was a radical? Yeah.

Realistically, do I know that things probably won't change no matter how stubborn I am? Yes, of course I do. But I also can't help but feel if more people were trying to change them, they would. That's the neat thing about democracy, when it's working: a large enough group of people with the same opinion and tactics really can change things. Do I think that people would be far better off voting for the candidate they really want, and not the one they really want that also probably has the best chance of winning? Yes. I honestly feel that. Do I expect people to start doing it? Not really, but I can't help pointing out sometimes just why I hold the positions I do, and that's one of the reasons I posted in the first place: this is precisely the reason I hate the party system.

"I don't suppose you'd consider taking a look at your positions, instead? Maybe some of them could use a little tweaking, if so many people disagree so forcefully."

So, if you were to go to a principally Christian-right blog and post in support of homosexual marriages, and got jumped all over by the denizens there, would you take that as a sign you needed to change your opinion or would you just presume that's what you got for expressing your clearly-different-opinion in a group unified on certain points?

The condenscension I feel I'm getting here on this is remarkable. Obviously I must be ignorant or wrong-headed, or all you people wouldn't disagree with me, right? Sorry. I hold a different opinion. I expressed it. I don't want to argue about it anymore. You don't agree, fine. I'm not actually expecting to change anyone's mind by repeating how I feel over and over again, and that, back to the beginning, is why I usually just swing really wide of political debates.

Okay?

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 08:06 PM:

OK. Tina. Your stance on voting is informed by "Kerry is no better than Bush". Fine.

But allow us to convince you otherwise, or at least try. Please post your greatest concerns, and we'll have a discussion about Kerry v. Bush on them. Fair? Of course, you are not obligated to vote for Kerry, or at all, but I would like you to, and I suspect that his views and goals match yours more closesly than Bush's do.

Iain J Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:15 AM:

I'm a British citizen, living in England. Over here, voting for third (or fourth, or fifth) parties in a national election can be an effective political act, due to the fact that we have a Parliamentary system of government, even though we don't have a system of proportional representation. Just as well, really, because I'm a Liberal Democrat politician (the third-largest party in the House of Commons), and will be working my little bottom off between now and the next general election to get the Liberal Democrat candidate elected here in Cambridge (a Labour / Liberal marginal seat).

In the USA, where you vote for a presidential candidate directly, the only effect of a (left/right) third candidate is to decrease the chances of the (leftmost/rightmost) mainstream candidate. The Democrats and Republicans aren't political parties in the European sense: they're electoral engines, and the way to get elected is to operate within that machinery, at least at the Presidential level.

Now here's a couple of overseas perspectives for the American voters. The first is that, even in a Parliamentary system, third-party success is a hell of a lot of work. You have to build from the ground up, recruiting activists, setting up leaflet printing, delivery rounds, canvassing systems and all the rest of the electoral infrastructure, and you have to keep that going all year, every year, concentrating on a few carefully-chosen local targets. Electing a councillor here, gaining control of a council there, getting a Member of Parliament elected after years of building up local support. People spend their whole lives doing this, in the hope that the next generation will be able to build on their success and eventually have a shot at government. Simply voting for a third-party Presidential candidate every four years is nothing more than a self-indulgent gesture.

Second, I beg you all to bear in mind that the effects of the next US Presidential election will be felt in every country on Earth. Believe me, an awful lot of us are shit-scared of what a second Bush term might bring. US foreign policy has had serious faults under Presidents of either party, but even so the contrast these days between Democrats and Republicans couldn't be clearer. The former brings an understanding of internationalism, of the value of working by consensus within multinational institutions, and to maintaining global stability. The latter seems dedicated to shredding the international order, and may well get a lot of us killed. Even if you genuinely can't see any significant differences between the candidates as far as domestic policy goes, please please please vote to get rid of George Bush, for the sake of those of us who have no vote, but who desperately need the BushCo global rampage to cease.

Finally, don't imagine you can simply emigrate to avoid the consequences of a second Bush term. America affects us all, and after another few years of Bush there may not be much of a free world left to emigrate to.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:47 AM:

Thank you, Mr. Happy. (Yes, I've checked your website on occasion.) I've said as much myself about this upcoming U.S. Presidential election, but not nearly as eloquently as you have.

