Report Your Conscience

For those of you who are considering voting for Ralph Nader this election, this may be of interest. Other will probably disregard it. HOWEVER, let me just first say that I personally would not vote for Nader because the number of votes he gets doesn't affect his ability to be heard, except perhaps in a negative light if he again sways a close election. However, the question of whether or not Ralph should be allowed to run is one I think everyone, except the most rabid liberal intelligentsia types, can agree on. Of course he has the right to run, and everyone has the right to vote for him! The more interesting and I think overlooked question is should he be given fair and commensurate coverage despite the unviability of his candidacy. Currently he is not, seeing as I have yet to see one serious piece of coverage of Ralph's platform, what he stands for, and his reasons for running produced by the mainstream media (note that I don't read many news sources very frequently though), and no one of any prominence seems to have a problem with this fact. This, to my mind, is very unfortunate. A visit to his site will show you, he's a serious man (Ok, this isn't serious, though it is quite amusing) with a serious message. Whereas George Bush is a not serious man who has a message, and John Kerry is a serious man who doesn't have a message.

In terms of substance, he has by far the most substantial platform of the three major candidates to draw on, with the most well-developed policies and most attention given to real solutions. Now, I should say at this point that I know many of his solutions aren't viable in the context of Washington and domestic politics. But that's not the point because, although a running candidate would never say such a thing, I think it's pretty clear that Nader is running a kind of campaign of osmosis, not to become the president.

Let's face it: at this point in history both major parties are pitifully poor at entertaining real solutions to real problems, or holding any kind of a discussion that could lead to better solutions to real problems. Both are too busy trying to discredit the other party while making sure they don't appear "un-American," or other things that could open them up to attack. Here's a perfect example from CNN of the kind of things that substitute for constructive discourse. It's not their fault, that's just what the voting public responds to, and each party wants to win. The current two-party status quo is a little like the prisoner's dilemma: both parties, trying to protect their rear-ends, choose an action that leads to a collectively less desirable outcome. The Democrats would prefer to talk about the orgins of Islamic extremism and how maybe a purely military policy doesn't address some of the factors causing it, or maybe how our unconditional support for Israel's current policies (which in itself I find an understandable and probably correct stance) without much offered in the way of explanation might not help the cause of winning over the hearts and minds of the next generation of Arab and Muslim leaders. But they can't, because when there's an element of fear at play in the issue, the Republicans can call them on it and paint them as the weaker party, and they will lose. Likewise, through some obscene distortion in reality, if the Republicans were to adopt such a stance, the Democrats would have just as much an incentive to exploit it for their own political gain. Further, if Kerry wanted to talk about things other than winning wars, the Republicans would accuse him of not being serious about terrorism, so he devotes an entire convention to talking about winning the war in Iraq which, admittedly is important, but is it really worth the entire convention? The end result is that in trying to make sure they win, the two parties create an outcome that is unduly focused on topics relevant to the fears of the American people. That's why I'm so much in favor of PUBLICIZING a candidacy like Nader's that has no chance of winning. There are plenty of ideas out there that make lots of sense but would otherwise never be introduced into the political arena because it is not in either party's interest to do so.

Third-parties are generally useful. With the status quo of campaigning, air-time is the great commodity for politicians, and it is available in limited quantities. Because there's too little exposure time and too much bickering, whenever a politician gets the chance to present himself and communicate something to the American people, he's going to use the time to cover his highest-priority issues, which will usually be defending his record and attacking the other guy's record, because there is a greater immediate return to time expended. The reality of politics is it seems if one side makes an accusation, the other side HAS to respond, or else they lose the exchange by default. Therefore, the more mudslinging there is, the more answering to mudslinging there is and the less time there is to bring up potentially more important issues. A third-party is immune to mudslinging because it has nothing to lose, and therefore won't have to subjugate political substance to expediency.

What's the point of this rant (I find myself asking that a lot)? I guess it's that there's nothing wrong with not voting for Nader, and there's nothing wrong with educating people about the possible consequences of voting for Nader, but there is something wrong with the complete lack of coverage he gets.

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