Saturday, October 23, 2004
One Worthy Choice

What with the election coming upon us so quickly now, it seems like an opportune time to make an argument that I've been sitting on so far. It's one that I'm usually pretty hesitant to make -- first, I actually have a great deal of respect for the opinions of those to whom I'm arguing, and second, I doubt it'll actually do much to change many minds. But any good argument is worth making, so here it is.

I must admit that I have a serious problem with the don't vote/vote third party crowd. It's not that I disagree with your expressed aims; I think they are admirable and desireable. I agree with you that voting for the lesser of two evils is a sorry situation in which to be placed. I hate the fact that so many people are placed in a position where voting their conscience means "throwing away" their vote. It's also not that I disagree with the points you make; your arguments are, by and large, principled and articulate, and entirely valid. I have heard and understood the many arguments in favor of anarchism / greenism / libertarianism / general third-party-ism / conscientious non-voterism. I respect your opinions; I wish you success. But this is just not the time for liberal infighting -- this year these arguments are inappropriate and destructive.

My primary issue with all of the above is that it's all theoretical, all academic. It's all well and good to sit around having spirited political debates with your friends after dinner; I love blogs and bloggers and hope there are more of us in the future. But none of these things actually, really make much difference in the real world. And this year's election is too serious in terms of real-world consequences for real people to waste our efforts.

Right now poor schools serving the neediest students have had their budgets for supplemental programs -- the programs that can help make the difference between a successful life and a failed life for those who are targeted by them -- slashed to the point of program failure. These budget cuts can literally contribute to downward pressure on the lives of the people we most want to help. Right now we face a choice between an administration that will be actively hostile to gay rights and a woman's right to choose, and an administration that, as imperfect as it is, will at least not attack the above. It's not a good choice, but it remains one that could ultimately make a real difference in real people's lives. We have a choice between an administration that will continue to make destructive choices regarding our military activites and our "diplomatic" tactics -- choices that are literally a matter of life and death for thousands of people both here and abroad -- and an administration that would very likely make better choices. Perfect? Probably not. But when people's lives are at stake, the perfect is truly the enemy of the good.

Is it worth a human life to make an academic point? If you really think it is... are you sure you're actually working to make our country a better place? The more-radical-than-thou crowd always says to us, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." I say, indeed.

The point is, your academic theories do nothing to help real people who face real consquences. I would truly love for a third party to eventually become a genuine alternative for Americans; I think it's going to prove a very hard row to hoe, but it's a laudable goal and I have immense admiration for those people who are pursuing it meaningfully and in a genuine spirit of social betterment. But there are very, very few of those people, even among the movement's supporters. To those who support the Greens, for example: what have you done to make the Green Party a viable one? Blogging and talking with your friends doesn't count... what have you actually done? What have you done to make the Green Party a real option not only for the bearded organic-veg crowd, but for Midwestern factory workers, too? For rural southern African-Americans? For Christians? For Muslims? For -- gasp! -- fiscal conservatives? Without these people seeing you as a real alternative, you will NEVER have a chance at making your much-sought-after "difference"; without applying your theories to the real world, you don't deserve one. You have a lot of work ahead of you; I don't envy you the task. That's why I prefer to try to work in the imperfect-but-viable Democratic party; it's not the only right choice, of course, but it is a valid one.

If you don't think Kerry is a good enough candidate, that's fine... by all means, keep working for the Greens and the anarchists. But if the real situation in the real world matters to you at all, the only choice I can respect is to do whatever it is in your power to do to remove George W. Bush from office. As I see it, that means voting for Kerry, even with reservations. Political perfection will only engender its opposite; we can't afford to take an all-or-nothing position this year.

And if you say you hope Bush wins... you're a Bush supporter. Deal with it. Embrace your Republicanism.

PS: In the best blogger fashion, Denny has entered into the discussion. I happen to think he's wrong on this one, but offer his blog as an alternate voice.
10:19 AM ::
Amy :: permalink