Unfortunately, this is going to be one of the ugliest campaigns ever, what with issues like gay marriage being brought up as wedges to divide voters accordingly. I'm glad to hear from those such as yourself who still believe that there's a place for honor in politics. There are times that I really need to hope that's still possible.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:33 AM:

Tina,

Just curious:

If you don't believe in the two-party system why did you translate my "non-Republicans" (2/24 4:30pm) to "Democrats" (2/24, 5:27pm)??

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:57 AM:

So, if you were to go to a principally Christian-right blog and post in support of homosexual marriages, and got jumped all over by the denizens there, would you take that as a sign you needed to change your opinion or would you just presume that's what you got for expressing your clearly-different-opinion in a group unified on certain points?

Well, first of all, I would never do that, because that would make me a troll - in fact I can't see any legitimate reason for me to log on to a Christian-right blog at all (other than to lurk and report back). Was that just an extreme example, or do you really think we're as far from you as the Christian right is from me? If the former, your example isn't really relevantly similar. If the latter, why bring the subject up here at all? I'm honestly puzzled, since you really haven't generally seemed like a troll (using view-all-by).

If I did go to such a blog, and the CRs didn't just lock me out but engaged me with rational arguments against gay marriage, I would either refute them with facts or logic, or carefully examine whether their points were strong enough to justify changing my opinion. Fortunately, there are no rational arguments against gay marriage, so this increasingly hypothetical situation will never come to pass.

Second, BSD raises a very good point. Kind of a challenge, really. You say Kerry is no better than Bush. Give us some examples of issues you care about, and your positions on them; let us dispute with you whether Kerry is better than Bush.

For example, I care about the issue of gay marriage (since I want to be married someday). Kerry is against it, but thinks it should be left to the states. That's not a great position, but I can live with it (especially given electoral realities as discussed). Bush wants to amend the Constitution to prevent gay marriage forever; that's an intolerable position. Therefore Kerry is clearly better than (or "not as bad as," which is the same thing) Bush on this issue.

Now, gay marriage clearly isn't one of your issues, or you never would have said that Kerry was no better than Bush (well, unless there's an issue where Bush is better than Kerry (hah), balancing them). What are your hot-button issues? Of course, if your only issue is the abolition of the party system, then Kerry and Bush are equivalent on that, both being party members. But I doubt that's the case; it would make all your reasoning circular.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:07 PM:

Iain, you've hit on a big problem in the US political system. If you poke around a bit in my posts you'll find a fairly recent one where I look at major failings of the fairly reasonable presidents. And what I wrote there applies, "To my surprise, I find that even presidents I regard as good often made spectacular botches in foreign policy."

Tina, it occurs to me that under Kerry: Donald Rumsfeld, main architect of the recent war; John Ashcroft, wannabe Grand Inquisitor; Gale Norton, the female James Watt; Rod "the NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige; and Dick Cheney, apparent actual chief executive and scary authoritarian; would all be out of jobs. My conscience says, "vote for Kerry, even if I don't like him very much at all."

(Faint doggy whining noises are heard.)

catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:33 PM:

What strikes me as most relevant out of all of this discussion is that Tina cares enough to vote.

The majority may not agree with her choices or her reasons for those choices -- I, in fact, don't, given that our politics are structured on a two-party system and that a candidate who is not a nominee of one of those two parties has virtually no chance of winning. My personal choice is to take the Democratic nominee, even if I might regard him as merely being the lesser of two evils rather than being someone whose politics I can find myself in passionate agreement with, because our political system favors pitching in with one party or the other.

However, it doesn't seem to me that because Tina's approach fails to mesh with mine means she's throwing away her vote. In fact, I think she's doing the right and honorable thing by voting her conscience, even in the face of deplorable odds. She's accepting one of her duties as a citizen of this country, and is casting her vote in the fashion she believes would be best *for* the country. To me, it's the 40% or more of the population who don't go to the polls who are throwing away their votes. I may not agree with Tina and I might think that her strategy of voting for an alternate candidate may help someone I don't like get elected, but I absolutely can't fault somebody for voting her conscience. Tina *cares*. I can't see that as part of the problem.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:09 PM:

"What strikes me as most relevant out of all of this discussion is that Tina cares enough to vote."

