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don't blame me, i voted for kodos
July 25, 2004 12:36 PM   Subscribe

"Consumer advocate Ralph Nader's quixotic presidential campaign says it submitted about 5,400 signatures to get on the Michigan ballot, far short of the required number of 30,000. Luckily for him, approximately 43,000 signatures were filed by Michigan Republicans on his behalf, more than meeting the requirement." In a two-party system, do third parties become nothing but stooges?
posted by reklaw (94 comments total)

 
This is such bullshit.
posted by graventy at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2004


Bush-Nader 04!

(too bad it's not working for the Repubs--Nader still isn't polling well--if they're hoping he's a Perot, they're sadly mistaken)
posted by amberglow at 12:53 PM on July 25, 2004


I can't fathom what Nader hopes to achive in his presidential bid. Clearly, he knows he's not going to win. And with Republicans pushing so god-damned hard to get him on ballot, if that doesn't give him something to pause and think about, then he really is a stooge.

Clearly, his positions have to be closer to Kerry than to Bush. What could he possibly to gain by being a spoiler for Bush, again?

Unless he's an attention whore and it's all about his ego, which makes him a total asshole to the 10th degree. I can't believe I used to like this guy...
posted by Rastafari at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2004


Meanwhile, the republicans will be losing votes to the Libertarian party this year. And they're scared.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2004


He dosn't need ot be a perot in order to keep bush in the whitehouse. He just needs to take a few votes in places like FL, TN, etc.
posted by delmoi at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2004


In a two-party system, do third parties become nothing but stooges?

hell, yes.

I know that alternative voting systems have been discussed here (and on plastic, k5) -- none of them are perfect, but anything has to be better than this stupid bullshit we have right now.

given that the two parties more or less control the means to change the voting system, do you think it's likely to change anytime soon? hell, no -- it will probably take revolutions and me hanging out with wulfgar! and a big pile o' guns for that to happen. sigh.
posted by dorian at 1:03 PM on July 25, 2004


How does writing in Nader affect the voting? Maybe I'm missing something, but I would think most people who'de vote for Nader in the election are the 3,500 who wrote him in. Eveen if he wasn't on the ballot, those 3,500 people could still write him on the official ballot.
posted by jmd82 at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2004


Hee hee! Ain't democracy fun?! And in a race that is allegedly going to be nearly as close as 2000, it won't take too many votes to tilt the election one way or another. And as referenced above, if it was "good enough" for Perot to hand an election to Clinton, well, then it's good enough for Nader to hand it to G.W. Bush.

November is going to be soooooo interesting.
posted by davidmsc at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2004


Of course, if the election systems in the states weren't FUBAR in 2000 Nader wouldn't have mattered, Gore would have won. This year more attention will be paid to underhanded election officials, more people are mad at bush, and more people are equally mad at nader.

It's not going to be as close as some would hope.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:48 PM on July 25, 2004


then it's good enough for Nader to hand it to G.W. Bush.


except for the fact that Nader doesn't have the support he had last time (or the Green party seal of approval), and that many that voted for him in 2000 won't be this time--they know better now--the stakes are much higher.
posted by amberglow at 1:50 PM on July 25, 2004


Also in the equation, the forgotten candidate of 2000, Pat Buchanan, took thousands more fundie-right-wing votes away from Bush than Nader took tree-hugger votes from Gore, and Pat isn't running this time. I don't know anybody who's planning to write in Buchanan. And I know the people who would be, if they were, if you follow me.
posted by jfuller at 2:15 PM on July 25, 2004


If Nader doesn't have the support he had in 2000, and he's not gonna be getting any votes, and [other reasons for Bush-haters not to panic], why all the excitement?
posted by techgnollogic at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2004


You know, we could go ahead and let whoever on the ballot can get the signatures, quit bitching about it, and let the voters decide - wait, no, much better that the left embraces a dictatorship "voting" method and tries to force Naderites to vote for Kerry.
posted by iamck at 2:29 PM on July 25, 2004


amberglow: (too bad it's not working for the Repubs--Nader still isn't polling well--if they're hoping he's a Perot, they're sadly mistaken)

From the article: Just as aggressively, Democratic officials are doing everything they can to keep Nader off ballots, challenging his signatures in Michigan and elsewhere. Friday in Boston, Nader told reporters he had complained about these tactics — which he has called "dirty tricks" — with none other than Kerry himself.

Seems like a waste of effort then, no?


On Nader: Unless he's an attention whore...

I can't see any other reason.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:42 PM on July 25, 2004


It is a waste of effort, but the DC Dems are doing everything they can, much like the Republicans are doing everything they can to get him on ballots he wouldn't otherwise be on--what's good for the goose, you know.
posted by amberglow at 2:47 PM on July 25, 2004


> You know, we could go ahead and let whoever on the ballot can get the
> signatures, quit bitching about it, and let the voters decide

Ghod forbid. After all, the people might make a terrible mistake.
posted by jfuller at 2:50 PM on July 25, 2004


I've got a solution to all this intereference by the two other parties - all Naderites collectively issue a statement that if Nader is not on the ballot, they vote for Bush.
posted by iamck at 2:53 PM on July 25, 2004


It wouldn't even be possible to vote for Nader if it wasn't for the Republican support he's getting, so "letting the voters decide" doesn't really come into play here--the Repubs aren't helping the Green candidate, or the porn star girl, or the Communist candidate get on ballots.
posted by amberglow at 2:55 PM on July 25, 2004


Nader aside, don't y'all think you're mostly being a tad fatalistic?

Or, at the very least, buying into a rhetoric of hoplessness? 'Cuz, after all, there's nothing that quite spurs inaction like a sense of helplessness. Unless, maybe, it's that formless dread of knowing that somebody, somewhere, is one-up on you, on which our entire system of consumption is based...

Point being, in the end, politics is still local. All of you seem to me to be missing a vital point about fundamental political change: That it's fundamental. The Reform Party elected Jesse the Body as Governor of IL, and whether you liked him or not that was a big fucking deal. The Conservative Party elected Jim Buckley to the Senate, from NY, back in the '70s; they were instrumental for years in cementing the Republican hold on the NYS senate, and shaping the machine that would subsequently elect Al d'Amato. (Their fall can be linekd to d'Amato's.) Likewise, NYS's "Independence Party" and its "Working Families Party" are becoming forces to be reckoned with in local elections.

