Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Nobody in 2000

Jerry Stratton, October 26, 2000

During the 1996 elections, I wrote an editorial about the importance of voting for Nobody. Today, Nobody needs your votes more than ever, but you need to understand where the importance of voting for Nobody lies. Unlike the 1996 election, where Dole and Clinton had no real differences in platform, there are at least three issues that set apart Gore and Bush.

And embarassingly, it looks like I might be voting Republican this year.

  1. Prohibition. Both candidates continue to support prohibition, but they differ on whether doctors should be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to their seriously ill patients. Gore waffled for a while but eventually came down strongly against it, arguing that there is no evidence that it works no matter what the doctors say. Bush has stated from the start that he believes it to be a state issue: that states should decide for themselves. Since states, when he said this, have come down firmly in favor of allowing doctors the freedom to prescribe what they feel works, Bush comes out the winner in this category. It's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless, and it helps that Bush is bucking his party line to stick to what he has made one of the principles of his campaign, states’ rights. It would have been very easy for him to oppose it, and the sad state of affairs in the United States right now is that no one would have questioned the discrepancy between his support for states’ rights on the one hand, and his opposition to states allowing doctors to prescribe medicine on the other. If you support medical marijuana, George Bush is your candidate.
  2. Gun control. Al Gore wants to ban handgun ownership. George Bush has been strongly against gun control. And rather than choose a vice president who was less opposed to gun control to “balance” his ticket, he chose Dick Cheney, who is even more opposed to gun control than Bush has been. If you support the second amendment, George Bush is your candidate.
  3. Freedom of speech. Free speech is traditionally the bulwark of the Democrat party, and where the Democrats really set themselves apart from the Republicans. This year, the Democrat presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate are both strongly in favor of censorship in books, video games, music, and movies. Al Gore continues to re-iterate support for his wife’s work against rock music and Dungeons & Dragons of all things. His running mate Joseph Lieberman has been more systematic in his support for censorship, in Hollywood, on voter-advocacy groups, and on the web. George Bush, on the other hand, supports a ban on flag-burning. Both are wrong. But I’d rather have flag-burning illegal than voter-advocacy illegal.

Environmentalism and Waffles

Being an effective swing voter means voting based on specific issues. Voting based on feelings or temporary changes in platform tells your candidate that your vote doesn’t matter. For example, in this election the Republican is “softer” on drugs than the Democrat. Voting Republican tells both sides that my vote is not locked to the Democrats. If you feel especially strongly about it, you might vote Green or Libertarian. What is important is that you want to show that an election is more likely to be won by supporting your position than by opposing it. That’s it. That is the number one component of Nobody for President. Make your vote count.

Are you voting for your candidate because that candidate represents you, or are you voting to keep “the other guy” out? Because if it’s the latter, you will never receive representation. As long as “the other guy” can never count on your vote being swung (even if to a third party), and the guy you vote for can always count on your vote no matter what, your views and your needs are irrelevant.

Al Gore, for example, has been at the forefront of environmental issues for at least ten years. He has championed government-based stick and carrot approaches to ensuring that big business supports clean air and safeguards natural resources. Up until recently I thought he’d at least hold solid on the environment, but now he’s waffled here like he’s waffled everywhere else. In “Earth in the Balance”, he supported higher gas taxes to discourage gas-guzzling, polluting vehicles. This year, when gas prices rose but were still less than the taxes he wanted to impose, he supported opening up America’s strategic oil reserves to offset those price increases.

I guess I should be happy. Environmental issues are very important to me, and it was the one issue that made me guilty about deciding to vote Republican over a “fringe issue” like marijuana. But there are people dying because they don’t have access to effective medicines. Medical marijuana is a fringe issue only if you aren’t sick. To people like Peter McWilliams and Alan Martinez, it turned out to be life or death. They died because medical marijuana is illegal on the federal level. If the Clinton/Gore administration had “left it to the states”, both McWilliams and Martinez would be alive today.

Yeah, you might say he’s only changing his stands because he’s running for President. But that’s the whole point. There is no such thing as a stand that is only held when a politician isn’t running. Politicians are always running. And they’re always looking for swing issues, and they’re especially looking to turn “swing” voters into “core” constituencies. Once you’re a “core” constituency, they no longer have to worry about you. They no longer have to vote your way.

