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.