The disposable vote

There’s an interesting discussion thread going on at Pandagon at the moment. Commenters are debating the merits of totally partisan voting to oust republicans, the viability of voting one’s conscience, the issue of democrats who support torture, and what it means to be a third-party voter.

I’m mostly concerned with that last item, as someone who would love a third party to gain serious attention, if only to shake the dems out of their apparent eight year coma and stop sliding toward conservatism. One commenter shared this anecdote:

“A Union friend of mine is a total off the map left fielder/anarchist type and he knows the issues backwards and forewords- he voted for Nader in 2000. Look how much he screwed us all over? And he realized he was going to have to compromise and vote democratic in 2004 because the stakes were just too high.”

Impressive that one green party voter was able to “screw us all over.” I really wish I knew the study off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read literature suggesting that in 2000 a good portion of green voters wouldn’t have voted at all if not for Nader. This would refute the common misconception that green voters would’ve voted for Gore if Nader hadn’t been on the ballot.

The question I would ask of this particular commenter would be where this Union friend (unclear what that’s supposed to mean–a labor activist?) actually cast his or her vote. If it was a non-swing state, even if you believe that Nader votes took away from Gore’s votes, this individual voter (indeed, all green voters in non-swing states) did absolutely nothing to hurt Gore’s chances or the democrats in general.

But then again, as someone who was still too young to vote in that election, I remain fiercely proud of my father, who voted for Nader in a swing state. Sick of the “vote-wasting” rants I was hearing at school (high school, meaning most kids were still only mouthpieces for their parents) I asked my dad about his vote. He told me that if he had wasted his vote, everyone who voted for someone other than Bush wasted his vote too.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ll admit that in 2004 I voted in this same swing state for Kerry, even though I really didn’t want him to be president. I didn’t feel like the green party campaign that time around had enough momentum to come as close to the 5% mark as it had in 2000, and I voted against my conscience because I hoped to heal some of the damage Bush had done. And my state ultimately went to Bush. Do I think I wasted my vote? Absolutely not, and neither should anyone who voted for Nader in that state.

That same Pandagon commenter also offers this pearl of wisdom:

“The only statement you make when you vote 3rd party is that you are an idiot. When there are people working there [sic] ass off to improve our party and the state of the nation we need your support, we need unity.”

As I pointed out, there are a hell of a lot of people working their asses off to improve the state of the nation who are neither working from within the democratic party nor running for office. It only denigrates their noble work when we blame their supporters for the democratic party’s failure to earn votes. Furthermore, there are a hell of a lot of democratic candidates who aren’t doing anything to improve the party or the state of the nation. They’re too busy grooming each other for the presidency by veering into moderation or conservatism. I would argue that it is just as important to oust these democrats as it is to get rid of republicans. Both groups are damaging us and our country.

Oh, and just for the sake of enlightenment, in some states or districts where one party has had control for years, challengers often run against party lines simply to get their names on the ballot. In Idaho, for example, it’s not uncommon for a reform-minded republican to run as a democrat.

Blind partisan voting does no one any favors. If you vote for only democrats solely for the sake of democrats while ignoring your own values, you send a message to the democratic party that its platforms are sound. I don’t know how they could have gone for six years without hearing the wake up calls, but it’s clear we need to send them another.


8 Responses to The disposable vote

  1. naturalhigh says:

    It’s a tough call but I would rather have a winner with anything left of GWB, and anyone not a proven Neocon, than a losing candidate who voiced my concerns but could not amass the support needed to get taken seriously much less win.

    Politics is a process of moving in a direction, which means that only seeing the end goal but having no reasonable way to get there doesn’t create solutions or progress towards them.

    Just me 2 cents. I like Green Party ideals, though.

  2. Megan says:

    (Hello! Stumbled here from Feministe a while back.)

    I’ll toss in my two pennies. I’m a third party voter, mostly. On one hand (this is the internal debate I always have with myself on to way to the polls), I know almost certainly, that my vote will go to a loser, there by making it seem “wasteful” (I live in a red, red state). On the other, I always remind myself that if everyone were to just assume their vote didn’t count, we’d never have any change.
    That being said, I do usually vote for my third party, although in some cases, (our AG race this year is brutal), I will put aside some of a candidate’s shortcomings and vote Democratic.

  3. pandanose says:

    naturalhigh- sometimes third party candidates can’t amass the support needed to win because we don’t support them with our votes. We could help them get taken seriously by voting green in “safe” elections. If the repub wins, the dem looks at the green votes and says, huh. How could I be courting those votes? This is why I supported question 2 in MA. If a candidate is endorsed by more than one party, we can still vote for him/her but choose the party whose values more closely allign with ours.

  4. Hershele Ostropoler says:

    New York and one other state (I think) have fusion balloting, making it possible to support a third party while voting for a major-party candidate. That’s the strategy of the Working Families Party. I don’t actually hope they’ll become a viable party in their own right, however, I just often vote WFP in the hopes of moving the Democrats to the left.

  5. pandanose says:

    Thanks for the info, Hershele- I’d been hearing a lot about WFP on other blogs, but most everyone writing about it was in NY and seemed to assume everyone else knew what the deal was. Any idea if more complaints or confusion have arisen, as opponents of fusion balloting claim?

  6. Jennifer says:

    I live in TN and I voted for the Green Party candidate for Senate. As a lesbian, I would not, could not support the Democratic candidate whose “values” are very conservative, including supporting state and federal bans on civil rights for GLBT persons. Yes, the Republican won; no I don’t think I wasted my vote. I emailed my Democratic candidate before and after the election to let HIM know that if he doesn’t accept me, I certainly don’t accept him. If the Democratic party doesn’t respect me, I’m not going to give them my votes, now or ever.

  7. Hershele Ostropoler says:

    WFP’s been around about as long as I’ve been voting (and my first vote was to re-elect Bill Clinton), and I haven’t heard of any complaints.

  8. Hershele Ostropoler says:

    Oh, also, their web site is

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