Catie, it doesn't matter in the presidential election unless she votes for a major party candidate. It makes her feel better to vote for someone else, ok, good for her. Makes no difference to the rest of us at all.

I've decided that politics makes us all insane. It would explain a lot.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:31 PM:

Ok, question. About this assumption that voting for a "non-major candidate" doesn't matter. I slept through high school government and have only been old enough to vote for one presidential election so here goes with political naivete.

In party politics, are the numbers of non-voters or third/fourth/fifth/eighteenth party voters taken into account in terms of platform? If there is a concerted shift to the Green/liberalprogressiveofyourchoice party (and by concerted I mean ..oh..one percent or more), is this going to affect what they do or not?

has it since the last election? or are they concentrating on the tried-and-true swing-right crap?

Catie, I think I kind of agree with you. whether it's how I vote or not is irrelevant...people who *don't* vote are far worse than those who do but do so in ways I disagree with.

That's why I asked Patrick (a question still unanswered; I guess it's just going to be ignored) whether his Green party opprobrium is about methods or results. I suppose I'll extend the question to other people, if you'd like to answer. I can see being pissed as hell over Nader saying he'd vote Republican, and allied tactics; it's irresponsible and repugnant. The voters themselves are a bit different.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:32 PM:

Ok, question. About this assumption that voting for a "non-major candidate" doesn't matter. I slept through high school government and have only been old enough to vote for one presidential election so here goes with political naivete.

In party politics, are the numbers of non-voters or third/fourth/fifth/eighteenth party voters taken into account in terms of platform? If there is a concerted shift to the Green/liberalprogressiveofyourchoice party (and by concerted I mean ..oh..one percent or more), is this going to affect what they do or not?

has it since the last election? or are they concentrating on the tried-and-true swing-right crap?

Catie, I think I kind of agree with you. whether it's how I vote or not is irrelevant...people who *don't* vote are far worse than those who do but do so in ways I disagree with.

That's why I asked Patrick (a question still unanswered; I guess it's just going to be ignored) whether his Green party opprobrium is about methods or results. I suppose I'll extend the question to other people, if you'd like to answer. I can see being pissed as hell over Nader saying he'd vote Republican, and allied tactics; it's irresponsible and repugnant. The voters themselves are a bit different.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:34 PM:

Look at it this way — if voting for a third-party candidate is equivalent (in terms of outcomes) to staying home, then effectively what Nader is doing is trying to get as many progressive voters as possible to stay home. As a progressive, I resent that.

It's worth noting that this is pretty much the polar opposite of the tactic the evangelical right has used so successfully to change the direction of the Republican party.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:53 PM:

but, see, that's my question. Is it valid to assume that it does have "no outcome". Because it seems to me that a.) your party getting greater prominence and b.) possibly forcing a you-ward switch in the closest major party are outcomes.

not arguing whether those are more important outcomes than Bush being elected (NOT re-elected blech ack poo), just whether they count. And how much.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:34 PM:

"In party politics, are the numbers of non-voters or third/fourth/fifth/eighteenth party voters taken into account in terms of platform?"

Sometimes. It depends on whether or not the majors feel it might win them an election, whether or not it conflicts with some major group already within the party, whether or not the minor party has run a spoiler candidate, and the phase of the moon. Even some very popular ideas aren't taken up by the major parties. The USA, for instance, is majority environmentalist, but neither major party is--conflict with too many wealthy interest groups (including some unions--don't assume it's only businesses). Likewise, various interest groups have succeeded in stopping health care reform for something like 50 years (the first attempts by one of the major parties were under Truman, I believe.)

It's more effective to work within a major party, if that is at all possible. A question to Gary Farber might be in order; he can probably give historical chapter and verse on this.

This is typically the background of positions like Tina's (she will have to speak for herself, however). Nothing seems to work, even on terribly important issues. Such positions are, in my view, refined despair. It is very hard to have realistic expectations in politics: the horror, fear, and disgust level of much politics is very high.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 12:48 AM:

As an additional note to the last comment--which was one of the hardest things to write, by the way--Varia, the time to spend a vote on a third party candidate is when the stakes are lower. The W. Bush administration has been terribly destructive, and there's every reason to believe that it will become even more radical, should W. Bush be reelected. This is not the time to be risking their reelection. I may well end up working for the Democrats this election--and I don't very much like Kerry.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:02 AM:

I have voted for third-party and independent candidates before, and you're right -- the stakes were way lower back then.

