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Alternative Culture Articles

August 20, 2000

Strategy or Conscience?
by Royce Carlson

Now that the Republican and Democratic Party conventions are over, I am still convinced that, although there are some differences between the two parties, there are better choices out there in third party candidates. But can a third party candidate win an election and does it even matter if they win? This article is specifically for those who plan to vote for one of the major party candidates even though a third party candidate might be a better choice.

In over 25 years of voting for presidential, senatorial and congressional candidates in the U.S. I have almost always voted strategically. Neither of the Republican or Democrat candidates in these elections were the best choice for their office in my opinion. Since a third party candidate wasnít going to win anyway, I voted for the least objectionable major party candidate for the purpose of keeping the other partyís candidate out of office.

In the upcoming presidential election we have George W. Bush, a Republican, running against Al Gore, a Democrat. Once again, to me, neither one of these guys is the best choice for president. Once again, I ask myself whether I am going to vote strategically in this election or am I going to vote for the third party candidate I want for president even though he canít win. Strategic voting keeps the Republicans and Democrats in control. Instead of voting for the best candidate who can win, why not vote for the best candidate, period?

There are pros and cons to either choice. Of all the candidates running for president this year I like Ralph Nader best. He best represents my interests. But, as a third party candidate, can he win in todayís political climate? If I vote for him, am I taking a vote away from Gore? It has been said that a vote for Nader would be a de facto vote for Bush, which is the worst thing that could happen for someone who likes what Nader stands for.

On the other hand if everyone who prefers Nader, for example, puts the fear of Bushís possible election aside and actually votes for Nader, a powerful message is sent into the political arena. If people voted their conscience and Nader got even 15% of the votes, that would alert the Republicans and Democrats that there really is a constituency that they arenít representing and that there are real issues they must deal with if they want to stay in power. It also would be encouraging to voters that they actually have some influence and that they can show substantial support for something other than the two major parties.

In the past, when third parties got movements going and mobilized some of the populace, this resulted in changes in government even if that party never got its candidate elected. The issues were raised, people voiced their support, and major party politicians had to respond to those issues to get the disenfranchised constituency on their side. Progress was made in these instances due to pressure from a third political party on the system in general.

The voting of conscience instead of strategy is also a vote for the long-term health of democracy. It is looking beyond 2000 to the 2004 and 2008 elections. If a third party candidate gets significant votes this year a momentum can be created that may put that party in power in the future. At the very least it will create pressure on the existing political power structure to respond to the issues raised by popular third party candidates. Strategic voting practically guarantees we will have the same old thing every election.

In the U.S. at the last presidential election less than 50% of potential voters even voted! This means that the real majority in America doesnít even vote. Why is that? Is it because of the shrinking difference between the Republicans and Democrats? Letís get some excitement back into the system by creating more choices. Letís give non-voters a reason to get involved by making the success of a third party candidate more viable. How? Vote for the candidate that best represents your interests, regardless of whether you think he or she can win. You may be surprised at the results.

 

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Thanks!

Royce Carlson