And isn't that the goddamn point? Yes, they are asserting influence; they're just not asserting it in big, sexy, high-profile places, so it's boring to you. Well, get over it. Nothing happens unless people make it happen.
posted by lodurr at 3:14 PM on July 25, 2004


And this just brings up something that I think should be implemented: run-offs. Let anyone run in the general election, but only the top two vote-getters move on to the final round. That would assure that one or the other receives a true majority vote, not some sort of 43-40-17 split among three candidates (for example).
posted by davidmsc at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2004


the Repubs aren't helping the Green candidate, or the porn star girl, or the Communist candidate get on ballots.

I'm shocked, shocked(!) to hear this.

Here's to hoping that this conniving on the GOP side inspires more people on the Dems side to get out the vote and register people for the election. The only way to make Nader a non-issue is by getting more people to the polls.

and as for Nader's motives? fucked if I know what they are.

I get the impression that when Kerry gets elected, a lot of people on the left are going to be unhappy with his lack of liberal behavior straight off. He's not likely to force-march the country to the left, as Bush did to the right in early 2001...
posted by Busithoth at 3:17 PM on July 25, 2004


Nader believes the government is rigging the system.

When a democrat is president republicans and people "on the fence" want to get him out.

When a republican is president democrats and people "on the fence" want to get him out.

What's the point of voting "not bush" when that will just keep the whitehouse door open for people like bush?

If all the people who wanted a 3rd party candidate like nader or the libertarian guy voted for them, they would undoubtedly win. Even as it is 4 more years of bush would only make the population more eager for change

I do not believe the majority of people voting "not bush" will do it for a better country, but for revenge.

Nader knows his chances of winning are about the same as bush becoming a vegan transvestite (who knows! :).

Nader is running because he really believes the democrats are not a solution.

I for one will never throw my vote away again. To me that means not voting for a republican or democrat. They are not the same, but their differences are undone every 4 or 8 years.
posted by 12345 at 3:33 PM on July 25, 2004


succinctly put 12345 - that's the calm manifesto I would like to make if I wasn't so enraged at the democrats right now.
posted by iamck at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2004


> I get the impression that when Kerry gets elected, a lot of people on the
> left are going to be unhappy with his lack of liberal behavior straight off. He's
> not likely to force-march the country to the left, as Bush did to the right in early 2001...

Assuming a Kerry victory, within a month of the election he'll be getting gobbed by the mefi-and-further-left demographic sliver as wetly as Ralph is now--as soon as it dawns on them that he's just the Democratic senator from Massachussetts and they haven't elected Regis Debray. Such a rosy vision of Dem self-hate is almost enough to make me vote for the K person. No, auld-line Liberal that I am, I'll stick with Ralph. But such a delightful idea.
posted by jfuller at 3:45 PM on July 25, 2004


Just as moderates and liberal Republicans were unhappy with Bush's immediate turn to the right (as opposed to his campaign rhetoric of uniting, not dividing and compassionate conservatism), us liberals will be unhappy with Kerry's governing in the center, but it's what all presidents should be doing. It's fine--given the choice between that and Bush, we'd rather have the centrist president that disappoints. We're far more realistic than your stereotype allows for.
posted by amberglow at 3:51 PM on July 25, 2004


The only thing Nader can possibly hope to get out of this election is pure hate from the left. The vote-split is simply not going to work this time around, but as long as it's taking resources away from GOP campaigns I suppose it can't be all that bad.

I'm pretty amazed at how far Ralph's going in order to whore attention, but clearly it hasn't been successful so far -- what hope does he have when the Greens don't want him associated with them?
posted by clevershark at 3:55 PM on July 25, 2004


I for one will never throw my vote away again. To me that means not voting for a republican or democrat. They are not the same, but their differences are undone every 4 or 8 years.

Maybe not.

Think about it. Some consequences do hang on for longer than 4 or 8 years...
posted by lodurr at 3:56 PM on July 25, 2004


I've got a solution to all this intereference by the two other parties - all Naderites collectively issue a statement that if Nader is not on the ballot, they vote for Bush.

That's not enough, we need another condition: if Nader *is* on the ballot, they vote for Kerry.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:59 PM on July 25, 2004


> We're far more realistic than your stereotype allows for.

Noted, amber. Fuller moderates his snark appropriately. But we shall see. Bear in mind, I will be watching the verdict on President Kerry that develops right here on mefi. (And on indymedia, of course.)
posted by jfuller at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2004


Some consequences do hang on for longer than 4 or 8 years...

For example: The Likely Impact of the 2004 Presidential Election on the Composition and Decisions of the Supreme Court.
posted by homunculus at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2004


I want my goddamned 2000 vote back, Ralph.
posted by xmutex at 4:11 PM on July 25, 2004


I'm pretty amazed at how far Ralph's going in order to whore attention

Anyone who is familiar with Nader's lifetime of public service -- as a consumer advocate, an advocate of real democracy, etc -- or anyone who has heard him speak about these topics would probably have to think twice before making the determination that he's in this presidential race just for attention. This portrayal of Nader as an ego-maniac attention whore only serves to further the causes of those who want us to be locked into a lesser-of-two-evils mentality.

Technically speaking, we do not live in a "two party system", because nowhere is it legislated that we can have only two parties. What's needed in this country is a clearer vision of true democracy, election reforms, and the chance for the public to control the national debate system -- as it stands, all of the major national presidential debates are controlled by the RNC and the DNC. Not very fair & balanced, is it?

As for me -- I've voted for Nader for president twice now, and am torn about what to do this coming November. I do not want 4 more years of the Bush administration, but I don't really like Kerry that much, and it sort of sickens me that I've been made to feel guilty about voting for the candidate I most agree with -- and that I've bought into the "throwing your vote away" rhetoric.
posted by dryad at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2004


Jesse the Body Ventura was elected the Governor of Minnesota, I just don't see that happening in Illinois.

If the Republicans want to get Nader on the ballot, and they are following the rules, then so be it. If you don't like it, change the rules. What the candidates need to do is to provide a compelling reason to vote for them. When they do that third or fourth party candidates are irrelevant.
posted by Eekacat at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2004


And this just brings up something that I think should be implemented: run-offs. Let anyone run in the general election, but only the top two vote-getters move on to the final round.

Or something like approval voting or Borda count, which only requires one round and is less easily susceptible to strategic voting problems.

Of course, that's in part because people have more trouble understanding them. "But if I can vote for everybody, how can my vote even matter?" "It's not fair for people to get more than one vote -- it will skew the count!" (actual complaints I have heard against approval voting).

I will be watching the verdict on President Kerry that develops right here on mefi.

I expect the special forces of snark will not disappoint.


I don't really like Kerry that much, and it sort of sickens me that I've been made to feel guilty about voting for the candidate I most agree with -- and that I've bought into the "throwing your vote away" rhetoric.

I don't think there's such a thing as throwing your vote away, but I also don't think that means you shouldn't vote strategically.

