Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Sam Smith

THE LATEST Rasmussen Reports show a virtual tie between Obama and McCain. What happens when you add in Nader and Barr? - " In a four-way race, Obama earns 42% of the vote, McCain 38%, Bob Barr 6% and Ralph Nader 4%. Given those options, 11% were undecided. Barr picked up 7% of the Republican vote, 5% of the Democratic vote, and 5% of the unaffiliated vote. participants to choose between Barack Obama, John McCain and some other candidate. Nader got 1% of the Republican vote, 3% of the Democratic vote, and 8% support from those not affiliated with either major party."

In short, about 13% of the independent vote, 8% of the GOP and 8% of the Democrats are not happy with either candidate.

This is not surprising. After all, we are faced with a choice between two candidates, both of whom favor a continued major presence in Iraq (yes, Obama does), the proto-fascist Patriot Act and the abominable No Child Left Behind Law. To those who think Obama is inspiring, cute or the first black activist since Martin Luther King they wouldn't mind having in their house, such things are not supposed to matter. But to some they still do.

Here's how I put it when the race narrowed down to Obama vs. Clinton:

"Some will stay home on election day, others will support a Nader or a Green, likely Cynthia McKinney. The Democrats will be, as usual, furious that a certain number of voters still believe we live in a democracy and choose someone other than those assigned to them by the DNC. While Ralph Nader may make what seems to some the wrong political decision, it is a sign of the corrupt, cynical nature of our times to look into the face of moral integrity and dismiss it as an act of ego.
"Even from a tactical standpoint, it is no worse than a Democratic Party that has known for eight years that it was unraveling and failed to do anything for progressives and Greens except to insult them. These folks deserve to be treated at least as well as soccer moms or a hedge fund traders, but instead they are ridiculed and scolded and then the party wonders why they don't get their vote. It is absolutely inconceivable that one could have a party doing as poorly as the Democrats and not have a visible and active opposition.

"People, including many of my friends, will take markedly different approaches to the dilemma. Some will place priority on personal witness – i.e. the Nader or Green approach – and some will take a more pragmatic course. My own view is that politics is inherently more of a pragmatic than a moral matter and that, besides, even if you have the most righteous cause, espousing it in the middle lane of Route 95 at rush hour may not be the best way to go about it. I have long considered myself a backyard Green, believing that history clearly shows the strength of such parties is in their local organizing and not in those all too rare chances to make an impact in a national election."

In the end, there is no right answer. Vote for Nader and perhaps you help to elect McCain. Vote for Obama and you certainly help to elect Obama. And you lose either way.

The best solution - absent a decent major party candidate - is a movement strong enough to force a waffler like Obama in a progressive direction. As it stands, however, Obama will in the Oval Office talking compromise and everyone he'll be talking to will be right of center because progressives have been unable to come up with a clear, simple and unavoidable agenda with a constituency to back it. Notice that when Obama speaks of ending partisanship he only reaches out to the right and never the left.

Still, as Howard Zinn told Counterpunch, "Sometimes the difference between two candidates is an important one in the immediate sense, and then I believe trying to get somebody into office, who is a little better, who is less dangerous, is understandable. But never forgetting that no matter who gets into office, the crucial question is not who is in office, but what kind of social movement do you have. Because we have seen historically that if you have a powerful social movement, it doesn't matter who is in office. Whoever is in office, they could be Republican or Democrat, if you have a powerful social movement, the person in office will have to yield, will have to in some ways respect the power of social movements. . .

"When some people ask me about voting, they would say will you support this candidate or that candidate? I say: "I will support this candidate for one minute that I am in the voting booth. At that moment I will support A versus B, but before I am going to the voting booth, and after I leave the voting booth, I am going to concentrate on organizing people and not organizing an electoral campaign."

In the end, there will be good progressives supporting Obama, Nader or whomever the Greens nominate.
Living in DC, I can have it both ways: suggesting support for Obama in swing states while casting a ballot for Nader or McKinney in overwhelmingly Democratic DC. But whatever the choice, we should treat those of others of our ilk with respect and recognize that the origins of the problem is not in the person making the choice but in the miserable alternatives with which our society presents us.

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