No Confidence: Thoughts on Election 2012

I’ve seen several Obama endorsements over the past few days, all of them acknowledging that Obama is flawed, but then making mostly negative cases.  They endorse Obama despite himself because of how much they despise the policies, campaign, and ignorance of the Romney campaign.

JT has the most detailed explanation of why you should vote Obama, Jen McCreight (who I love) has a short and not totally reasonable post against third-party votes, PZ has a detailed argument against third parties, and Andrew Tripp has an argument that we need more George McGoverns and fewer Obamas.

On the issues, I’m actually fairly close to Obama on most fronts.  He’s center-right, I’m left-center — I usually score a bit closer to Jill Stein though she and I have differences — but as candidates who represent your point-of-view, I don’t have any major problems with Obama that are also things I think he can realistically do anything about.  Yes, he is authoritarian in some of his presidential powers, but it is going to take someone truly extraordinary in the job of the presidency to reduce the amount of power of the job — or a strong Congress willing to take responsibility for their actions.  (I highly recommend Drift by Rachel Maddow if you’re interested in this topic).

So, if you love Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson or even, FSM forbid, Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode, what should you do?  According to my internet friends, vote for Obama.

PZ:

I’m not saying that we’re doomed, though, just that the presidential race is the wrong place to effect change.

He’s not totally wrong, but the fact of the matter is that the Green Party is putting up a lot of candidates across the country in many different levels of government.  Having a loss-leader green party candidate to get more attention for local races, and to try to get more matching funds for the party as a whole, makes a lot of sense.  Even I, denizen of a red district in a red state, have the opportunity to throw my vote away to a Green Party candidate other than Jill Stein.

Jen:

If you’re voting third-party, you’re voting for Romney. Stop being an idealist and wake up to the reality of how our system works. I agree we need to have more parties in the dialog – trust me, I’d be way happier voting for someone more liberal like Jill Stein if I had the knowledge my voice would be heard – but that’s not going to happen by throwing your vote away and helping a Republican win.

This needs a huge caveat that this is only true if you live in a state where there’s any question of who is going to win the election.  The reality is that less than 20% of the American population lives somewhere where their vote has the potential to matter in the overall election.  It’s not me in South Carolina, it’s not Jen in Seattle, it’s not PZ in Minnesota, but it is JT in Ohio.  A vote for a third-party isn’t a vote for Romney unless you live in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, or Virginia.

I agree with JT’s conclusion:

Here’s what I suggest.  If you live in a state that is already decided (California, Texas, etc.), vote third-party.  Why?  Because in 1992 Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote as a third-party candidate, and that was not meaningless.  If forced the two dominant parties to realize that the people were pissed off.  That led to bi-partisan efforts that undoubtedly contributed to Bill Clinton’s success.  Even if it’s unrealistic to expect a third-party candidate to win, at least for the time being, I believe sending that message is still important.  Is it a perfect fix?  No, but it’s something to do in the meantime that doesn’t carry the risk of pissed away votes in swing states opening the door for the lesser of the two candidates with a legitimate shot at winning this year.

Now, let’s look at my ballot in South Carolina, so that I can show you why I am really not upset with people who don’t bother to go to the polls on election day.  So, you’re in the 80% of the country that doesn’t matter at all presidentially, surely you matter locally, right?  Not necessarily.  A third of the races in SC are people running unopposed.  Not only is this true for school boards or council seats, it’s true of the state house and senate.  It’s also true of one of our national house races.

The other day I was listening to NPR and a Californian called in to complain that, thanks to a new combined primary format, several places in CA had people of the same party running against each other in the general election, and he was very upset.  I wanted to call and scream because I am going to be given a ballot that says this:

House Representative District 02
Joe Wilson (REP)

The fact that I am de facto supporting Joe “You Lie” Wilson alone makes me not want to show up at the polling place.  Knowing that every single race where I do have a choice is going to go to the Republican doesn’t make me any more eager to waste the hour or so of my time it will take me to go to the polling place.  Of the 12 races I am voting on, 7 are people running unopposed.  The rest are polling strongly against my choices.  I can’t even write-in the presidential race for the amazing Rocky Anderson.

Geography has determined that I will never cast a vote for a winner.  A meaningless protest vote is literally all I have.  So here’s my recommendation: vote, but vote for whoever makes you feel good about voting in the first place.  Because the real work is everything we do to get the right people on the ballots in the first place and trying to convince those already in power to do the right thing.

Unless you live in Ohio.

South Carolina Democrats Fail Shamefully

My representative

Not one Democrat has entered the race for the US House of Representatives against Joe Wilson.  The party has entirely failed to recruit or field a candidate for a national office against a man who is an absolute disgrace to this state.  They also have not responded to my inquiries as to why they’ve failed to do so.  This shows not only a flagrant disregard for the state, but also a complete failure of priorities.

Normally when I am embarrassed at politics in my home state of South Carolina, it is because an individual Republican politician has done something that makes me cringe.  They disappear on the Appalachian Trail, say women don’t care about contraception, or scream “You lie!” during the State of the Union.  I am a generous person and I’m willing to allow that it’s really none of my business that Mark Sanford was having an affair, though there were some legitimate governmental interests involved in that story, and maybe Nikki Haley really meant to say women don’t only care about contraception, but other things as well.  But there is nothing about Joe Wilson’s outburst that is forgivable.

I care deeply about the truth, but there is a time and a place for pointing out perceived falsehoods and if a Democrat had screamed “You lie!” during one of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, I would have condemned them as well.  There is a rebuttal aired immediately after the address just for such claims!  You’ve got a platform that doesn’t require being rude!

Of course, caring deeply about the truth, I should also point out that Joe Wilson was monstrously incorrect when he claimed that President Obama was lying.  If you’re going to be completely unnecessarily rude, at least get your facts straight first!

There’s nothing about Joe Wilson’s political career that redeems him from this behavior.  He is a supporter of keeping the treasonous rebel flag on Statehouse grounds.  He’s repeatedly voted to limit the rights of his gay constituents and of the country, he’s voted to make the PATRIOT act permanent and to remove our fourth amendment constitutional right to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure, he does not support scientific research, he does not support women’s rights, he consistently votes against education in a state that desperately needs better education, and he is a religious fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in separation of church and state.

The filing deadline has passed and I wish someone with any basic decency had taken the opportunity to use the public platform to bring some truth and dignity to the race, rather than more of the cowardly lies that Joe Wilson has to offer.  I wish I’d had $3,500 dollars and any knowledge of how to run a campaign or join a race because he’s the representative of MY district and I am mad as hell.  Perhaps Dick Harpootlian, the SCDem chair, should spend more time trying to get Democrats elected and less time insulting women, accusing Republicans of being gay, and schmoozing with Stephen Colbert.

South Carolinians deserve choices when it comes to sending a representative to Washington DC, but it looks like the 40% my district and of the state that votes blue is going to continue to be disenfranchised by a failure of the party and a failure of the system.