I live in a state where if you aren't voting Republican, you could say you're "throwing your vote away". However, I've noticed that when I've supported a repub candidate, I've pretty much felt the same way: why vote? They're going to win.

But I vote anyway because there's the periodic surprise. The democratic house candidate for my district got over 35% last time, if I recall correctly, which was a fine showing in this neck of the woods. And it wasn't too long ago that a Dem candidate actually won a house seat and kept it through a challenge or two, due to some serious arrogance and sloppy campaigning on the part of the repub.

So you never know. Votes aren't always lost.

But by the same token, I think it's worth seriously considering what your vote *really* a means: are you trying to make it a means of expression, or are you really seeing it a means for effecting change in your government? If you're looking for a means of speaking out and baring your political soul, there are other avenues available like letters to the editor, letters to your congressman, political meetings, forums online, etc, and that's all well and good.

But a vote is entirely different. It is not a means of expression. It is a means of determining who is elected to public office -- and yes there's *meaning* in how people vote, but that's not the primary purpose. When that is the primary purpose we call those opinion polls. Voting is different, and you should treat it different, and that's why the lesser of two evils strategy makes sense. Voting is not about achieving integral union between your views and a candidate and expressing that -- it's about getting the best possible candidate into office. And anyway you slice it -- put him on the debates, give him funding and prime time -- it is extremely unlikely Nader could gather more votes than Bush this fall.
posted by weston at 4:50 PM on July 25, 2004


Jesse the Body Ventura was elected the Governor of Minnesota, I just don't see that happening in Illinois.

ahem. Right. What I meant. Just looked this up earlier today, and got it reveresed.
posted by lodurr at 5:01 PM on July 25, 2004


Weston, you're right, and you make some really good points. Because I live in a "battleground state" I will probably vote strategically & vote Kerry -- too often, though, this makes me feel really icky, because I'm one of those people who feels that her vote needs to reflect her opinion/ways of thinking/etc. You're right about the difference between political self-expression & voting for the right person to be in office.

Thanks for talking some sense into me. ;)
posted by dryad at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2004


12345: Nader is running because he really believes the democrats are not a solution.

So the solution is to help re-elect Bush? I don't get the logic. What Nader needs to think about is: which party's philosophy are you (Nader) closer to? And even if don't believe that Democrats have all the answers, do you (again, Nader) want a repeat of the last four years?
posted by Rastafari at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2004


If all the people who wanted a 3rd party candidate like nader or the libertarian guy voted for them, they would undoubtedly win.

I'd be interested to hear how you'd back up this statement. Personally I don't believe it. This is a country that struggles over whether people like Gore and Kerry are too far to the left. Think about that.

If every Communist in America swore off strategic voting and faithfully wrote in a Communist Party candidate on Election Day, do you think they'd even appear as a blip on the radar? Of course they wouldn't, because they're too few in number. I'm guessing that people who like Nader are much more numerous than that, but I'd be very surprised if they amounted to more than 10% of the population. I'll be very pleased if you can show me a poll demonstrating that I'm wrong.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't vote for whomever you like, but let's not harbor illusions about the public. I voted for Kucinich in the primary but I certainly wasn't fantasizing that he'd come out on top if everyone were to abandon pragmatic voting. I know that most people simply aren't as far to the left as I am. This fall I'll hold my nose and vote for Kerry because that's the better of the only two possible outcomes given the country's political climate.

If you want Nader or a Libertarian elected, your first job is to convince the public that their values are good ones to hold. Nobly casting your heartfelt Nader vote doesn't accomplish this, unfortunately.

But a vote is entirely different. It is not a means of expression. It is a means of determining who is elected to public office -- and yes there's *meaning* in how people vote, but that's not the primary purpose.

Well put.
posted by boredomjockey at 5:28 PM on July 25, 2004


So, then, How To Run a Two-Party Dictatorship:

1. The [Republican|Democrat] in office must do everything he can to piss everyone off.
2. Every four years, everyone is forced to vote for the only "realistic" alternative: the [Democrat|Republican].
3. Repeat.
posted by reklaw at 5:39 PM on July 25, 2004


> it sort of sickens me that I've been made to feel guilty about voting for the candidate
> I most agree with -- and that I've bought into the "throwing your vote away" rhetoric.

Well, at least you can vote your conscience in states that are already solidly red or blue. In those that might go either way I'd say (assuming you aren't in love with either of the two biggies) wait until as late as possible to vote and see how those ever-lovin' exit polls are going. I am frankly hoping that by almost-poll-closing my state will be either clearly for dubya or for JFK and I can forget strategic voting and just vote the straight lunatic tree-hugger ticket, as I wish.
posted by jfuller at 5:39 PM on July 25, 2004


yeah, what 12345, weston and reklaw said.

if we had a non-crappy voting system, I'd vote for amberglow. unless hank rollins was running against him, 'cos then I'd definitely have to vote for rollins.
posted by dorian at 5:54 PM on July 25, 2004


dorian, you'd be wasting your vote --go kerry and think of me instead : >

hmm....amberglow/rollins '12?
posted by amberglow at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2004


oh, I will vote for kerry no question, it's just that honestly I can't think that he'll be all that much better than bush in the end.

makes me feel kinda dirty, y'know?
posted by dorian at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2004


he will be, trust me. (a doorknob would be, actually)
posted by amberglow at 6:29 PM on July 25, 2004


If all the people who wanted a 3rd party candidate like nader or the libertarian guy voted for them, they would undoubtedly win.

I think this is completely wrong. First of all, I think the percentage of people who would agree on a third party platform is far smaller than you think - nader has about as much a chance of getting elected as pat buchanan, which thankfully is not that high. Just because a high number of people around you talk about voting for someone else, doesn't mean that a high percentage of average americans feel the same way. Perot was the most electable third party candidate and he was not particularly radical...

Second, I doubt even a high percentage of those who do vote for a third party candidate actually want the candidate to win. A lot of people vote for third party people as a kind of protest against the candidates they don't like, rather than as a true affirmation of another option. A third candidate isn't really an "option" in the same way, which is central - it's much easier to criticize what you don't like than to really work out solutions that a majority will be satisfied with...

anyway, I'd be all for run-off elections or representative systems, but I don't think third party candidates are the answer to getting our political conversations going.
posted by mdn at 6:51 PM on July 25, 2004


That would assure that one or the other receives a true majority vote, not some sort of 43-40-17 split among three candidates (for example).

Damn. I actually agree with davidmsc. I gotta get out of here.
posted by Jimbob at 7:01 PM on July 25, 2004


I can't fathom what Nader hopes to achive in his presidential bid. Clearly, he knows he's not going to win. And with Republicans pushing so god-damned hard to get him on ballot, if that doesn't give him something to pause and think about, then he really is a stooge.

