Despite the recent Nation article, non-voters clearly aren't waiting for a progressive candidate.
How do I know this? Because when presented with truly progressive candidacies (Nader, Kucinich, etc.), non-voters behave the same way they behave towards "mainstream" candidacies--they don't vote. Nader's big claim was that the two parties don't offer a clear choice, and most Americans who are apathetic are waiting for someone to talk as he did on the issues. Non-voters did what they do best in Nader's case, they didn't vote for him. Kucinich provides a similar truth-telling progressive outlook, and is representing a major party--still, non-voters do what they do best--they didn't and don't vote for him.
There's no question that Americans in general and therefore non-voters in general support progressive policies. There's also no question that every time those progressive policies are strongly represented in a candidate's platform, that candidate does very poorly at the ballot box. So where's the disconnect?
Money, exposure, marketing. These three factors -rule- the electorate in our current system. If you want to claim telling the truth and speaking to the issues will get you a fair shake, please review election 2000 coverage via Bob Somerby's Daily Howler, or read Peretz's "Going After Gore" article in Vanity Fair. 90% of campaign coverage focuses on image, and image is safely subjective enough that Bush was successfully presented as a lovable, charismatic cowboy and Gore was presented as an egghead, uptight, chronic dissembler. The NYT coverage alone paints that picture clearly with every subjective twist on every substantive article. Editorial writers like Maureen Dowd will parrot the RNC as they make up quotes out of whole cloth to further these image attacks: see "I was the one who started it all" (Love Canal and lying Gore) or "Who among us does not enjoy NASCAR?" (Kerry the effete MA liberal). Neither quote was actually said, but who cares? Who's going to hold these people responsible? -Any- progressive candidate can be destroyed by these means.
Image=based attacks in the media can destroy a progressive candidacy without breaking a sweat. Bush can lie about his tax plan all he wants in a debate, so long as the RNC cobbles together a tape of Gore sighing. One will become the main story of the debate, and one will not even get a serious mention.
Without stricter corporate regulation, enforced competition and accountability, the media will pick a favorite and shill for that favorite, while destroying whomever earns their dislike. Without public financing, the candidates must whore for investments from the power brokers in the media to even hope for something -resembling- a fair shake. And, given fair reporting, without IRV electoral results will never paint a true picture of what Americans want.
And you can't change those parts of the system by just bitching about it. You have to elect the most sympathetic people, however imperfect, to start changing those rules and to start fighting back. If you refuse to accept how horrible the system is towards progressives and reject any and all mainstream candidates, the worst mainstream candidates (hello GOP!) will benefit by the split progressive vote. It's fine to recognize the problem, but solving it requires sympathetic policy-makers, and if you can't elect the true progressives, it's time to ensure the -least- sympathetic at least stay out of office. Because currently non-voters will never hear the truth about who supports those popular progressive policies. They just hear how honest and good the mainstream candidates are, and are convinced they'd really like to have a beer with that ex-alcoholic who can't even -have- a beer.
7. There are no real Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads, either...
but that doesn't prevent the pack from playing to the center.
If candidates would just frame their rhetoric and policy on what they think is right - as opposed to what "polls well" - they'll catch on. Swing voters don't have an ideological frame. They are quite simply independent-minded people who can smell insincerity a mile away. You'll never "get" them by playing to them - or however you've tried to define them.
And that's all swing-voting is. Expending an inordinate amount of energy and resources to tip the scales of a closely-divided electorate.
As for primary politics, people vote on two basic criteria: Who they think would make the best policy, and who they think will win. It's an exciting feeling when one candidate fits both of those criteria (so I've been told). But most of them vote by who they think will win, because it's much easier to pick a horse than to analyze policy. Unfortunately, the front-runners of each party are there because their party-members think they will win. Their rationale is based on a "play to center" strategy that simply doesn't work. Look at the GOP front-runners. Why is nobody playing to the religious right?
Independent voters don't care who wins a primary. If they did, they'd register for a party. MAYBE there's a candidate that inspires them, but if the base of both parties have a misconception about who is most "electable" to swing voters, those candidates would be in the rear of the pack. Not exactly inspiring.
IF Kucinich were to win a primary, it would mean instant legitimacy that he doesn't have now, and his style would appeal to many swing voters. Not all of them, but enough to tip the scales. We'll never get to test my theory as long as we're operating under a different theory that hasn't yet been proven to work. It's sad, because the focus-group driven, polished pandering we see actually appeals to nobody. Some just buy into it as a election-winning strategy more than others.
5. Because in our shitty system, when progressives don't vote for "half-decent," "wholly-evil" benefits
Edited on Thu Oct-04-07 08:48 AM by jpgray
And while "half-decent" is extremely unlikely to push for the needed changes, "wholly-evil" will actively make things even worse. Now, the primaries along with any and all times before the general election are a great time to push for true progressives. But in the GE, when it's a close race between two mainstream candidates, and only one of them can win, it's time to keep the worst of the two as far away from policy-making as possible. Especially since the stakes are so high at the moment.
30. Well, most likely most of us WOULD lower ourselves to "lesser-evilism" in the fall
Your clarification makes your position seem more palatable. Initially, it appeared that you were arguing that progressives shouldn't even TRY to get a progressive candidate nominated in Denver.
