previous entry :: next entry

go ahead, throw your vote away

Among the sites on the internet that I try and often fail not to visit is MetaFilter, "a community weblog whose purpose is to share links and discuss content that users have discovered on the web" (thank you, wikipedia). Twice in recent weeks political discussions on the site have turned to the 2000 election, and the role played by Nader voters in denying Al Gore the presidency. A majority of MeFites, as they're known, are fierce partisans for the Democratic party, and as such are virulently opposed to any criticism of the Democrats from the left; not because they disagree with the criticism, though they may, but because for them voting is purely a tactical game. Since no one other than Republicans or Democrats can win elections, they reason, a vote for anyone other than the Democrats is in fact a vote for the Republicans. And naturally, the notion that leftists (loosely defined) might contribute to Republican electoral successes drives them absolutely, frothing mad. Anyone who knows me very well will know that I think that whole argument is nonsense.

As it happens, I voted for Nader ten years ago. Since I live in Massachusetts it didn't matter, but as I would probably have voted for him in Florida too I should point out that in my case—and I imagine I'm not alone—I approached his campaign from the left rather than the right. Voting for him was tactical, to my mind: in every other presidential election of my adult life (all two of them) I had voted for some variety of socialist. In 2000 I just figured that, with Nader, there might be enough third party votes to make a difference, and I wanted to cast one of them. And guess what, I was right!

But aren't I sad, today, that Gore didn't win? Of course not. He may have been the more leftist candidate of the two put forward by the major parties, but to suggest that his views then had anything in common with mine would be ridiculous. The same is true today—to an even greater extent, if possible. At present the Democrats have become convinced that the country is largely conservative; either that or they're taking the votes of leftist voters for granted because they figure folks like our MetaFilter friends will vote for them no matter what they do. In any case, the result is that political discourse in this country is moving steadily rightward. Since I am in no way a conservative (at least when it comes to politics) I refuse to follow. I will vote my conscience and attempt to elect someone whose positions I actually agree with, at least in part.

As for helping the Republicans to victory when I dislike them a great deal more than I dislike the Democrats, I am soothed by the happy knowledge that the country gets what it wants and what it deserves. In my innocent Marxist-Leninist days I backed up agitators who argued against improving conditions in prisons on the grounds that those improvements would prevent the minority prisoners from overthrowing the machinery of the capitalist state that oppressed them. Though I no longer think, if I ever did, that Marx—much less Lenin—correctly analyzed either the problems or the solutions of the modern world, the idea of allowing a situation to progress to its logical conclusion without imposing any superficial palliative measures still holds a tremendous appeal to my anarchist mind. As I have mentioned, huge traffic jams fill me with a sort of glee as I consider the inevitable result of our reliance on the automobile. This is especially the case when I'm on my bike.

The analogy is perhaps apt. We are rather poor, and yet we do not receive any government assistance that would be improved under a Democratic administration or dis-improved under Republicans. The Democratic health care "reform", for example, is a useless disaster. We will continue to do our small part to try and improve society, and if society is more visibly broken and unjust than perhaps we'll have an easier time convincing people to try something different; just like being stuck in traffic every day might make them reconsider how they get around. And if it doesn't, hey, no harm done: the country will have the politicians that it wants, the ones people vote for. Far be it for me to try and subvert the will of the electorate.

Not that I'm entirely above the concern of the tactical-voting Democrat. I will be bitter, bitter if Obama isn't reelected in 2012, not because I like him for anything but his graphic design team and the fact that he managed to break the color barrier in the White House, but because watching Glenn Beck and his television audience crowing about it would make me very sad. Very very sad. But ideally politics, even presidential politics, is about policy rather than personality, and even in a close race I will feel obliged to vote for my policies rather than against the "other side's" personalities. Is that fair?


Also, should Obama lose all I have to do is avoid media for a month or so and then everything will be back to normal. Just like I did, on a smaller scale, when the Patriots lost and took a day off from watching SportsCenter because I didn't want to relive the defeat. Back when I watched SportsCenter. Or football. How are the Pats doing this season, anyways? The season has started, has it not?

comments closed for this entry

previous entry :: next entry