Clearly, his positions have to be closer to Kerry than to Bush. What could he possibly to gain by being a spoiler for Bush, again?


My positions are closer to those of Hitler than those of Stalin. Does that mean that in a three-way race between the two of them and St. Francis of Assisi I should go with Hitler? You're looking at this too narrowly — third party candidates, and the third party faithful, run and vote because they believe that the mainstream parties are so worthless and corrupt that neither is better than the other. You want to complain because you voted for Nader and you didn't get Gore? Too fuckin' bad, if you wanted Gore, guess what — maybe you should've voted for Gore. Many people feel that Kerry will not be an improvement over Bush; it's not a wholly unreasonable position to take. This is someone who voted for the war, voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, has no intention of ending the war, and has no stated intention of reducing our presence in Iraq or (specific) intentions to reinstate our lost civil liberties.

As for what he hopes to achieve — I don't know, but I'd imagine that if he's like most third-party candidates he hopes to achieve a sufficient fraction of the vote to convince the leaders of the parties which do get elected that his ideas have a sufficient constituency behind them to be worth paying attention to. Whether this is a sound strategy or not is up for debate; Perot's spectacular-for-a-third-party showing doesn't seem to have much affected the national discourse. On the other hand, Nader's (and Badnarik's) beliefs are a bit more focused than Perot's and a 17% result for either of them would send a much more focused message than the 17% (IIRC) result for Perot did.

Meanwhile, the republicans will be losing votes to the Libertarian party this year. And they're scared.

Well, they might've, if the Libertarians hadn't nominated that tool Badnarik.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2004


If every person that wanted a 3rd party voted for it - this could be accomplished by allowing a vote for each candidate (not just one vote) - i would agree that this year bush or kerry would probably still win, but the percentage of 3rd party votes would be tremendous. This would change 3rd parties from a radical protest vote into realistic alternatives, and there would be realistic 3rd party candidates.

I'm guessing the next 3rd party candidate to be president will be a celebrity...someone like....i don't know....Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Jerry Seinfield

Do i think a 3rd party is a solution? no The solution is simple; democracy. Replace the positions at the top (president, congress, supreme court, etc) with us, all of us. I believe even foreign countries should have a (limited but official) voice/vote in our political system (that is, if we wish to continue playing international cop/mother/teacher/bully).

Though it may seem such a system would be impossible to implement - Using open source, and allowing any (and every) organization with enough resources to collect and tally the votes, the system should sort itself out.
posted by 12345 at 9:33 PM on July 25, 2004


I don't know whether I agree with 12345, and I don't think his vision has a chance of happening (which is why I'm voting for kerry), but it's refreshing to see someone think about what's possible. Thanks.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:33 PM on July 25, 2004


It's fine--given the choice between that and Bush, we'd rather have the centrist president that disappoints.

That's one of the most depressing things I've ever heard.
posted by jmd82 at 10:48 PM on July 25, 2004


I am not a whore. If I'm being screwed, I prefer that it feels good. I'm voting for Kerry. Bush just plain hurts and then leaves a damn quarter on the pillow before leaving. Kerry may not be in the kitchen making breakfast in the morning, but I'm sure he's good for more than a quarter.

That being said, one thing that Bush has managed is a very heightened degree of political awareness in America. If people also would focus more on the legislature, we might manage to turn things around to the better.
posted by Goofyy at 12:31 AM on July 26, 2004


Anyone who is familiar with Nader's lifetime of public service -- as a consumer advocate, an advocate of real democracy, etc -- or anyone who has heard him speak about these topics would probably have to think twice before making the determination that he's in this presidential race just for attention.

Anyone who is familiar with Nader knows he's an egomaniac. He's an egomaniac who has brought about some amazing reforms in consumer culture and is arguably one of the most important public figures of the late 20th century, but he's still an egomaniac. His egomania also has to bear some of the responsibility (but not necessarily "blame") for the 2000 debacle.

If he were helping to promote the Greens or another legitimate third party, and not the Nader Party, I might feel differently.
posted by jpoulos at 6:03 AM on July 26, 2004


It's fine--given the choice between that and Bush, we'd rather have the centrist president that disappoints.

That's one of the most depressing things I've ever heard.

Why? If we only have two viable choices for pres, why not pick the one that's closest? I'm not depressed that the candidate closest to my views doesn't match them exactly--to expect that would be to be delusional.
posted by amberglow at 6:10 AM on July 26, 2004


It doesn't take a Constitutional amendment, or even a Federal law, to introduce a variety of instant runoff or proportional representation systems into the Presidential election. Each state, by statute, can easily do any of those things with its own Electoral votes.

If there were a strong center or right third party Presidential candidate, I think you could count on Florida and Ohio (states controlled by Republicans) to being doing something like that right now. Missouri and Wisconsin are (IIRC) Democrat-controlled, they could do the same if Nader qualifies for the ballot there.
posted by MattD at 6:15 AM on July 26, 2004


Technically speaking, we do not live in a "two party system", because nowhere is it legislated that we can have only two parties.

I hear this a lot, and it smacks of desperation. We live in a de facto two-party system -- the system that is locked into the Constitution is optimized for it, and there's simply no room for third parties. Call it an emergent property. If by some miracle a third party did reach the mainstream, one of the existing parties would wither and die.

Voters are simply wasting their time dallying with minor candidates. If you want change, lobby the major party that you most agree with to support reforms to the democratic process -- that's the only way it's going to happen. In the meantime, don't give us the spiel about how we don't live under a two-party system because it's only technically true.
posted by Epenthesis at 7:44 AM on July 26, 2004


This I like!