Right now, if your conscience is telling you to vote for Nader, you need to get your conscience recallibrated, because your conscience is helping to reelect George Bush, in which case your conscience should probably just have you vote for him outright instead of fooling you into thinking you're being progressive. That's a nasty trick for a conscience to play.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:44 AM:

[Varying a post on a different comment thread.]
For several reasons I like the Australian preferential system (see link). www.australianpolitics.com/voting/systems/preferential.shtml
(Thanks to www.roadtosurfdom.com/surfdomarchives/002012.php for the link to this fairly clear explanation.)

I have a long rave about the problem with UK & US & other first-past-the-post systems not allowing for reasonable representation of the electorate's opinions, but this will just indicate the ideas.
Intelligent use of a voter's preferences (not just following the parties' how-to-vote cards) can get your opinions across without "wasting" your vote, because if your preferred candidate doesn't get a majority, your vote flows on to your next-preferreed candidate, but you've indicated your Green/Right/whatever slant too. It also avoids the second round that some European countries have, where if no-one gets a majority, they eliminate the lower candidate(s) & vote between the top two.

Another good thing is having paper ballots which you can write on. Unfortunately a lot of comments are just insults, but it has been used to good effect for particular issues, e.g. back in 1983 the scrutineers for all the parties saw "No Dams" written beside their vote on many papers. I worry that I've heard someone working on an electronic system for here that they were definitely not going to allow write-ins.

A question: here it's compulsory to attend & put a ballot in the boxes. Because the ballot is secret, no-one can see what you've put on it, so some people who don't like any candidate in their area just put in a blank one (or just write "None of the Above"). I don't agree with this, but haven't ever been in a situation like recently in Iran, where they stopped a lot of candidates running, and there truly wasn't a legitimate choice in some seats.
Where you have 'voting machines' or 'electronic voting', is this sort of thing possible? Or do those who want to vote "None of the Above" just not turn up, as is legal there?
What we have lost over the last few decades is the high security for our ballots, with cardboard instead of locked metal, stuff-proof boxes. There is a bit of a problem with not requiring much proof of identity too, but the State & Federal elections are very good when it comes to making it as easy as possible to vote despite travelling, illness, work or whatever.

Since US elections are on work days, I hope there is quite a large penalty for, say, employers making it hard for a citizen to get to a polling place over there, or docking their pay, etc.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 02:50 AM:

but, see, that's my question. Is it valid to assume that it does have "no outcome". Because it seems to me that a.) your party getting greater prominence and b.) possibly forcing a you-ward switch in the closest major party are outcomes.

If you want to either influence a major party to think more like you, or shine the national spotlight on the third party of your choice, then your best course of action is to join the party, go to the meetings, and make a hairy nuisance of yourself about what you believe in and why they should pay attention. Also lick envelopes.

Showing up only when the polls are open doesn't do squat so far as making and shaking party platforms. I'm sorry, but it doesn't. If you want to make a statement, stand up and talk. Preferably at a party meeting.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:57 AM:

Exactly. If obscure third parties made a difference, the religious right would all be registered members of the American Party. Taking over the GOP has turned out to be a much more successful approach.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:58 AM:

Since US elections are on work days, I hope there is quite a large penalty for, say, employers making it hard for a citizen to get to a polling place over there, or docking their pay, etc.

I can't speak to other parts of the country, but Georgia is trying something a little new this primary: in order to make it slightly convenient for folks, they've been allowing advance voting all this week. Basically you can show up any time your county registration office is open and cast your vote, no questions asked and no need to worry about qualifying under absentee ballot rules.

This is the first time they've done this. Could be because they're nervous about the performance of the new electronic voting systems, because they're expecting a big voter turnout (tho' officially they aren't), or because they're hoping to get more people in the door. Yes, there's a bit of crossover between the last two, but I think you know what I mean.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 11:40 AM:

Ray: I love you, please marry me.

MKK

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 12:43 PM:

Varia asks: but, see, that's my question. Is it valid to assume that it does have "no outcome". Because it seems to me that a.) your party getting greater prominence and b.) possibly forcing a you-ward switch in the closest major party are outcomes.

