On Placing a Losing Bet
Why I Won't Vote for Kerry
It saddens me when I read that people I hold in high regard (eg, some of my favorite bloggers) have decided to vote for a lighter shade of black just to beat the pure inky blackness of Murka's tacit fuhrer. To me, that cheapens the essence of democracy. It reduces democracy to a dry, empty tactical move within a rigged game, rather than serve as the vibrant expression of an enlivened electorate to steer the direction of their society. So forgive me if I refuse to join in by playing my assigned role of pulling the lever to choose between A and A-prime as I vomit in the bucket next to the booth.
Of course, I can easily be accused of a fatalistic idealism in refusing to play along. But my conscience forbids me to give any credence to a system that compels me to hold my nose as I sell my soul to vote for something bad to prevent something worse.
When the East Timorese held their vote to determine if they were to secede from Indonesia they were warned in very clear terms that they would pay dearly if they voted for secession. But over 90% believed that their vote mattered, and they voted their conscience and their hope and their courage and gave an unmistakably clear message that they refused to kowtow to external pressure no matter what the cost — they were determined to lead their own lives, and they told Indonesia to go fuck itself. Indonesia didn't take this very well, and made good on their threat (with the blessings of Murka, of course) as they massacred people for democratically voting their conscience.
You know, it doesn't sadden me. It sickens me. I know that people desperately want to remove the scourge that is BushCo from their lives, and in their fear they will do whatever it takes to get rid of them. I do understand that. But it reeks of cowardice and co-optation. In their fear the populace sells their soul election after election, their only reward being leaders of increasingly questionable character who hurry the country further down the toilet — the only difference being the speed with which they do it. How many such elections does it take to convince people that the line "we need to vote for the lesser of two evils this time" is a smokescreen that works on them every single election? The need to protect abortion, the courts, the environment, whatever...(Hey, I've got news for you — BushCo already controls both houses of the Legislature, the Executive Branch, and the Courts. They also control many state governments, the military, and enforcement agencies. This "lesser of two evils" strategy ain't working too well, is it?) Every time this snakeoil is bought it's like an addiction where they're forced to buy it more and more until they come to believe there's no other choice. No wonder elections in Murka are so debased. Perhaps it's time to be reminded of this quote from Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." By this definition I would say that American voters — especially well-meaning liberals — are insane.
I refuse to play this game. If democracy means anything at all it means being able to vote your conscience, damn the consequences. (Just ask the East Timorese.) There is no fucking way I'm going to vote for either BushCo or Kerry, and I don't care if Kerry is better than Bush by a yard, or a mile, or a light year: infinity minus any real number is still infinity. BushCo and Kerry both represent evils — and want to represent evils — and I will not assent to giving either of them my tacit seal of approval as signified by my vote. My conscience forbids it. I don't want BushCo — Zeus knows how much I don't want BushCo. But I don't want Kerry either, and I will never vote for Kerry. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. Just as the expression implies, a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil, and I will not do it.
I vote for what I want, for what I wish for, for my hopes and dreams and desires for a better future. A vote against Bush is a vote based on fear. A vote for the candidate you truly want is a vote based on hope and the future.
When was the last time someone who's going to vote for Anybody But Bush [ABB] didn't hold their nose and feel like they were selling their soul when they put their little x inside the box? When was the last time anybody was happy and proud to vote for somebody they felt truly represented their best interests and those of their society? Was there any election ever in which you felt that way?
Well, there is for me. Almost every election. I only vote for people I believe represent me and what I believe is in the best interest for my society. To do otherwise would be to betray myself and my society.
People can rationalize voting for an evil anyway they choose. Yet voting for an evil to prevent a worse evil is a tremendously cynical, perverted, and sick exercise in democracy. When a democracy falls into such a rut then it is debased beyond repair and time for a new system. I, for one, refuse to play along with the charade.
I know there are many people who will accuse me of helping put BushCo back in office. To that I say two things. One is, BushCo ain't leaving because there's not going to be an election this year, so the accusation is moot.
But let's assume the highly improbable occurs and there is an election. I know for a certainty that when I put my x in the box next to Nader's name I am not putting it in the box for BushCo. Period. That's how I know I did not contribute my vote to BushCo.
I'm not an ABBer, and I resent that ABBer's assume that my vote should just naturally go to whatever candidate they tell me I should vote for if I want to dump BushCo. What fucking gall, what fucking presumption. Getting rid of BushCo is vitally important to me too, and my vote for Nader is an attempt to do just that. And my vote is not a protest vote. I'm voting for the one candidate I believe truly represents my best interests and those of my society. ABBer's have never had any right to my vote, and scolding me because I choose to vote my conscience is a curious strategy in a democracy to try to win me over. It's the liberal equivalent of "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" — just replace "the terrorists" with "BushCo."
If I'm idealistic and naive, then you're a hypocrite. Which is fine by me, but be honest about it and accept the fact that by going along with the farce and playing in a rigged game don't be surprised if you lose every time. Since I want to play too, but since I know I'm going to lose anyways, I place my chip where I want.
I have a little thought experiment for you. Consider an election between Hitler, Mussolini, and Martin Luther King [MLK]. Mussolini is clearly the lesser of two evils, and MLK doesn't stand a chance. Hitler is poised to win unless Mussolini can convince enough of MLK's supporters to vote for him.
I will still vote for MLK, since he is the one I truly wish to win. The other candidates represent things I cannot ever willingly assent to with my one vote. Plus, I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror the next day. A vote for Mussolini is an acknowledgement that I am willing to have him as my leader for the sake of not having Hitler, which is something I can never do, since I don't want either of them — I want MLK. If everyone voted this way, then MLK would have a serious chance of winning. (Of course, this assumes an educated and informed electorate.)