Here's to hoping the Democrats throw their resources behind a right-leaning 3rd party, say the Libertarians. If only we can get a couple of third parties to stick before the two dinosaurs realize what they've done then maybe we'll actually get somewhere with electoral reform and a true representative democracy.

ohpleaseohpleaseohplease
posted by Fezboy! at 7:46 AM on July 26, 2004


as a registered michigan voter, i'm happy to see the republicans waste time and money trying to get poor ralph on the ticket. that leaves them less time and money to get themselves re-elected. besides, how the hell can anyone take nader seriously, when he's openly stated that he has no interest in being president? he's running strictly as a spoiler vote, and for no other reason. come on - if you're going to throw away your vote, at least throw it to a guy who wants the damn job in the first place.

anyway, i'm thinking that no matter what you do, voting for bush or for kerry will put a guy in office who has major reasons (meaning his own source of $$$) to keep his own business interests in mind when making decisions.

hmmm... the halliburton president vs. the heinz president. but i can't see us going to war over pickles and ketchup, can you?

plus the fact that kerry seems to deliberately choose to do things that aren't so good for rich guys. i imagine the tax benefits for the wealthy aren't top of his priorty list, and as a non-wealthy person that's good news for me. i'm tired of shouldering the cost of running our government, and will be happy to hand over part of my burden to the guys who can actually afford to help pay for it (but don't, thanks to w's tax plan).

personally i don't think our current party system is very good. with only two major choices, we get polarized (as we are now) and there's a real need in this country these days for a moderate third party to step in and settle things. i would love to see a more moderate voice in politics, but looks like we've gone to the point where a political debate ends up with mr. elephant screaming "godless hippie baby-killer" and mr. donkey screaming "fat corporate tv-preacher stooge" back at him. this is politics now. pick the most divisive issue to build up a core constituency of believers, then throw the fence-sitters enough of a bone to tip the balance 51% in your direction. that's not a government, that's a popularity contest, just like american idol. we don't need that running our country.

holy crap - if we push the election as a new "reality show" do you think we can get more young people to pay attention and vote? oh wait, nevermind. that won't work. you can't vote for president on your nextel just yet. damn.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2004


I'm still skeptical about how big the Nader factor is. 2000 exit polls reveal that Nader supporters are not a dead lock for switching to Democrats. For every 10 Nader votes, 3 would have gone to Gore, 2 would have gone to Bush, and 5 would have not voted in the presidential race.

I see a lot of stupidity on both sides. The Republicans seem to be throwing a lot of money on what I see as a risky bet. A better bet in my mind is to solidify their base.

On the other hand, I think that Democrats would do much better by doing what the Republicans have been quite successful at over the last 10 years: coalition building. Going on the attack, not only against Nader but against independent voters solidifies the perception that the Democrats are more interested in politics as a game than politics as a way of defining public policy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2004


The suggestion that Kerry wouldn't be all that much better a President than Bush seems to be an article of faith with people who are tired of politics as usual and don't see the democrats as being particularly more principled than the republicans. But this speaks only to the parties; you need to look at the men.

And while the democrats may not be miles better than the republicans, Kerry is about a million times the man that Bush is. He broke Iran Contra in his first five months as a Senator. He seems to fear nothing. He's spoken truth to power all his life. Sure, it's easy to pick at his Senate voting record -- you can do that to any Senator, which is why Senators don't get to be president very often; voting in the Senate nearly always comes down to a pair of dirty choices; it's pretty rare that you can take unqualified pride in voting either way. I think Kerry kicks ass and I think he'll be an awesome President.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2004


I love how all the Naderites are ignoring the fact that simply for Kerry to undo the damage that Bush has done is a Herculean effort. Remember the issues being debated in 2000? Remember how there actually were issues to debate? Remember how the democratic process was before the Florida debacle, 9/11 and the culture of fear? Now the only issue is: can we get this guy out of office before he does any more damage? That's how far backwards we've gone. That's how many regulations protecting the American people have been rolled back. That's how badly the trust in the government of the United States has been savaged.

So, really, if you still want to bitch about the two-party system and ignore the fact that Ralph's being bankrolled by the Repubs just to keep Their Man Shrub in office and close your eyes as the U.S. government falls into the black hole of Bush, by all means. But this is politics, and I'm sorry if someone misled you and told you politics were about idealism. Change the system? Sure. But it ain't gonna happen anytime soon, and certainly not before November. So if you're going to play the game, play the game, but don't act like you're above the game.
posted by solistrato at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2004


George_Spiggot: He broke Iran Contra in his first five months as a Senator.

You know. This is the kind of stuff that I want to know about. I always get nervious whenever Democrats stop talking about the candidate and instead talk about the election much like gamblers at a football game concerned primarily with the final score and spread.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:55 PM on July 26, 2004


solistrato: well said.
posted by jpoulos at 1:26 PM on July 26, 2004


We live in a de facto two-party system -- the system that is locked into the Constitution is optimized for it, and there's simply no room for third parties. Call it an emergent property. If by some miracle a third party did reach the mainstream, one of the existing parties would wither and die.

There was an interesting overview of the history of American political parties in this weekend's Washington Post Magazine supplement (reg. req'd), with a bit of theory as to why we've stuck with a two-party system.

come on - if you're going to throw away your vote, at least throw it to a guy who wants the damn job in the first place.

I don't know about that. I find the idea of not actually wanting to be president very appealing in a presidential candidate. I'd go so far as to say I think that wanting to be president should be a disqualifying factor!

I am not a whore. If I'm being screwed, I prefer that it feels good. I'm voting for Kerry. Bush just plain hurts and then leaves a damn quarter on the pillow before leaving. Kerry may not be in the kitchen making breakfast in the morning, but I'm sure he's good for more than a quarter.

Are you saying that Bush is, uh, more endowed?

I will be watching the verdict on President Kerry that develops right here on mefi.
I expect the special forces of snark will not disappoint.


MetaFilter: the special forces of snark
posted by me & my monkey at 1:45 PM on July 26, 2004


I don't know about that. I find the idea of not actually wanting to be president very appealing in a presidential candidate.

See, I find not wanting to be president a fine quality in pretty much anyone except a presidential candidate. Kinda like how not wanting to talk about investing can be appealing in your friends but never in you financial advisor.
posted by boaz at 2:19 PM on July 26, 2004


Voting for a third-party candidate for reasons of ideological purity is like not buying meat at the store as your means of protesting the practices of factory farms. It's for people who are interested in assuaging their own guilt, or showing off how pure they are, more than they are about doing something that makes a difference.

I'm voting for Kerry. Solistrato summed it up nicely-- I think Bush is, like, crazy dangerous. Yeah, the system sucks and it's broken. But you can either do something to actually work to change the system (and in the meantime vote for the best of the two candidates who have a chance to win), or you can vote a third party and strut that fact around like a peacock while the country goes to hell.
posted by nath at 2:38 PM on July 26, 2004


anyway, i'm thinking that no matter what you do, voting for bush or for kerry will put a guy in office who has major reasons (meaning his own source of $$$) to keep his own business interests in mind when making decisions.
...
plus the fact that kerry seems to deliberately choose to do things that aren't so good for rich guys. i imagine the tax benefits for the wealthy aren't top of his priorty list, and as a non-wealthy person that's good news for me.