Hmm. I've seen Ross Perot and Ralph Nader and John Anderson since I started voting. Oh, Jerry Brown, too -- was he a third party candidate, or did he just look like one? Just looked like one, I think.

John Anderson was in 1980. My recollection is that he didn't advance the conversation very much, but he did split the vote, denying Carter a second term and putting Reagan into office. In retrospect, I bitterly regret my vote for Anderson. Carter was a much better president than people say. The fact that OPEC had us, so to speak, over a barrell was not his fault, and his responses to it were sensible and effective and didn't, just by the by, involve bombing people. His one major mistake was more a PR debacle than anything else. He should not have attempted the rescue of the hostages with anything less than overwhelming force. Since he was (wisely) not willing to use overwhelming force, he shouldn't have tried it at all. IMHO and all that. At any rate, Anderson's effect didn't do much except put Reagan in power, which was a Bad Thing.

Ross Perot did affect things. It helps to be insanely rich, as well as insane, I guess. He generated a large enough following -- and then dropped out early enough -- to cause both parties to court his supporters. He's also indirectly responsible for Jesse Ventura getting elected in Minnesota. I'm somewhat more directly responsible, I guess, since I voted for him. (Nor am I sorry, if you want to know the truth, though Jesse didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.)

The thing to note about Perot now, though, is that the third party that he created, the Reform Party, has gone from being a bit player to not being any sort of player at all. Part of that is because Perot is an autocratic SOB, but part of it is simply that it didn't have enough substance.

I would say that Perot's effect was short-term, and a lot of it was because he dropped out of the race in time for the major parties to make changes to their platforms in an attempt to draw his supporters. I believe that he would have had significantly _less_ influence if he'd stayed in the race.

Nader's run had two significant results; the splintering of the progressive vote got Bush elected, and it created a serious enmity between the Democrats and the Greens, which will continue to have negative repercussions.

Nader's only real message was, All politicians are lying scum. This is one of the least helpful things anyone can say. It provides cover for opting out. It allows a person to not take responsibility while claiming -- and very probably believing -- to be voting their conscience. My own feeling is that acting on "conscience" without accepting responsibility for the known consequences of that action is, well, unconscionable.

Nader actually _damaged_ the ongoing conversation between the Greens and the Democrats, and I think we've lost a great deal because of that. He's also damaged the Green Party, just as the party by itself. Some people who were disillusioned after voting for Nader hold the Green Party responsible, and are angry with the Greens, as well as Nader. Nor do I think they're totally mistaken.

Third party candidacies are chancy things, and generalizing from a very little data, I'd say they're more influential if the candidate drops out significantly before the election. So, that's what I think I know.

Does that help answer any part of your question? I'm sure lots of people will come along with documented, factual additions, subtractions, and reinterpretations. I'm just doing this off the top of my head. This could be interesting.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 02:59 PM:

yep, many of these responses are really interesting, and useful, and thank you. I wasn't really asking so I could prove a point or even make an argument. My knowledge of history is pretty abysmal, and politics only somewhat higher.

FWIW, which may not be very much--I, at least, come into conversations like these with a relatively open mind because I'm aware that I'm ignorant. being as how lots of computer users are closer to my generation, I would suspect there's more like me out here. I like to argue, but I find it much harder to admit people are right when they are condescending, insulting, or bitterly angry. It's an ego thing.

Given that, would it perhaps be better for the world to argue..I don't know..nicer? Less screaming anger & condescension, and more information? You might perhaps convince a few more people that way. I don't just mean on this site, either.

That said, I keep coming back to this site 'cause I learn a lot here. Thanks, all.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:01 PM:

oh, I should clarify that that last bit isn't to any particular person. Sorry if it's unclear.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 05:05 PM:

I'm still not going to further discuss my beliefs on voting and the party system here, but I get the idea here that some people have settled on what is, in fact, a wrong set of assumptions about me, including repeating one I corrected earlier:

I'm not in support of the "Green Party", and I'm not voting Nader. I'm not in support of any party. I'm in support of -- sometimes -- individual candidates, of all parties.

I am not a disillusioned Democrat you can win back to the fold. I have never been a Democrat. I have voted for Democrat party candidates, but you know what? I've voted for Republican party candidates, too. And Green party, and Libertarians, and basically every party you can think of, except the Harold Washington Party and the LaRouchies.

