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Vote For What You Want

Because the "better" major-party candidate may actually be worse.

by James Leroy Wilson
June 5, 2008

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Vote For What You Want
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.

Comments (2)

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Jonathan Wilson from Chicago writes:
June 5, 2008
However useless it is to speculate on alternate universes, I really don't think FDR's election in 1940 is what caused us to enter World War II. McCain sounds like this election's Goldwater. Hmm. And from Arizona, too. Question: Was Goldwater wrong? That is another alternate universe. Sometimes the Doves don't know how to complete what Hawks begin. Truman completed FDR's mission, and not with a whimper either. It was a mission guided by the unconditional surrender of the enemy in a war declared by Congress.

It is clear that there is no "peace dividend" for the Cold War having ended. If we really want to win against the terrorist agencies Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda along with their nation-state sponsors Iran and Syria, we will need it to be a Congressional declaration of war with a total mobilization--including a return to the draft. No more low-grade fevers of fighting limited wars on the cheap while the rest of America can go on with life as normal. This project needs to define our era. Let it be called World War III and let a front be opened in Sudan as well. Victory will also require an alliance of powers vested in the destruction of these agencies. NATO, Russia and its Federated Nations, India and China all have good reasons to want to see the Terrorist Jihad wiped from the face of the Earth. China might not know it yet, but they do share that interest.

Tomasz writes:
June 6, 2008
What if Al Gore had beaten Bush to the White House, not vice versa?

Here's a guess...

Following 9/11 President Gore would most surely have responded by invading Afghanistan, and I very much doubt it would have been under a UN flag. Unlike in our universe, the UN may have been called in for ‘post-war’ ‘nation building’ (actually ‘nation creation’ in the Afghan case).

I suspect the Iraq sanctions would have continued as they had before and the US would have continued to derail any attempts thru the UN Security Council to wind them back. This is just the continuation of the Clinton policy. 9/11 would have put any 'warming' on the sanctions issue on indefinite hold, even without evidence of Iraqi complicity.

On the Korean peninsula Gore would have probably continued the reasonably successful Clinton policy, a formula the Bush administration has reluctantly returned to after a hawkish hiatus that yielded nothing and saw North Korea actually test the bomb.

President Gore, perhaps eager to display US military power in the mid east and so, at least theatrically twink the nose of terrorists etc, would probably have turned up the Iraq Liberation Act a notch or two. At the very least this would have had some domestic popularity post-9/11.

As Iraq was already somewhat gutted by years of war and sanctions, it is not out of the realms of possibility that a Gore run Iraq Liberation Act campaign, barely fitting the name covert, may have ultimately sparked renewed Shi’ite rebellion in western / southern Iraq. This time the ‘no fly zone’ would be used to prevent Saddam Hussein using his limited rotary wing air power against the rebels as he did after Gulf War 1.

With Iraq under pressure, and perhaps falling apart between the hammer and anvil of US-manipulated UN sanctions and a US-sponsored insurgency, Turkey may feel it has a legitimate role to occupy rebellious Kurdistan, especially without the US Army to constrain them.

Frankly with all this mess in our alternate reality Mesopotamia, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some form of UN, or more likely, NATO “humanitarian intervention”, but with a larger European component, akin to the Kosovo intervention may actually see President Gore put US boots on the ground in Iraq. Indeed the usually perceptive Brendan O’Neill pointed out that this is what the French and German alternatives proposed before the real world US invasion actually amounted to.

So maybe Iraq would be in the midst of insurgency today under the last days of President Gore. Perhaps with McCain and Jeb Bush running for the GOP candidacy against Lieberman and Clinton.

The problem isn't who is voted in as Emperor, it's Empires.

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