When I propose this thought experiment everyone says "Well, of course I would vote for MLK!" Then they go on to tell me that this election is different, that Brand-Y Evil is really really evil and must be stopped, and Brand-X Evil isn't so evil as Brand-Y Evil, that certainly it must be obvious that Brand-X Evil is closer to MLK than he is to Brand-Y Evil (even though Brand-X Evil is referred to as Brand-Y Evil "Lite"), etc. But it's all a self-deluding lie, and this election is crystal clear proof of it. In the past I would have said that this thought experiment was hyperbolic to prove a point. Now I'm not so sure. In some ways this election is a contest between Hitler, Mussolini, and MLK. And if you're going to vote for Mussolini to stop Hitler then just admit it — don't pretend you're something you're not.
Why I Will Vote for Nader
I voted for Nader in 1996, again in 2000, and will definitely vote for him again in 2004. Ralph Nader has been one of my personal heroes since I was a teenager. His life is one of selfless devotion to increasing the common good. Though he's mortal like anyone else, he is a man of such integrity that the spin meisters have to dig very deep or invent things against his character, such as, in the last election, the pathetic attempts to smear him with innuendoes about his sexuality.
Is he perfect? Is he a saint? Of course not. He's human, he's made mistakes, he's a bundle of contradictions like the rest of humanity. But painting his malfeasances in the same light as Kerry's or Bush's is obscene. You can accuse as robbers both a CEO who embezzled his employees of their pensions and a person who steals candy from a supermarket. Are they both criminals? Yes. But not being Manichean by temperament I weight degrees of criminality.
Does he have integrity? Does he really care about civil society? Has he spent his entire life working for the betterment of us all? Does he have a clear vision, does he see what's going on, does he have ideas for how to fix things? Does he represent and share my ethics? Absolutely. In spades.
Ralph Nader is a man of tremendous intellectual rigor and passion, who has the incredible ability to maintain an optimism in the face of outrageous and scandalous injustice. And few people are as aware of injustice and its systemic causes as he. I've seen him speak in person over six times, and each time he was sharp as a tack, impassioned, optimistic, and committed to making the world a better place. He's a brilliant and charismatic speaker, with reserves of energy I wish I had when I was a teenager.
Intelligence, altruism, keen awareness of social injustice and its causes, passionate defender of the common person against the awesome forces of power, a man of sterling character, a lifelong champion of democracy (and even capitalism! though capitalism with a small "c" rather than monopolistic corporatism). He is so passionate and committed to his causes that he seems to know no fear, meaning that he is a very courageous man — especially to fly in the face of the unbelievably enormous vituperation he's been subjected to in order to pursue what he considers the necessary course of action to make some kind of stand for democracy against its completely farcical and pejorative subordination to corporate — and now fascistic — power. (If there's one thing Nader has spent his entire life combatting it's fascism as defined by Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called 'corporatism,' since it is the marriage of government and corporate power.") Ralph Nader is one of history's great men, and I delight that I'm able to vote for him to represent me.
Damn right I'm going to vote for him! People always claim that they'd vote for a good man if one came along. Well, here he is! Yet people won't vote for him because they succumb to the constant fear drummed into the electorate that they must vote for the lesser of two evils. And a cowed and fearful electorate cannot be a truly democratic electorate. Democracy is so denuded in the US that it is a mere farcical shell. That BushCo can get away with their crimes against humanity and still receive almost 40% support from the electorate; that they can be taken seriously when they brand Kerry a liberal (no less an extreme leftie), only shows how far from reality the US electorate is.
I've never been a big believer in democracy, but the one thing democracy allows an individual to do is to register their conscience through the ballot box. Of course civic life in the US is now reduced to filling in a box every couple of years to select between the two candidates the powers-that-be choose for us to decide between. (And, as it's been said, If voting really changed anything, it would be made illegal.) However, I refuse to play along with the farce — if I'm allowed my one vote, I refuse to sell-out my conscience for the sake of damage-control. I will always vote for what I believe in, in the hope that others will do likewise.
Though I'm not a passionate defender of democracy I believe in it only to the extent that it's a vibrant, living manifestation of an informed and educated citizenry, which no one can claim the US is. As such, it is my right — nay, it is my duty! — to vote my conscience, assuming that I am informed and educated enough to make a reasoned determination as to what I believe is in my own best interest, as well as society at large. I wholeheartedly ascribe to Nader's assertion that a "vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil." I have been voting since 1978, and I have seldom voted for any republicrat because I don't vote out of strategy. I vote for what I want, not for something I don't want because it would prevent something worse.
Of course part of the solution to such predicaments is instant-runoff voting (IRV) and proportional representation. But the fact that it doesn't exist at present still doesn't deter me from voting my conscience. The voters of East Timor voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Indonesia, even though guns were pointed at their heads not to. That's the power of real democracy, which terrifies the elite running the country. That's something worth dying for — just ask the East Timorese. (More importantly, that's something worth living for too!) And that's why when someone with Nader's integrity runs a serious campaign the stops are out to first minimize, and then to vituperate him, his campaign, and his supporters. Do I know that BushCo republicans are cynically funding his campaign? Yes. Does it matter to me? Hey, I'm glad he's getting more money, from whatever source, to run his campaign: more money for him means less for BushCo.
I don't begrudge anybody their vote against Bush. I understand the fear, I understand the anger, I understand the immense importance of getting BushCo out of office, and the passion such an effort entails. And I hope that those who disagree with me and my point of view will give me the same courtesy. I did the best I could to articulate my reasons.
It just seems to me that the people of East Timor understand democracy better than Americans do.