I'm not asking people to let me convince them how wrong they are, or to let me choose their candidate. If you want to write here about why you support a specific candidate, I'm (obviously) still reading, and maybe it will change my mind. But browbeating me won't, or insisting I defend my choice. That just makes me more stubborn.

Now back to lurk mode.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 06:52 PM:

"I'm not in support of any party. I'm in support of -- sometimes -- individual candidates, of all parties."

You and most of the Framers. I believe that's how we got into this mess, actually: the Framers tried to design a system that would be hostile to the European political parties of their day. It worked...but there are still ways to organize and game the system, and so we still have political parties.

There's nothing perfect this side of heaven.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:13 PM:

Parties are a side effect of having memory; once you can make promises concerning future conduct, you get a trade in promises and thus political parties.

Very basic part of the human 'gang up on problems' evolutionary strategy, something that cannot concievably be removed from politics or public life.

You're in the mess you're in not because of political parties, nor becuase of the emergent property of dualism in the US system of government, but becuase the faction that wants to destroy government is in power. The problem is not that they are a faction; it is that they are purposed to the destruction of the rule of law.

tomb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 02:44 AM:

They are having sort of a discussion of Nader, along with everything else, over on trufen, where Frank Lunney posted this link:

http://www.mikehersh.com/printer_Did_Nader_Help_or_Hurt_Al_Gore.shtml

The analysis by Mike Hersh is devastating. I have not checked all the numbers, but the ones he has about Florida are correct. But according to Hersh, the damage goes way beyond Florida:

Nader's actual vote totals weren't decisive in several other states, but absent Nader's efforts to help Bush, Gore could have fully contested states like West Virginia, Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, Nevada, Missouri and Ohio.

Gore had to pull out of some completely, and couldn't afford to shore up support in others as he ran out of time and money. Bush won all of these states in large part because Nader ran a "stalking horse" campaign to maximize damage to Gore.

These are harsh accusations, but there seems to be at least some truth to them. For example, here's the Nader 2000 campaign appearance schedule leading up to the election. The link is in the Google cache, because the page was taken down from votenader.com last week:

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:18YSanCyLt0J:www.votenader.com/campaignevents.html+nader+2000+florida+events&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Of the 13 campaign events listed for October, 4 are in Florida.

In this context, especially when you consider how close he is to Gore, Dean's statement is a model of diplomacy, balancing concern over the damage that Nader can and has caused, with the good things he has accomplished and the ideals that he inspires in his supporters.

tomb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 03:53 AM:
Like many disappointed Dean supporters, I really do believe that Howard would both be a superior candidate to Kerry and also facilitate a transformation of the party to an institution that we can be proud of.

Hey, I don't want Nader as my President either -- nor Bush -- but I don't want Kerry as my President either, so, naturally I'm going to stick to once again voting for Someone Else.

probably Kerry but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for Edwards

My conscience says, "vote for Kerry, even if I don't like him very much at all."

This list is quite a hotbed of lukewarm feelings for Kerry.

For what it's worth, I'm a happy Kerry supporter. I've felt that the Democrats have a very strong field of candidates for this election. It's obvious that any of them, even the guy on the Republican payroll, would do a better job than Bush. But if you had asked me who I liked the most, it would have been Kerry. When Kerry spoke at Stanford in December, I jumped at the chance to see him. The best part probably was watching his mind work in the Q&A. It definitely wasn't scripted. (Unexpected bonus: Carole King sitting next to me on the bus.) The worst part was hearing wannabee campaign people (not his real staffers) complaining about Dean, and how Kerry had to go after him. That just didn't seem right to me. Even though I never caught the Dean bug, he's a good guy and deserves a lot of credit for revitalizing the party. That glimpse gave me more of a feeling for how difficult and uncertain it can be, trying to run a campaign. Kerry didn't listen to the complainers and he kept plodding along the high road. I'm glad he stuck to his principles and ran his own campaign, and that it worked out. I'm also glad I had a chance to see him before Iowa, when things didn't look so good, and see how he dealt with it.