See tho? You say they're both out for their own interests, yet then admit Kerry acts on the majority's (those of us that aren't rich) behalf, and not his own. I see reason enough to vote right there. (And he doesn't have anything to do with the Heinz company--she inherited tons of Heinz money.)
posted by amberglow at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2004


Voting for a third-party candidate for reasons of ideological purity is like not buying meat at the store as your means of protesting the practices of factory farms. It's for people who are interested in assuaging their own guilt, or showing off how pure they are, more than they are about doing something that makes a difference.

you expect people to stop killing cows even if i continue to eat them? whether or not i eat meat has zero effect on the success of the meat industry? i understand that my contribution is negligible, but that's why i need a (very large) coaltion of like-minded individuals to make a difference. isn't that what Ralph Nader is trying to do? or you think he'd be more successful at bringing progressives together (and getting them to the polls) if he became a cheerleader for Kerry?

btw, i do not strut. in fact, you'll never even notice me ... until it's too late!

for me, the important concept here is that even after the 2000 election debacle, the Democratic Party has no interest in changing the way our election system works. as MattD noted, states can definitely make IRV or preferential voting a possibility..

of course, after Nader stole the election for Bush in Florida, and Gore lost the election with the popular vote, i'm sure the Democrats have been working furiously for the past four years to change the system.

*crickets*

fwiw, Nader will have zero impact on the election (imo).
posted by mrgrimm at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2004


also, fwiw, i think it's a big mistake by the Republicans. it's a waste of resources, and it has the potential to backfire in their faces.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:45 PM on July 26, 2004


See, I find not wanting to be president a fine quality in pretty much anyone except a presidential candidate. Kinda like how not wanting to talk about investing can be appealing in your friends but never in you financial advisor.

That's a bad analogy, I think. Most of us choose a career that will last our entire working lives. The Presidency is not such a career. Having the ambition to become President is a far cry from being worthy of the office, but in general that's the sort of candidates we get - people who've planned much of their lives to become President, who considered their actions until now by asking themselves with each and every decision how it will affect their chances, rather than being concerned with doing the right thing because it's right.

You don't have to wait four years to fire your financial advisor, you know.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:56 PM on July 26, 2004


mrgrimm: isn't that what Ralph Nader is trying to do? or you think he'd be more successful at bringing progressives together (and getting them to the polls) if he became a cheerleader for Kerry?

Actually, it seems like that is what Nader was doing earily in the primary race, there seemed to be some indication that he would throw his weight behind the right Democratic candidate.

nath: Yeah, the system sucks and it's broken. But you can either do something to actually work to change the system (and in the meantime vote for the best of the two candidates who have a chance to win), or you can vote a third party and strut that fact around like a peacock while the country goes to hell.

You know, this has been going round in circles for about 8 years now. And it amazes me the level of magical thinking that goes on among Democratic supporters. After 8 years of trying to talk about "the game" and "the system" to independent voters, the discussion goes nowhere, does nothing, and still has not worked. It seems that Democratic supporers who talk about the need to work within the two-party system are missing an important fact about why independent voters are independent voters.

Independent voters are not convinced by the "work within the system" argument, or the "lesser of two evils" argument. If they did find those arguments convicing, they would be Democrats.

If it has not happened in the last 8 years, it is not going to happen now. No matter how much you feel you are right, all you are doing is pissing in the wind.

It's time to try some different strategies here. I suggest the following:
Focus on the issues. Why is Kerry's platform going to be better than Nader's platform?

Do some coalition building. What can Naderites and greens gain from a Kerry presidency? How do we know that Naderites and greens will contitue to have a voice after the election?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:11 PM on July 26, 2004


read it and see, Kirk and any Naderites and Greens. And compare it to the Republican platform when they release it (or read the Texas Republican platform, a reliable indication of the rightwing's agenda)
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2004


In the Dem Platform PDF: pp 18-19 on Achieving Energy Independence, and pp 36-38 on the Environment might be helpful for the Greens. Frankly, i don't know why people are voting for Nader so can't point out any helpful portions of it for them.
posted by amberglow at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2004


amberglow: read it and see, Kirk and any Naderites and Greens. And compare it to the Republican platform when they release it (or read the Texas Republican platform, a reliable indication of the rightwing's agenda)

Answering the wrong question. The issue is not how Kerry's platform is better than Bush's, but how Kerry's platform is better than Nader's.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2004


I think the difference between this and the last eight years is that, like I said, I think leaving George W. Bush and his administration in power would be incredibly, crazily dangerous-- and we're aware of it. So I think the absolute first step is getting him out of office and undoing the damage he's already done, then we can talk about real progress. This isn't 1996, or even 2000. We know we have a radical-right government more concerned about its own wealth and power and means to increase both than anything else. Yes, the system needs to be changed, but I think there is a more urgent, immediate call to do whatever it takes to remove Bush from office.

What will change the system? Maybe a vast left-wing conspiracy with a strong platform and message, and the resources to disseminate that message effectively-- perhaps even one that stems from outside the Democratic party. Something that can effectively counter the Republican machine that does the same. Something to unite real progressives in this country.

Maybe it will take more than that. I don't know. I think it's going to take a lot of constant work, and it's going to take progressive unity. It's not just something you can bring up around election time as your reason to vote Nader and maintain the purity of your politics.

I don't think we need to work within the system. I know the system is fucked. But your smug third-party vote is not going to change the system, either.
posted by nath at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2004


What's Nader's platform?

Pointing out how one party more closely matches the aims of Greens is not answering the wrong question at all.
posted by amberglow at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2004


amberglow: Pointing out how one party more closely matches the aims of Greens is not answering the wrong question at all.

It is when key points of contention between Dems and Greens (who do not include Nader right now) have them at loggerheads.

And to be honest, I'm not saying that Nader's platform is particularly good. I find it distressingly short on detail. What I am saying is that if Democrats want to convince Naderites, green voters and undecided voters like me, they are going to have to engage in serious dialog about issues like opening up the WTO, Fair trade (you know, two things that led to mass protest during 1999-2000), campaign finace reform and media consolidation.


nath: So I think the absolute first step is getting him out of office and undoing the damage he's already done, then we can talk about real progress. This isn't 1996, or even 2000.

Perhaps this is one of those fundamental differences of opinion here. But it certainly seemed like the last Clinton term, especially the last two years involved a broad attack on progressive agendas including COUNTERINTELPRO actions by the Clinton-administration FBI.

I think it's going to take a lot of constant work, and it's going to take progressive unity.

Ok, I know that. I see that. How do you build progressive unity?

