Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Third Party Candidates

Yesterday's Presidential Candidate Picker at my site generated some interesting comments. In particular, I was casually dismissive of Nader, when my thoughts on the matter are actually more complex.

I think this country desperately needs more than two parties. I don't know how we'll ever get there, but I think it's needed. As with most changes that might happen, I think a big obstacle is the corporate media; the media conglomerates must be broken apart to give smaller voices a chance to be heard.

The authors of the Constitution envisioned a lively electoral process. The 12th Amendment to the Constitution states:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

"Not exceeding three." After the voting, if there's no majority, you narrow down to three.

I watch the electoral processes of other countries, where there are multiple parties, and they seem more exciting, more involving, and they give the electorate (us) more choices. The voters would benefit by hearing a variety of voices, with a range of opinions. My Presidential Candidate Picker results showed a cluster of similar Democrats on one end, and a cluster of similar Republicans on the other. Multiple parties with a real chance at the White House would give real choice; you know, like the Libertarians and Greens pretend to do. Right now, alternative parties are symbolic votes; we all know those candidates can't win. People vote for them to make a statement.

I like making statements. I also like winning.

The electoral system makes my vote virtually meaningless in a general election. I live in New York. We're a very blue state. Blue blue blue. So blue that candidates don't come here much. So blue that political advertisements don't play on my TV much.

Under such circumstances, a symbolic vote makes sense. My vote for a major party candidate in 2000 would have had no impact on the results; New York was for Gore and that was that. But my vote for Nader (and I did vote for Nader) did have an impact. An important goal of the Nader candidacy was to get 5% of the vote, thereby forcing the Green Party to automatically appear on the ballot thereafter. It didn't work; Nader got 3%, but I had no doubt that every vote counted in the effort.

I remember, in 2000, knowing that Nader appeared here or there, for this debate or that, and it never got onto the news. There was some rally or debate that Nader was shut out of, and there were pro-Nader protesters who were interrupting Gore or something, and the news reported the interruption, and I remember yelling at the radio, because the reporters weren't telling me what the protesters were saying, or why Nader was shut out. They were reporting it as a "Gore was interrupted" story; no differently than if he'd been rained out. Nader was just a weather condition.

We, the voters, need a voice. We need candidates who address issues. And we need a media that communicates what the candidates say. The media we have doesn't much do that. They mostly just report the horse race. Which takes me full circle, back to the corporate conglomerate media. Back to the need for many parties; not two, not three, but many.

Right now, this year, I'm not interested in voting symbolically. I'm not interested in casting a vote for a candidate with no chance, a candidate being shut out of the media circus, because he's the most progressive (that's Kucinich). Because there is a robust field, and because my vote does matter now, while the field is so populous, I will choose a candidate who has values I can support and integrity I can admire (that's Edwards). But soon enough the field will narrow; the media and the money machine will force that on us; New York's candidate will likely be locked in before I have a chance to vote.

(Cross-posted in a robust, multi-voiced environment)