“Strategic” voting doesn’t work.

Also available in teal.

Every time I state my intention to vote, or that I have voted, for a write-in candidate for president I am blasted with vitriol about how I’ve wasted my vote, or that I’ve helped the Republicans win.  To that I say, “bullshit.”  Why do I say this?  I say it because it’s true.

We are told that our options are limited to a choice between “bad” and “worse.”  “Good” is denounced as “perfect,” the “enemy” of the “good,” but this overlooks the fact that no one expects or asks for “perfect.”  We want good politicians who will represent our interests in public office – that’s it.  We don’t expect miracles, or even success 100% of the time, but we do expect and demand that those we elect to power try their best.

It is a sick joke to be told that our votes for third party, independent, or write-in candidates are a waste, and it’s nothing short of fear-mongering to threaten a Republican victory if we don’t throw our principles out the window.  We’re lectured about how there is “too much at stake” in the current election cycle to vote our principles now, that we can vote our principles next time.  The best we can do, or so we’re told, is to vote for Democrats and hope they’re not as bad as the Republicans.

Again, this overlooks certain facts, chief among them being that there’s always going to be “too much at stake.”  That mythical “next” election cycle during which we shall be free to vote our beliefs and principles isn’t going to come as long as we continue to throw our votes away on politicians who represent the establishment and maintain the current regime.  What good does it do us on the left to compromise our principles if the result is always the same: bad politicians who support the status quo?

The strategy of electing “more and better” Democrats doesn’t work because we keep voting for the same corrupt politicians who say one thing but do another, namely, alienating progressives and disenfranchising voters.  As the last two years have shown us, we cannot hope to reform the Democratic Party from within because it has been thoroughly compromised by the lure of money and power.  The number of actual progressive Democrats shrinks every cycle, as the base wakes up to this fact and leaves the party.  It doesn’t help that the duopoly has the assistance of the corporate-owned media, which actively suppresses dissenting voices during campaign coverage.  This is illustrated by the marginalization and elimination of Democrats Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and John Edwards in last year’s debates.

This inevitably leads to weak corporate candidates such as Al Gore, John Kerry, and now Barack Obama for president.  Each of these politicians ran right-leaning campaigns against their hard right Republican counterparts, thus ensuring that voters would see little or no fundamental difference between them.  This, combined with weak campaigns that allowed the opposition to define the candidates, allowed the GOPhers to get just enough of the vote to steal the elections.  That the votes were so close in the first place speaks volumes about how low the Democrats have sunk in terms of putting up viable candidates; Gore and Kerry should have soundly defeated the shrub, by double digits, in their respective campaigns.  Instead, they ran so far to the political right that they turned off their party’s base.

Finally, there is the imperious attitude among partisan Democrats that none of this matters – it is up to the voters to shut up and go along, rather than the politicians listening to their employers and running effective, progressive campaigns.  That this turns off the base and drives it to look elsewhere for representation should have been a harsh wakeup call to Democrats to re-evaluate their core beliefs, failed strategies and tactics, and unearned sense of entitlement to non-Republican votes, but this hasn’t happened.

So we end up back where we began, on the losing end of elections that should have been in the bag.  If progressives are to break the cycle and have a chance of competing with the corporate duopoly, we must recognize that failed strategies must be abandoned.

The powerful do not line up behind someone they so much as suspect will take away the power they hold.  Those who demand that we give our unconditional support to Barack Obama are not thinking realistically.  The shrub, his gargoyle, and their lapdogs (which includes McCain) have poisoned the Republican image, so much so that it became necessary to buy off the Democrats in order to maintain the status quo.  Check out opensecrets.org, govetrack.us, and other watch dog web sites for information on who is really funding Obama’s campaign and what legislation he supports.

Of course, the problem is convincing lay Democrats of the futility of their strategy.  Andre Gregory sums up the nature of the problem in the film, My Dinner with Andre.

Pay close attention to when Andre gregory explains about people in New York being unable to see their city as a prison.  It’s like that in terms of Democratic Party politics; most people know they need to get out, to break away and form a party that represents their interests, but they always come up with the same tired excuses for not doing it.  What it all boils down to, I think, is fear.  Tony Benn explains about fear and pessimism far better than I can.

Simply put, it’s easier to exist as a zombie than take the bold steps necessary to enact genuine reform.  The fear of losing what little we have prevents us from waking up to the reality of failed electoral strategies.  And if we cannot wake up to them, we cannot hope to recognize the need for change, to say nothing of working for it.

The result: constantly voting against one’s own best interests and political beliefs, all for the sake of fear-induced narcolepsy.

What can we do to alter this?  It may seem pessimistic, but we may have to write off those who choose to engage in such flawed actions in favor of starting from scratch.  My next entry shall deal with ideas for forming (or, rather, reforming) Progressive Party chapters in various states.


  1. Because jars are for wusses.

  2. would never criticize anyone for voting their conscience.

    Where I think I would disagree with you is in the idea of putting all my hope for real change in a general election. It seems to me that the possibilities for electoral change are in the primaries.  

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