I just started reading Tour of Duty. If you're interested, there's an excerpt in The Atlantic. I have some theories about why I think Kerry would make a good president, but first I think I will finish the book, especially the parts that have been covered in Doonesbury.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 09:55 AM:

A note of irony, humor and support: I just got into a discussion with a friend-of-a-friend who plans to vote Naderite because he's "disgusted" with the Democratic pandering to conservatism.

In arguing this, I have now quoted liberally (with attributions, natch) from the 'Nailing It' thread, and directed him there to read it. Maybe he'll find it convincing; I can hope.

Anyway, you're not just speaking in a vacuum. Convincing me didn't net the Democratic Party a new vote, since that's how I'd've voted anyway. But it might net a vote via convincing this guy.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:52 PM:

Oh, Jonathan, that will never happen.

David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 03:30 PM:

How in heck is the Democratic party pandering to conservatism? Kerry received a liberal rating of 93 out of 100 from the ADA. *Ted Kennedy* only got an 88.

If your friend thinks nominating Kerry is pandering to conservatives, he or she needs to recalibrate their political radar.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 04:59 PM:

I'd just like to argue for a moment that party is important. Tina, this isn't solely to your address; this is something that I've been working through for years, now.

When I was in school, and they taught me Civics, I was led to believe that the "right" thing to do was vote for the candidate, despite party. I was led to believe that parties were primarily engines of corruption such as Tammany Hall. This would have been late Seventies, in case it matters.

I think that my Civics teachers were good people, and that they taught me what they thought was clear and true. I also think that what they taught me is pravda which serves to divide people from each other so that they are less powerful. The fundamental truth of politics (as well as life, but let that go) is that things get done by organizing groups of people. Americans think highly of individuality, and I would never argue that individuals are powerless, but no single person has the power that one hundred organized people do.

What the founders intended, and what is the best possible structure, are interesting considerations, and might be useful for forming goals. However, neither has anything to do with the facts on the ground. Here and now, politics are dominated by the Republicans and Democrats, and that matters. Personally, I think that it is a horrible infringement of my rights as a person, as well as a political disaster, for marijuana to be illegal, but facts on the ground dictate that I not walk down the street smoking a joint, no matter how much I'd like to, and no matter how much in the right I think that I am. I'm clear on where the power balance is on that issue. I think that the issue of political parties is much the same. You may not like it, but the way power works in this country right now is that the major political parties have more of it than all the minor parties put together.

The reason that parties matter is the same reason why the Ds and Rs are so powerful in the first place: they are large organizations of people. Well, really the Democrats are a semi-organized hodgepodge of other organizations, but you know what I mean. :-) Parties exist to conserve and generate wealth, to extend their influence, and support their members. They target raising money, getting candidate elected, and making deals. Parties command greater resources than individual politicians, and so they have more power than any one of their own.

When a politician runs as a party member, he's making an implicit deal with his party. He's agreeing to support his party's policies and goals, to some extent. Oh, he may well have other convictions, and vote against his own party some of the time. This has, in fact, come to be a measure of whether or not a politician is a "good" politician. However, if he refuses his party too often, they'll refuse to support him, too. The party doesn't just help with fundraising, canvassing, and polling. It helps by providing connections and resources to understand legislation, with resources to sponsor good legislation, with resources to cut deals to get work done.

Here's the truth: any candidate that runs on a party ticket is beholden to that party. Here's another truth: that's not necessarily a bad thing. Third and very important truth (I like things that come in threes): you can get involved with a political party.

So, here's my point: When you vote for a candidate, you are implicitly supporting his party. You are giving his party a position, a vote, influence that they can use for various goals. Even if your representative won't vote for the things you most hate, his mere presence as an elected official strengthens the party he belongs to. Look at how often they count up the number of Democratic and Republican governors, for instance. Let's not even talk about balance of power within a legislature.

You won't ever find a party that fits you to a T. People being people, you're unlikely to find a candidate that does, either, of course. However, don't just look at the candidate. Look at the party. Look at the type of people they've been supporting for election, lately, even if those people haven't won. Look at their platform. Look at the planks that everybody knows are extremist nonsense that will go by the board and think about what constituency those planks are there to pacify. Look at the people currently serving that belong to that party, and their patterns of behavior. There's plenty to hate in both parties, but it matters. "The difference between bad and worse is often more important than the difference between good and better," to approximately quote Heinlein. (My copy of SIASL is at home.)