You do it by doing something that republicans have kicked our ass doing for the last decade. You build coalitions. You engage in dialogue about the issues. You open up the possibility of a compromise (and a compromise is not "vote for us in November, bend over for us in February" which was the subtext of the Gore 2000 campaign.) You offer enough of a big tent that working together is a viable possibility.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:08 PM on July 26, 2004


But how do you think issues get put on the table in that big tent? It's by people who care about things. People who get the ear of those in power have to be there to talk and be heard. Nader supporters and Greens right now don't have a place at the table, and thus are not heard, although there are many environmentalists in the Democratic party helping make sure that Green issues at least are represented and addressed. There wouldn't be any talk about non-discrimination and equal rights for us gays if we didn't demand that the Democrats talk about them and support them--we're a voting bloc, and our vote for a party gives us leverage when that party is in power--the same is true of people who care about anything, from social security and medicare and prescription drug costs for old people, to civil rights struggles that are still going on, to the environment, to matters of war and peace, etc. The Democratic Party is a big tent, and is made up of many coalitions and groups and blocs, each wanting their issues heard and addressed.

And tell me, what are these coalitions the Republicans have built? Made up of who? Their dialogue about the issues is an open conversation with even the people that don't agree with them? I don't see it. Their actions and words prove that.
posted by amberglow at 5:26 PM on July 26, 2004


In case you haven't noticed Kirk, the Democrats have built a coalition, and Nader hasn't. If you really feel like you can't vote for Gore or Kerry given their ideological leanings, then, fine, take Nader's 2 1/2% sliver of support and go away already. But please spare the lectures about coalition-building when defending a candidate with less support than the average poll's rounding error.
posted by boaz at 5:54 PM on July 26, 2004


amberglow: Nader supporters and Greens right now don't have a place at the table, and thus are not heard...

They don't have a place at the table primarily because they were shut out, locked out, gassed, arrested, and held on million-dollar bond for speaking their views.

There wouldn't be any talk about non-discrimination and equal rights for us gays if we didn't demand that the Democrats talk about them and support them--we're a voting bloc, and our vote for a party gives us leverage when that party is in power--the same is true of people who care about anything, from social security and medicare and prescription drug costs for old people, to civil rights struggles that are still going on, to the environment, to matters of war and peace, etc.

That leverage only works as long as those groups do not let themselves be taken advantage of. As long as the participation is not, as I've said before, "vote in November, bend over in February." But again, this is ducking the question that Democrats need to address which is beyond electability what makes Kerry a preferential candidate on the issues to Nader, Cobb or Mickey Mouse? You can continue to bang your head against the wall talking about electability, and contitue to get the same results as the previous 8 years. Or you can address the issues.

And tell me, what are these coalitions the Republicans have built? Made up of who? Their dialogue about the issues is an open conversation with even the people that don't agree with them? I don't see it. Their actions and words prove that.

There is some sign that with the ideological twist over the last 4 years that the old coalitions are breaking down. But for example, the Republican party for a long time managed to tie together pragmatic small-government libertarians, social moderates like Weld and now Schwartzenegger, and of course the Christian Coalition its self which ties together congregations that would not mix socially into a voting block, and oddballs like the Log Cabin Republicans.

boaz: In case you haven't noticed Kirk, the Democrats have built a coalition, and Nader hasn't. If you really feel like you can't vote for Gore or Kerry given their ideological leanings, then, fine, take Nader's 2 1/2% sliver of support and go away already. But please spare the lectures about coalition-building when defending a candidate with less support than the average poll's rounding error.

You misunderstand me. Nader has pretty much lost my vote this time around (that does not mean Kerry has it however.)

But I would say it works both ways. You can't simultaneously bitch, whine and moan about third party candidates (or in Nader's case independents) as spoilers and refuse to engage in dialog about the issues they stand for.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:08 PM on July 26, 2004


You can't simultaneously bitch, whine and moan about third party candidates (or in Nader's case independents) as spoilers and refuse to engage in dialog about the issues they stand for.

Are you really claiming that amberglow, Rastafari, mrgrimm, et al, haven't been engaging in dialog on these issues? Read Metafilter much? Hell, I complain about it as often as not, but it keeps happening day after day after day here, so I'm not sure where you're going with this. Is there some dialog quota on these issues that we're not meeting?
posted by boaz at 6:22 PM on July 26, 2004


They don't have a place at the table primarily because they were shut out, locked out, gassed, arrested, and held on million-dollar bond for speaking their views.

Bullshit...many many environmental groups and individuals have fought and won progressive, even "green" planks in the Democratic platform, and you can read them on the pages i mentioned. You can also see the result of their work every time a Democrat speaks out against drilling in ANWAR or letting logging companies cull national forests. They didn't achieve that by taking their ball and going home, or by refusing to play. They stayed and forced the party (and the country) to take them seriously. You don't want to play with the big boys, fine. Don't tar them with some imaginary jackbooted idea you have of them.

Also, even if pigs started to fly, and a third-party candidate got elected president, how would they get anything through congress (congress almost always being controlled by one of the 2 big parties)? Sensible third parties are seeding the grassroots now.
posted by amberglow at 6:32 PM on July 26, 2004


serious question: is a vote for Nader "worse" than another "third-party candidate," e.g. Brown, Badnarik, Cobb, etc.?
posted by mrgrimm at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2004


boaz: Are you really claiming that amberglow, Rastafari, mrgrimm, et al, haven't been engaging in dialog on these issues? Read Metafilter much? Hell, I complain about it as often as not, but it keeps happening day after day after day here, so I'm not sure where you're going with this. Is there some dialog quota on these issues that we're not meeting?

No, I'm not seeing much discussion of the issues at all. What I'm seeing day after day for the last few months is the same old discussion:

1: Nader might spoil the election for Kerry.
2: Nader's value as a spoiler is overrated.
3: Nader is supported by Republicans.
4: Bush is bad, vote for Kerry.
5: The two party system is flawed.
6: The two party system is what we have to work with.

This discussion is not about issues of policy, this discussion is about the election as a game. Like gambling on the Supebowl with predictions made in advance about who wins and the point spread.

What we are not talking about is issues like Fair trade, opening up the WTO, access to government documents, energy policy, strengthening fair use, the gay marriage amendment, the FBI's role in disrupting progressive activism over the last 6 years.

I'm on your side here. I'm suggesting that arguing about spoilers is not going to win anybody to your side. I think that a careful examination of how Kerry stands on key issues in contrast to Nader is your best shot at eliminating the Nader factor.

Because, talking about spoilers and defending the two-party system certainly is not working.

amberglow: Bullshit...many many environmental groups and individuals have fought and won progressive, even "green" planks in the Democratic platform, and you can read them on the pages i mentioned. You can also see the result of their work every time a Democrat speaks out against drilling in ANWAR or letting logging companies cull national forests. They didn't achieve that by taking their ball and going home, or by refusing to play. They stayed and forced the party (and the country) to take them seriously. You don't want to play with the big boys, fine. Don't tar them with some imaginary jackbooted idea you have of them.

