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Every time I state my intention to vote, or that I have voted, for a write-in candidate for president I am blasted with vitriol about how I’ve wasted my vote, or that I’ve helped the Republicans win. To that I say, “bullshit.” Why do I say this? I say it because it’s true.
We are told that our options are limited to a choice between “bad” and “worse.” “Good” is denounced as “perfect,” the “enemy” of the “good,” but this overlooks the fact that no one expects or asks for “perfect.” We want good politicians who will represent our interests in public office – that’s it. We don’t expect miracles, or even success 100% of the time, but we do expect and demand that those we elect to power try their best.
It is a sick joke to be told that our votes for third party, independent, or write-in candidates are a waste, and it’s nothing short of fear-mongering to threaten a Republican victory if we don’t throw our principles out the window. We’re lectured about how there is “too much at stake” in the current election cycle to vote our principles now, that we can vote our principles next time. The best we can do, or so we’re told, is to vote for Democrats and hope they’re not as bad as the Republicans.
Again, this overlooks certain facts, chief among them being that there’s always going to be “too much at stake.” That mythical “next” election cycle during which we shall be free to vote our beliefs and principles isn’t going to come as long as we continue to throw our votes away on politicians who represent the establishment and maintain the current regime. What good does it do us on the left to compromise our principles if the result is always the same: bad politicians who support the status quo?
The strategy of electing “more and better” Democrats doesn’t work because we keep voting for the same corrupt politicians who say one thing but do another, namely, alienating progressives and disenfranchising voters. As the last two years have shown us, we cannot hope to reform the Democratic Party from within because it has been thoroughly compromised by the lure of money and power. The number of actual progressive Democrats shrinks every cycle, as the base wakes up to this fact and leaves the party. It doesn’t help that the duopoly has the assistance of the corporate-owned media, which actively suppresses dissenting voices during campaign coverage. This is illustrated by the marginalization and elimination of Democrats Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and John Edwards in last year’s debates.
This inevitably leads to weak corporate candidates such as Al Gore, John Kerry, and now Barack Obama for president. Each of these politicians ran right-leaning campaigns against their hard right Republican counterparts, thus ensuring that voters would see little or no fundamental difference between them. This, combined with weak campaigns that allowed the opposition to define the candidates, allowed the GOPhers to get just enough of the vote to steal the elections. That the votes were so close in the first place speaks volumes about how low the Democrats have sunk in terms of putting up viable candidates; Gore and Kerry should have soundly defeated the shrub, by double digits, in their respective campaigns. Instead, they ran so far to the political right that they turned off their party’s base.
Finally, there is the imperious attitude among partisan Democrats that none of this matters – it is up to the voters to shut up and go along, rather than the politicians listening to their employers and running effective, progressive campaigns. That this turns off the base and drives it to look elsewhere for representation should have been a harsh wakeup call to Democrats to re-evaluate their core beliefs, failed strategies and tactics, and unearned sense of entitlement to non-Republican votes, but this hasn’t happened.
So we end up back where we began, on the losing end of elections that should have been in the bag. If progressives are to break the cycle and have a chance of competing with the corporate duopoly, we must recognize that failed strategies must be abandoned.