Friday, October 3, 2008


Is it wrong of me to feel just a little bit comforted that Blogger apparently has "Nader" in its spellcheck dictionary but not "Obama"?

Cynicism and Idealism

Someone has to say it: Obama's not the guy who's going to help the middle class. Look at the bailout plan he's been busy pushing--a pile of money and tax cuts for Wall Street, barely any help for struggling homeowners. And despite what Obama said during his primary campaign, lately he's been saying that he doesn't intend to stop the war in Iraq anytime soon.

That's not to say that I support McCain, though, not at all. But sometimes my friends puzzle me. Most of them seem to lack cynicism; many seem genuinely inspired by the "change" message Obama's been repeating. Some folks might call that naive, but I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to feel inspired by the person you're voting for, especially for president.

It's true on both sides, though--Obama's biggest supporters (at least among middle-class voters) are idealists, and so are McCain's. Sometimes I hear Obama folk express disbelief that someone could vote for another Republican at this point. What these people don't realize is that McCain's supporters are just like them. They like McCain because of what he stands for, or what they think he stands for.

Now, it's commonplace among Obama supporters to suggest that McCain doesn't really stand for what many of his supporters think he does. And I agree that he doesn't. But sometimes I find it hard to believe that these same people are willing to ignore Obama's highly publicized "flip-flops" on issues that are supposed to be important to these people. These include rejecting public campaign funding, supporting Bush's "Patriot" Act, giving immunity to the telephone companies that participated in unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens, and promising to continue the Iraq war.

I do not consider myself a cynic when it comes to this election. I relish the opportunity to vote for someone who has spent decades working to defend the common people against corporate interests. So I say to my friends, if you really are idealists, if you really want to be inspired by your candidate, what about Ralph Nader?

If you are serious about voting for someone who represents the interests of the middle class, someone who does not take campaign contributions from political lobbying groups, someone who has been talking explicitly for years about how to reform Wall Street, someone who has pledged to end the Iraq War and get the troops home, and someone who will work toward a single-payer health care system (the most proven health care system worldwide, and the one supported not only by the majority of doctors but also by the majority of Americans), I encourage you to take a look at Ralph Nader.

I mean, at least give him a fair chance. I haven't even listed half of the great things about him in the above paragraph. Give his website a look. The Republicans and the Democrats have had plenty of chances in government so far. If we all agree on the value of "change," doesn't it make sense to give an independent candidate like Nader the chance to make some real change happen?

But this is where it gets puzzling. Many of my Obama friends would have stopped me by now to suggest that Obama is at least better than McCain, and since Obama has a better chance than Nader of winning the election, we all ought to vote for Obama.

I could say a lot of things here. I could point out that what my friends are saying here is self-fulfilling prophecy, since obviously if I believe them, I'll vote for Obama instead of Nader, thus making it true that Nader has less chance of winning. Or I could use the line made famous by Nader and his former supporter Michael Moore, "The lesser of two evils is still evil." I could say that maybe I was wrong and that my friends really are cynics.

But I'd rather appeal to the idealism that I think is there, even if it's hidden under the veneer of cynicism that all of our political observations seem to force on us.

So, friend, if you really are an idealist and believe in the "change" that Obama preaches, why not vote for someone like Nader, who will put that change into practice? And if you really are a cynic, well, then it's hard to see how you can think Obama is any better than McCain just based on his words, and you may as well vote for someone like Nader with a PROVEN track record of standing up for the little guy.

Just don't tell me you're an idealist and then turn around and vote like a cynic. I mean, imagine what would happen if everyone voted for the BEST candidate.

Thanks for reading.