Wasting a Vote for Lincoln's Radical Ideal
I had just pressed the “donate now” button on votenader.org when my email pinged. It was a rambling missive from Neil, a self-described “Grumpy Old Son Of A Beach” who’d read an article I’d written for the American Atheist magazine. Neil argued that atheists should vote against “Oduma” and for the McCain/Palin ticket. I’ll spare you the details . . . just imagine Hannity and O’Reilly and Limbaugh joined at their bums flapping their gums.
I wrote a short reply thanking him for sharing his views and telling him I plan to vote for Nader. Ralph did, after all, send me a signed copy of his book, “in pursuit of justice: collected writings 2000-2003” for my several donations—and all I really wanted was a yard sign.
Faster than I thought an electron could make the round trip, Neil was pinging again: “Well Bob, I’m sorry to read that. I guess you really have NO ‘F’ing clue as to what is at stake when you are going to waste your vote on someone who will not even make a dent.”
He added a postscript: “P.S. The Iraq war is FULLY Justified [sic] and I have a minimum of 18 FACTS which prove it.” Neil did not provide the “FACTS,” which is a real shame since my mood has plunged lower than the Dow as the economic meltdown continues to add “miles” to my career path. I could have used a chuckle.
However, the issue Neil raises about wasting a vote is nothing to chuckle about. It is as serious as Mutley, my neighbor’s Pit Bull.
Mutley, you should know, has been voted time and again the greatest threat to the physical and psychological wellbeing of the neighborhood children. Unfortunately, Mutley’s human friend is a brute named Cliff who can beat the crap out of the rest of us guys on the block. Talk about wasted votes. Our only hope is that either a guy tougher than Cliff who hates dogs moves in or Mutley—and/or Cliff— DIE.
If you’re fortunate enough not to have Mutley and Cliff in your neighborhood, the best example I can give of wasted votes is to continually vote for either the Democratic or Republican parties that are continually getting us into foreign policy debacles such as the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and whose hubris or stupidity or greed or [your best guess] or all of the above has led the country and the world into the current economic meltdown.
While a Democratic president lied to escalate the war in Vietnam, a Republican president lied to take America to war in Iraq. With a few notable exceptions, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle fell into formation with their American flag lapel pins unfurled and goose-stepped down Pennsylvania Avenue in time with President Bush’s war drums.
In 2006 the midterm vote gave Democrats a clear mandate to end the war and hold the Bush administration accountable. Predictably, Democratic pols stuck their mugs in front of the cameras and talked tough for a few days and then did nothing—politics as usual . . . wasted votes as usual.
In 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act was intended to prevent the kind of banking shenanigans that have helped to plunge the world into worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. But legislation written by Republicans Phil Gramm and James Leach and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.
To address the current economic crisis, the best a bipartisan effort can come up with is a $700 billion-plus bailout for their Wall Street cronies and ex-colleagues, which also includes over a billion dollars stuffed into the pork barrel for themselves but no provisions to help millions of homeowners renegotiate their mortgages, allowing them to remain in their homes and afford their monthly payments.
There is nothing like Glass-Steagall in this golden rescue plan, nothing to prevent Everyman (a.k.a. NASCAR dads and mall maven moms) from losing another trillion in the value of their 401Ks, nothing to prevent the privatized profits and socialized risks of corporate socialism from becoming institutionalized . . . nothing in this plan but politics as usual.
Neil is ranting about third party voters who “have NO ‘F’ing clue” when they waste their votes “on someone who will not even make a dent.” And yet the corporate-controlled political system in our country is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans who time and again waste their votes on two parties with track records for little more than self-preservation, corrupt-crony politics and for not making a “dent” . . . unless, of course, it’s to total the entire country.
The campaigns of Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney are not the acts of spoilers or vanity candidates. They are the acts of third party candidates struggling for the magical 15 percent that will allow them to challenge the hegemony of the Democratic and Republican parties in televised debates viewed by over 70 million voters. They are the acts of American citizens who believe it is a constitution rather than a corporate charter that is the governing document of our Republic.
Nader and McKinney are not naïve enough to think they’ll need to keep millions of donors’ dollars in reserve for their inaugural balls. They are campaigning for something more important than the presidency. They are campaigning to bring about systemic changes in the “politics as usual” in America. They are campaigning to redeem Abraham Lincoln’s “radical” ideal of an American “government of the people, by the people, and for [ALL] the people.”
If the “Grumpy Old Son Of A Beach” is right and voters continue wasting their votes on two corporate-vetted political parties “who will not even make a dent,” in the domestic woes of “soccer moms” and “Joe the plumber” and whose foreign policy in the “war on terror” is dictated by the American representatives of a miniscule country on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, they should not be at all surprised to look out their window one morning to see Cliff taking Mutley for a stroll . . . and piles of dog pooh on their lawn.