Situations vary. I am emphatically not arguing that one should become a life-long party ticket voter. There are times when voting for a good candidate in a bad party is a smart thing to do. However, the claim that it is only the candidate that matters is just plain not true.

I'll finish on a personal note. When the House was considering impeaching President Clinton, I listened to the Committee Hearings compulsively. All day, every day, for days and days. I was asked repeatedly why I bothered. After all, they weren't saying anything new. That is more amazingly true than I can express. For all that, I found it enlightening. The process and the rhetoric frightened me in a way that the daily news reports did not. After several days, I vowed that I would never vote for another Republican again for as long as I live. It became clear to me that the Republicans were making an attempt to unseat a duly elected president by unfair means, and that they had absolutely no respect for the government or the rule of law. I've seen nothing since then to disabuse me of that judgment.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 04:39 PM:

Graydon and Lydia both make excellent points about party. From my point of view, as someone well away from the general principles of either major party, the most effective use of my political donatios seems to be lobbying groups, since they can work on issues of concern to me when it's time to deal with them - donating to the Cato Institute gets me more than voting for the Libertarian Party does, when it comes to advancing my concerns.

One important reality for people who don't feel well-represented by the major parties is that there is nothing both effective and easy/cheap that you can do to promote your cause. There are very rare occasions when voting for a third-party candidate can do some good - often in local elections. There are somewhat more common cases, as with 1980 and 2000, when voting for a third-party candidate can promote the fortunes of the person you probably least want in power. The sort of party engagement aimed at shifting the official concensus that someone described up above is cheap but time-consuming, and it means putting up with a bunch of incredibly tedious stuff and incredibly annoying people. Doing it is worthwhile if only to understand how platforms get made, though, and it is how these things change.

I would be unsurprised, really, to find that taken overall, voting for third-party candidates is a net loss for their respective causes except when one of the major parties is in full-blown meltdown and collapse, and it's been a while since that happened. We are not, I don't think, anywhere close to such a meltdown now; if we were, it would be really, really obvious.

Tina, voting is an individual declaration of preference and a participation in an overall polling. Your vote affects the totals, and therefore you as voter are responsible for your hundred-millionth share of the outcome just like the rest of us. Most of the time that doesn't matter much, but when the country is very closely divided it does. Which means, basically, that your vote for someone who has no chance of winning is generally indistinguishable from not voting and occasionally of aid and comfort to the enemy of your beliefs. This is why I gave up voting for the candidate of the minor party that's closest to my own views, and I urge you to consider it. I know that you'd like it to be otherwise. So would I. But the world doesn't stop being what it is just because we'd like it to be otherwise. Changing it requires action on the fronts where it's actually amenable to change, and that's elsewhere in the political process.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 06:52 PM:

Apologies for not answering various questions -- see today's post on the front page for why. Anyway, others have done a better job than I could.

Re Lydia's defense of party: right on.

Tomb, forgive me -- if you're referring to discussions on the trufen list, and sporting a fanac.org email address, I probably know you, but I can't specifically identify you from what you've posted. (Leaving aside the fact that, with all due respect and even love for many of those who are no doubt involved, a Nader thrash on trufen meets several of my criteria for defining Hell.)

Anyway, I hear you about Kerry. I'm sure if he beats Bush I'll have plenty of occasions to be pissed with him, but as the campaign progresses I'm more and more boggled at the idea that disappointed Dean supporters ought to support Edwards. Hello: Edwards is a gung-ho supporter of the War on Some Drugs, whereas Kerry has the most reasonable positions on marijuana (medical and otherwise) of anyone with a shot of being elected President in our generation. Edwards is a death-penalty buff, whereas Kerry is mostly opposed to it. And so forth. When Bill Clinton, to his shame, endorsed the odious 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act," liberal saints like Pat Leahy, Tom Harkin, and (yes) Paul Wellstone obligingly voted for it. Kerry voted against it. These points and more are ably summed up in this quite interesting David Corn article in this week's Nation, What's Right with Kerry.

Like I said. I expect to despise plenty about a Kerry Administration. But it's a different order of magnitude from my opposition to Bush. And I'm dumbfounded by the notion that Kerry somehow represents the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Anyone who thinks that simply hasn't been paying attention.