Core Constituencies Don’t Matter

Al Gore has learned a lot from Bill over the last eight years, and one of the best lessons is this: you don’t need to assist your core constituency. They’re going to vote for you no matter what. Al Gore is a prime example of why we need to vote for Nobody. He has no principles except what he feels will get him the most money or the most votes. If you elect him after he flip-flopped on environmentalism and gas guzzling, after he flip-flopped (and again) on gun control, after he flip-flopped on tobacco, and after he flip-flopped on patients’ rights, you’re telling him that he gets your vote no matter what he does. If he feels he can get more votes by killing the environment, if he feels he can get more money by opposing medical marijuana, he will oppose it. If you support the environment, vote Nobody or vote Green, but voting Gore will only hurt you in the short run and the long run. Unless the Democrats feel that they need to cater to your vote, they won’t do it. As long as they feel they can keep you voting Democrat by using scare tactics about Republicans, then Democrats won’t have to support environmental issues. You have to prove to them that you are not going to fall victim to their scare tactics, and that means voting somebody other than the Democratic ticket, whether that somebody is Nader or Nobody.

This doesn’t mean that if you support (for example) legalizing marijuana that you should vote for George Bush. There are other candidates who support fully legalizing marijuana instead of just one tiny part of legalization. You could vote for Nader and the Green Party. You could vote Browne and Libertarian. Perhaps if two or four or eight percent of the vote goes to Nader or Browne, that’ll give the big two a good kick in the pants.

Swing Voters Win

When Perot got 20% even after he’d royally fucked up his campaign, both major parties jumped on the Perot platform. Can you imagine both Democrats and Republicans jumping on the environmental bandwagon? It’s already helping. Gore is beginning to talk up environmentalism again, he’s talking up his difference with Bush over global warming. But he hasn’t yet repudiated his support for cheap gasoline (although at the same time saying he “damn” well will never give up his environmentalist stances; why does he keep reminding me of the worst of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.?). And he’s still using scare tactics rather than actions, trying to scare Green voters into thinking that if they don’t vote for Gore, they’re voting Republican. Gore still hopes to get Green votes without walking the Green walk. He still believes that he will lose more votes by supporting Green issues than he will gain by not supporting them. And if Nader drops out or if Greens give in and vote Gore, he will have been right, and he will not have any reason to believe that he needs to support Green issues to win in 2004.

One of the nice things about our electoral system is that regionally significant third parties can have a major effect on the outcome of elections. The Green Party doesn’t have to pull 20% across the country to make the Green platform as desirable as the Perot platform became. They only need to pull enough to swing a few states. Some states are worth more than others, of course. Any party whose only success was swinging California away from one candidate, for example, would see its platform gobbled up by the other parties.

In the case of patients’ rights and medical marijuana, unfortunately, even though every single state that has ever taken up medical marijuana has passed it, even that no-brainer hasn’t been a kick in the pants for anyone except George Bush, who still has to support it only through his “states’ rights” platform. Sometimes you have to support the foot in the door.

But if you believe that Bush’s position isn’t strong enough, you still want to vote for someone who holds a stronger position. Marijuana prohibition is a good example of what happens when a vote is seen as unswingable. Every state that has taken up the issue of medical marijuana as an initiative has voted, usually overwhelmingly, in favor of letting doctors prescribe it. Politicians continue to steadfastly oppose it. Even Bush’s support is only a states’ rights issue. Why? In my opinion, because the medical marijuana vote is seen as a Democrat, or ëliberal’, vote. Medical marijuana activists are seen as afraid to vote Republican. Democrats don’t need to court their vote, and Republicans can’t gain anything by courting it. Unless the medical marijuana community can change that perception, their issue will continue to lose in the legislature.

The Essence of Voting Nobody

  1. Identify the issues that are of the most importance to you. Keep the number small.
  2. Vote for candidates. Do not vote against candidates. Voting against instead of voting for means that you’ve given in to the scare tactics that allow candidates to ignore you.
  3. When looking for someone to vote for, include third party candidates in your search.
  4. If there is no one to vote for, vote for Nobody.

The best outcome is if you can convince both major parties that, for your special issue, you are willing to vote for either one of them if they walk your walk. The second best is that one of the major parties understands that you are willing to vote for them, and willing to not vote for them, and that the other party recognizes this--even if you aren’t willing to vote for the other party under any circumstances.

If we continue to vote for candidates because we don’t want “the other guy” in, rather than on the issues that are important to us, our issues no longer matter in Washington. If you want your vote to count, you have to be willing to vote for Nobody.

  1. <- Peter McWilliams Dead
  2. Electoral Nobody ->