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
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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