Ohh, come on. What happened after Seattle? What happened in Philadelphia? What happened in LA? What happened at Prague?

If things really have changed for the better in the last four years. Good, that is a great step forward. I look forward to reading the platform and I'd prefer to talk about it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:05 PM on July 26, 2004


amberglow:

What is your opinion on Kerry's position on the WTO?

What is your opinion on Kerry's position on Fair trade?

What is your opinion on Kerry's position on access to government documents?

What is your opinion on Kerry's position on intelectual property rights and fair use?

What is your opinion on Kerry's position on the FBI's role on monitoring and disrupting non-violent activist groups?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:10 PM on July 26, 2004


I think he needs people like you to come on in and push more about some of those things, but he's already shown his willingness to listen and adapt to other ideas--look at him and outsourcing. He certainly is better than Bush on govt. docs, and is starting to get the idea about Fair trade (largely as a result of the other primary candidates pushing the issue to the forefront). Fair use i don't know where he stands, but you can be sure people are talking to him about it (and media consolidation too). And--very important--He himself was monitored by the FBI way back when, and by Nixon's goons too, so i'd assume he's already enlightened on that issue.
posted by amberglow at 7:17 PM on July 26, 2004


i'm saying all this, and i believe it, and i don't even love Kerry--I do recognize someone open to ideas and dialogue as opposed to the current occupant of the White House.
posted by amberglow at 7:19 PM on July 26, 2004


amberglow, i do appreciate the information and the kindly approach.

however, i think it all comes down to what you think are the major political issues of modern America. for me, the corruption of the two-party system and the influence of money on politics is a bigger deal than the razing of environmental protections or the deadly imperial military adventures. i truly believe that we need to fix the former problem above all else, and that the secondary problems are a direct result of the corrupted political system.

if someone could convince me (hopefully the man himself) that Kerry could be either: A) a president dedicated to peace efforts OR B) a president dedicated to reforming the current political patronage system, i would definitely vote for him. i just don't see it.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:41 PM on July 26, 2004


I agree with you that corruption and influence peddling and selling is a gigantic problem, but i don't see how it can be changed except thru Congress enacting new laws. So for me that means we have to elect people there that'll reform things, hopefully. It's really not a presidential issue, in my mind, because you need tons of money for commercials and travel, etc and little people (us) actually help--look at blogging/internet money this time. Money talks in this society, whether it's in politics or business or other areas. You could think of money for presidential candidates as a sort of venture capital funding, or as the money funding the rollout of a new product, but that probably sounds as corrupt. : >
posted by amberglow at 8:49 PM on July 26, 2004


if we're talking corrupt tho, the Republicans putting Nader on ballots is way up there, i think.
posted by amberglow at 9:05 PM on July 26, 2004


Kirk, you are aware that, if you wish to advance your issues in the political arena, you have to engage in .... wait for it .... coalition building. I know it's easier to give advice than to take it, but the fact that it's your advice should make it go down easier.

It seems to me that you're the one who wants it both ways, complaining about the Dems lack of coalition-building when they obviously are building a coalition (if not necessarily one that appeals to you), and turning around and supporting candidates who are obviously not building a coalition. And then expecting us not to point out that you're supporting losers, who are losers precisely for their complete disdain for coalition building. If you want ideological purity, then by all means, vote Green, Nader, Libertarian or Natural Law; if you want to support coalition building, you have exactly two choices.
posted by boaz at 9:34 PM on July 26, 2004


In a two-party system, do third parties become nothing but stooges?

It has less to do with the two-party system than the plurality, winner-take-all system of voting (aka first-past-the-post) that made the 2-party system all but inevitable. See the Wikipedia entry here on Duverger's Law for a good overview of what political scientist's have been saying for the past 50 years or so.
posted by jonp72 at 12:07 AM on July 27, 2004


... there's a real need in this country these days for a moderate third party to step in and settle things. i would love to see a more moderate voice in politics...

I just wanted to highlight this to remind nader supporters that most americans looking for a third party are not looking for a radical platform, away from the supposedly practically identical mainstream parties - quite the reverse. And really it's no surprise. If most americans were to the left or right of both parties, then the more extreme party would just die; it would never get votes. If you accept the basic premise of a democracy, that the people get to vote in whoever they choose, even if you personally think they are hurting themselves in the process, then I don't know if we can blame the system. Considering that everyone has been decrying the two party system, I thought it might be worth thinking about the other side...

I mean, a run-off election would allow people to sort of add a political signature to their vote - we would know what percentage of kerry votes would have gone to the greens and what percentage to the libertarians, etc - but I'm not sure it would significantly alter the landscape, at least not in a positive way.

First of all, if people sincerely believe that they want nader and do not care at all between bush and kerry, then they just wouldn't sign in a run-off vote - the percentage who feel that the need to make their voice heard as a third party voter is more important than kerry beating bush, but still believe kerry is a better choice than bush, is extremely small. That's just a weird kind of narcissism (in swing states, anyway).

Another thing is that if the first vote kind of didn't count people might take it less seriously, and vote for "protest candidates" more often, without really wanting them to win. There would be plain old smart-ass/ jokester votes, for sure (local campaigns for write-ins - imagine the blogosphere nominating matt, eg) but also people would make their first choice someone they admire from afar, basically. Idealistic visions of a leader or a country are generally mistaken and possibly dangerous. One good thing about a two party system is that the two candidates are under scrutiny for a significant period of time, and they convene to put forward their platforms. Third party candidates often don't clarify where they stand on things, so disgruntled independents can just project their own perfect candidates onto a contentless persona. But what that means is that the first vote ends up needing interpretation. If 30% of the population votes for thirdpartyguy, but thirdpartyguy doesn't clarify where he stands, how do we know what those voters meant by "thirdpartyguy"? Maybe they all had different understandings of what the candidate represented.

And finally, would it really make a difference in the end? It might increase small-time bickering - the two party system guarantees that similarly minded people get over smaller differences and support one candidate; with a run-off, maybe all the primary candidates would stick around bitching about one another through the season, leaving us fewer moments of unity and coalition - and ultimately, one guy is going to be elected anyway...
posted by mdn at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2004


something to read:
A belief that we are connected as one people....

posted by amberglow at 8:47 PM on July 27, 2004


New Hampshire Republicans are doing the same thing: Visitors walking to President Bush’s campaign picnic Friday were asked to help his re-election chances by signing nomination forms to place Ralph Nader on the ballot in New Hampshire as a presidential candidate.
posted by amberglow at 11:15 AM on August 7, 2004


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