One thing is clear: If a "mainstream" candidate(and btw, did you HAVE use a term that essentially assents to the RW arguement that THEY and the bland center are legimate players in politics and progressives AREN'T?) is nominated in Denver, you can assume that we progressives will do much better by that candidate than the "mainstream Dems" did by McGovern in '72. It's THEM that campaign for Republicans when they can't have their way at the convention. The DLC should properly be called "Adult Children of Democrats For Nixon".
11. If we continue to cooperate with the corrupt system we will perpetuate it.
It's a formula for, at best, stagnation. We are endlessly told by the politicians that we should "lower our expectations", accept that they "are doing their best", that they are bound by the "realities of politics", that they are helpless victims of a corrupt system that they defend and perpetuate.
We are told by their supporters that we should be "realistic" and accept less, expect less, and "work from the inside" by being silent partners in the corruption. We are told that change is impossible because we have a 2 party system and that it is our only choice.
The evidence is in. "Working within the system", has only kept the system in place.
14. Half the country refuses to cooperate, and things have gotten worse, not better
And how is the system to change when the people who want to change it don't decide which ass sits in the policymaking chair? The system destroys progressive candidacies and encourages apathy. Only policymakers can change the system. Why not ensure the most sympathetic people possible are the policymakers?
And what effect does a protest vote have? You will never see any coverage of non-voters or protest votes as a call to change, you will only see "X won, therefore the country is trending towards X." Splitting the progressive vote helps the worst people win, the GOP. And the media interpret GOP victory not as dissatisfaction with the Democrats or with both parties, but as -satisfaction- with the GOP. And the system panders heavily to the party in power, or in this case the most powerful party. Doesn't it make sense to make the GOP the -least- powerful party?
15. Then it comes down to the individual to decide whether he/she will cooperate.
Just as some people, a small minority, fled to Canada rather than participate in a murderous war, it comes down to what an individual will do. Not as "protest", but as an individual choice to no longer be a part of a corrupt system in which participation becomes endorsement.
To me, it's kind of like cheating on an exam as the only way to get a degree. "Everybody's doing it" is hardly a justification, as is, "I'll just cheat a little bit".
22. Fleeing to Canada does nothing to fix the country. Neither does a protest vote
Edited on Thu Oct-04-07 10:08 AM by jpgray
Both are just ignored by the system, and if it's the system you want to change, why not do something to change it?
I get where you're going with the exam analogy--you see holding one's nose as an abdication of personal morality. But I reject the idea that ensuring the best candidate possible gets in office is immoral behavior. Rather, I believe it is the moral, unselfish choice. After fighting constantly for your beliefs at all times leading up to the election, one will have made the most significant impact possible for progressive causes. In the general election, -usually- the only way to make an impact for progressive causes is to keep the worst candidates out of office. If you have a Bernie Sanders to defeat the GOP with, awesome! If not, what do you do? A protest vote to me does very little.
There are a few ways a protest vote can affect the debate. Either it receives coverage as part of a protest-voting bloc and the system is altered thereby, it empowers a third party significantly, or it actually elects a worthy progressive candidate.
A protest vote gets ignored in the media, and the reasons behind such a vote have even less exposure. So much for receiving coverage. We have seen with Democratic loss after Democratic loss in recent years, when the Democrats lose they seek to imitate the GOP, not chase after lost votes on the left. When Democrats win, however, the GOP is weakened, albeit only slightly at present--for example, no investigation of Blackwater would be possible if there were a GOP majority in Congress. As for significantly empowering a third party, the polls and the third party candidates for the past dozen years or so make that extremely unlikely. Even in the case of Perot's decent showing, no significant dent in the two party system was achieved. Moreover, a protest vote has a negative impact on policy, since a progressive's refusal to vote for an imperfect Dem indirectly helps a wholly bad Republican in nearly all cases.
So which is the selfish option? Which is the moral option? The candidate in office affects millions of lives, and small differences are magnified by the power of that office, becoming very significant. A protest vote can only salve the voter's conscience if that person doesn't care about the effect of the vote. Because the GOP will damage millions of people, and refusing to pull a lever to stop that bears its own mark of selfishness and immorality.
So personal morality or practical morality? It is indeed a personal choice, but frankly I'd rather see millions fewer people get hurt or have their rights taken away than feel good about myself.
I can give you a list of disastrous, murderous, and tyrannical policies under both of the major party's leadership. But, as a progressive, I'm sure you're already aware of them.
I'm unconvinced that electing yet another "not as bad" candidate will have a significant effect on changing the system or not hurting people or saving people's rights.
IMO, morality is always "personal". As time goes by, I'm coming to believe, more and more, that "politics" has become like religion, the opiate of the masses.
"What if they gave a war, and nobody came?" Should I wait until everybody decides not to come? Or, should I decide not to come on my own?
When I opted out of the war in Vietnam, the war still went on, millions were killed. And, yes, I selfishly feel good about myself for refusing to extend my enlistment and kill people even though my "protest" didn't stop the war and was largely ignored (except for the 30 days I spent on mess-duty for telling the re-enlistment guy what I thought of the war).
The game is fixed, the deck is stacked, but I don't have to play.
29. As of right now keeping the worst people out of office is our general election power
If we want to create an environment where we can keep all -bad- people out of office, we need to kick out the worst people first. If we indirectly help the worst people, their influence will remain and it will be more difficult to effect the change we want, because they will oppose us and drive us further away from our goal at every turn.
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