Monday, November 3, 2008

Nobody Wins Unless We All Win


There are a few election-related items that I was planning to write blogs about but didn't have time to get around to. They're important and interesting, though, so here they are, for what they're worth at this late stage.

The first one is an article by Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch about trying to find a reason to vote for Obama.

There's also a piece about single-payer health care and the support it receives from some truly maverick Republicans.

Here's an article about changes in the Democratic Party and the unfair (undemocratic!) treatment of Nader supporters.

Finally, here's the most inspiring thing I came across. I'm a big fan of music, so it was especially nice to see that with all the celebrities fawning over Obama, Tom Morello's sticking up for Nader. Here's Morello (as his alter ego, the Nightwatchman) at a Nader rally, performing an unexpurgated version of the Woody Guthrie classic that Morello refers to as "the people's national anthem:"

I've been asked whether I will continue blogging after the election. Of course I will, and I hope you'll continue reading.

Supporting the Long Shot

I had a friend back in 2004 who sheepishly admitted to me, right after he'd left the polling place, "I voted for Kerry. I couldn't bring myself to vote for Nader."

I told him, "Well, I voted for Nader. I couldn't bring myself to vote for Kerry." I had supported Kerry before he started backing down on his antiwar stance, and I didn't like his gay marriage/civil union policy either.

Now, four years later, many of my friends feel the same way about this election as my friend did about that one. I can appreciate Obama's appeal, and I understand where his supporters are coming from--I used to be one of them. In fact, I supported Obama in the primaries, which is something some of these same friends can't say, and I was for him even way back when he looked like a long shot. I guess I was really stupid back then to support a guy who looked like he didn't have a chance. Right? No? Then why is that a reason not to support Nader, as some of my friends have argued?

Imagine if Obama's early supporters had said, "Well, it doesn't look like Obama has much of a chance, so I guess I won't vote for him in the primaries." That would be silly, right? I mean, it's because of our support that Obama succeeded in the face of tough odds. Maybe if Clinton had won the nomination, I would have looked like an idiot. But she didn't, and that's due, in some small part, to my support of Obama.

But you can't say, "Well, as it turns out, your vote wasn't stupid, because Obama ended up winning the nomination." If you want to say that, you might as well tell my friends who voted for Kerry in 2004 that their votes were stupid because Kerry lost. And then you'd have to say that Bush voters voted intelligently because they voted for the winner. Do we really want to say that? See how bizarre things get when we judge the quality of a vote by the success of the candidate?

One more example: my home state of Texas is considered a strong "red" state. I'd guess that Obama has about as much of a chance of winning this state as Nader does. Does that mean I'd be stupid to vote for anyone but McCain? Even though it's dumb to vote for McCain anyway, since he's probably going to lose? You see how this stuff becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. I mean, why even have the election? Why not just inaugurate Obama now? Think about it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Does Obama Have To Do To Lose Your Vote?

In my first post, I discussed what I called "Obama cynicism" and how it develops from "Obama idealism." But I didn't say a whole lot about the latter, preferring to contrast "Obama cynicism" with "Nader idealism."

My problem with Obama idealism is that it is a delusional idealism, not a progressive idealism. By calling it delusional I mean that many Obama supporters are, by now, willing to accept Obama no matter what. They will forgive him anything as long as he continues his positive, idealistic rhetoric. Nader supporters, however, tend to be progressive idealists. I'll explain that in a bit.

Now, I realize this post sounds kind of hostile overall, but I really don't mean to bash the Obama idealists too much. After all, I fell for the hype too, just like I initially fell for the Kerry hype four years ago (more on that in my next post). I'm not some revolutionary wannabe who'll vote third party just to buck the system or whatever, and it's hard to operate in this culture without one of the major-party candidates being sort of a default. But then I saw, time after time, how Obama just isn't living up the change he's been promising. I mentioned some issues in my first post, but Matt Gonzalez, Nader's running mate, has produced an excellent writeup that every Obama supporter needs to read. Seriously, folks. You owe it to yourself. This is the kind of thing you'll want to have read before you vote. It would be irresponsible to vote for Obama without reading it.

I hope Gonzalez's piece changes some minds. But I'm guessing that some of you, even after reading it, are still leaning toward Obama. Just consider the following question. Which is more likely: that Nader wins the presidency, or that Obama wins and suddenly starts living up to the progressive policies he preaches, even though he's taken every opportunity to disavow and/or disregard those policies since he won the Democratic nomination? Some of you will think the latter is more likely, but also consider that a vote for Nader is a vote for truly progressive politics. And a vote for Nader is a vote that will show the Democrats that they need to start doing more than pay lip service to the progressive ideals with which they so badly want to be associated. So if you want to see the Democrats get serious about these issues, it makes sense to vote for Nader.

That's what I mean by "progressive idealism"--the idea that even if Nader loses, every vote he gets represents an advancement, however small, for the cause of progressive politics. I mean, most of my friends have been voting Democrat for about eight years now. I ask them, are you better off now than you were eight years ago? Do you feel that the political culture in this country is more liberal now than it was eight years ago? If not, maybe it's time to try something new.

And remember one other thing: the impact of corporations. Obama's campaign is heavily funded by large corporations, and Biden is well known for supporting corporate interests. These corporations are giving money to a candidate, like they do every election, with the expectation that the candidate will remember that when in office and govern accordingly. In other words, corporations are using financial influence to get their candidate to support their interests. We don't have the money to compete with the corporations financially. But we have something more important--votes. And unless you use your vote to hold Obama accountable for the promises he's broken, you're letting the corporations have their way and mold him into the type of big-business-friendly candidate they'd like to see.

For Obama supporters, it comes down to what message you want to send with your vote. By voting for Obama you send the message that it's OK for the Democrats to take your vote for granted. You send the message that you don't mind if the Democrats move politically even further toward the right, and that it doesn't matter whether they really try to enact progressive, liberal policies. By voting for Nader, though, you put the Democrats on notice. You let them know that you don't appreciate how they've taken the liberal vote for granted, gotten into bed with big business interests, and abandoned liberal policies in an attempt to lure voters from traditionally Republican-leaning demographics.

So if you consider yourself a liberal, if you support traditional Democratic values, if you don't like the huge influence that big corporations have on our political system, and if you are tired of right-leaning politics dominating the political discourse in this country--ask yourself which is a more effective vote: a vote for Obama, or a vote for Nader. In the light of what I've said here, I hope you'll come to the same conclusion I have and proudly cast your vote for Nader.

If you still can't seem to bring yourself to vote for Nader because you don't like his chances, then please look at my next post, which will address this issue.