Vote For What You Want
Because the "better" major-party candidate may actually be worse.
by James Leroy Wilson
June 5, 2008
It looks like the nominees for President have been established:
Constitution Party: Chuck Baldwin
Democrat: Barack Obama
Green: Cynthia McKinney
Libertarian: Bob Barr
Republican: John McCain
Independent: Ralph Nader
McCain stands out as the only candidate who wants to "stay the course" in Iraq and "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."
And this raises the question: why don't they all rally around Barack Obama, who is clearly better on the war issue than McCain?
Good question, but is Obama really better?
I'm plagiarizing Pat Buchanan, who has made the point a number of times, but in 1916 Woodrow Wilson was re-elected because he kept America out of the Great War, then quickly plunged us into it soon after. FDR was re-elected in 1940 for keeping America out of WWII, then immediately committed acts of war on Germany and imposed sanctions on Japan, leading to Pearl Harbor. Eisenhower was elected for promising to end the Korean War, which he did. Nixon was elected in 1968 to end the Vietnam War, and although it got even bloodier on his watch, it was nearing its end by his re-election. Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 because George H.W. Bush was spending too much time on foreign affairs, but then Clinton increased America's military interventions.
Americans vote for peace. Presidents tend to break their promise to keep the peace.
This was no different in 2000, in which it was pretty clear that George W. Bush was the more pro-peace candidate than Republican primary rival John McCain, who demanded "boots on the ground" everywhere the nightly news reported a trouble spot. Bush's desire for a "humble foreign policy," his talk against "nation-building" and the probability of the moderate Colin Powell joining his Administration was one of the reasons the popular vote was close enough to hand him the election. The Clinton-Gore Administration was lucky their immoral and irresponsible aggressions against countries that posed no threat to us didn't cost more American lives; otherwise Gore would have been toast in 2000 with no recount needed.
What does this tell us? In 2000, Bush was better on Gore on the most important issue, war, but as President he switched positions and became the world's biggest threat to peace. Presidential candidates break promises, and there is very little we can do about it.
I,like many others, would wish we could rewind and see how a Gore Presidency would turn out. But the fact is, the Clinton-Gore position of murdering innocent foreign peoples "for their own good" was intolerable. True, Gore would probably have been better than Bush, but the 2000 campaign didn't demonstrate it.
Barack Obama is presumably smarter and more knowledgeable than McCain - at least he comes across that way. And, as Bush did in 2000, he's taking the relatively more moderate and humane view toward foreign affairs than his rival.
But what does that prove?
It could be that as President Obama will cause more bloodshed to be spilled than would McCain. We can't peer into the timelines of alternate universes created when one person is elected instead of another. We can only go with what we know, which is that Obama seems better than McCain, but lacks experience. Obama may be "right" on Iraq but can't be trusted on foreign policy generally, and his domestic agenda ranges from questionable to silly.
Those who blame Ralph Nader for costing Gore the election in 2000 can not honestly say that Gore would have had a more peaceful and responsible foreign policy than Bush, because Gore's own campaign rhetoric suggested the opposite. So now, in 2008, we see that Obama is better than McCain in the same way that Bush was better than Gore in 2000: they have a more sane foreign policy. Even so, both Bush in 2000 and Obama in 2008 were too equivocal on foreign policy and other issues to be trusted.
And this is why third-party voters can't be blamed for "costing" the election of one major candidate or another. If a major candidate's rhetoric on a crucial issue is good, but whose general philosophy is questionable and whose positions on other issues are disagreeable, why not vote for a third-party candidate closer to one's views? In 2000, I viewed Bush as less bad than Gore, if for no other reason than foreign policy. But when I voted, I voted for the Libertarian Harry Browne. Had Browne got anywhere near the totals Nader got that year, he would have been blamed by conservatives for "costing" Bush the election and giving us the "disastrous" Gore Presidency. Would I feel bad about that? I can't see how. Browne earned my vote, and Bush did not. Likewise, Nader earned his 2.8 million votes - 2.2 million more than he got in 1996, when he was no less famous - and Gore did not.
The same principle applies today. If any anti-war voter votes for Baldwin, McKinney, Nader, or Barr this year, it is because Obama fails to earn his or her vote. And if McCain loses anti-tax voters to Barr and Baldwin, thereby giving Obama the election, McCain has no one to blame but himself.
In the Canadian province of Quebec, the dominant party in elections for the Canadian Parliament is the Bloc Quebecois, whose interest is the sovereignty of Quebec. As such, it has no hope of gaining a majority of seats in Parliament, though it is a powerful swing bloc to make or break governing coalitions. Why would residents of Quebec vote for a party that has no hope of winning absolute power?
Perhaps because what they want is change, not power.
Likewise, voters for third-party candidates demand change. Their votes may not decide the election, but their vote totals will scare the major parties into making changes in their direction.
The whiny and immature blame people like Ralph Nader for bringing people like George Bush into power. But mature voters will realize that they do have a choice, and it extends beyond the Republicans and Democrats. Ross Perot's runs for President in 1992 and 1996 led to budget surpluses by the end of the decade. That is the kind of thing third parties can accomplish.
You have a better chance at winning the lotto than deciding a Presidential election, so why not vote for the candidate who best represents your values and philosophy? The more people who vote for what they want, the more likely they will get it - if not immediately, then some time down the road. And the more people vote for third parties, the greater chance no one wins the Electoral Vote and the race is determined by the House of Representatives. After a century of turmoil, it is time we entered an age of politically weak Presidents perpetually at risk of impeachment. That is how the Founders envisioned the office, and the safety of Americans and the peace of the world may now depend on it.
About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson blogs at Independent Country and writes for DownsizeDC.org. Views expressed here do not represent the views of DownsizeDC.org.
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