Don’t tell me I voted for the very bad guy when I voted for a very good one
Let’s look at a political ballot with three candidates. (I use “guy” without a specific gender in mind.)
Candidate (R): Very Bad Guy
Candidate (D): Bad Guy
Candidate (G): Very Good Guy
I only have one vote. I choose Candidate (G).
But wait, the critics scream. (G) doesn’t have a chance. Only (D) can win against (R). You must vote for (D) or children and democracy will die!
As Mr. Spock would say, this is highly illogical.
If (R) wins the election, the voters who cast their ballots for the Very Bad Guy are responsible. Not me.
If (D) loses, i.e. failed to win enough votes, then Party (D) should have nominated a better, more attractive, candidate, instead of a Bad Guy.
If (D) does win, and remember he’s a Bad Guy, his party will feel vindicated and will likely keep nominating bad guys. Why change a winning formula?
Logically, if I want a Very Good Guy to win, I have to vote for him. And if I want to drive Party (D) to nominate better candidates, I can’t do that by giving their bad guys my vote. I have to incentivize Party (D) to change, and they won’t change if I just roll over and vote for them because Party (R) is allegedly even worse.
So, if lots of Very Bad Guys win on Tuesday, blame those who voted for them. Prod those voters who stayed home and didn’t vote (perhaps by fielding better candidates in the future). Ponder why the big “choice” was between Very Bad Guy and Bad Guy. Just don’t blame me for voting for the Very Good Guy.
Tuesday’s elections won’t be kind to the aimless Democrats
President Joe Biden is not a message guy. Nor is Nancy Pelosi. Nor is Chuck Schumer. The senior leaders of the Democratic Party lack charisma, lack communication skills, and seemingly have no compelling core principles except the usual ones for politicians (raise money, stay in power). I’ve seen plenty of political ads, heard plenty of speeches, read plenty of articles, and what I’ve gathered is that I should vote Democrat because the Republicans are dangerous to democracy and beholden to Trump. And that’s about it for a “message.”
Oh, there is one thing. Biden promised he’d attempt to codify Roe v Wade into law if the Democrats can somehow keep control of the House and Senate, which at this point is unlikely for the House and dodgy as well for the Senate. Here’s the problem with that “promise.” In 2007, Barack Obama promised to codify Roe v Wade if he won the presidency, saying it would be his top priority. After he was elected, he changed his mind and did nothing. In 2020, Joe Biden made a similar promise; he has also done nothing in the last two years. Yet now we’re supposed to believe Biden’s new “promise,” even though it’s an obvious and desperate ploy to rally pro-choice forces to vote blue no matter who on Tuesday.
That Democrats are not Republicans is enough for more than a few voters, and I get that. What’s truly shocking is that’s pretty much the Democrats’ message. And it simply isn’t persuasive enough to appeal to undecided voters. More and more voters, fed up with both parties, are “independents” or otherwise unaffiliated, and you have to give them a reason to vote for you other than “the other guy (or gal) is worse.”
Consider, for example, the Democrats and war. Democrats fully support massive budgets for the Pentagon; Democrats fully support $100 billion or more for Ukraine in its war against Russia; Democrats fully embrace the “new Cold War” and aggressive support of Taiwan. Recall that Biden suggested “Putin must go” as a goal of the Ukraine war, and that Nancy Pelosi, that skilled and deft diplomat, traveled to Taiwan to stir up anti-American sentiment in China. If you’re at all interested in slightly downsizing the Pentagon budget, of ratcheting down tensions with Russia and China, of pursuing diplomacy with words instead of weapons, of occasionally fostering the idea of “peace,” today’s Democratic Party is not for you.
As inflation continues to rise, hollowing out the working and middle classes even more, the Democrats have no solutions except higher interest rates and a bit more government aid here and there so that you can keep making (barely) your rent or mortgage payments while putting food on the table and paying for heat. Forget about a higher federal minimum wage. Forget about single-payer health care. Even student loan debt relief is very limited (it may go away completely if the courts rule Biden exceeded his executive authority).
As Democrats lecture people about saving democracy, Americans wonder where democracy went. Obviously, both political parties are beholden to big money, the owners and the donors, and ordinary people have no say, except on Tuesday when we’re each allowed to cast one vote.
I will be voting, of course. As the saying goes, my vote must have some value or the powers that be wouldn’t be spending so much money to buy it. Where possible, I’ll be voting for candidates whose values most closely align with mine. That often means I’ll be voting third party, which my critics tell me is a vote for Trump and his evil minions. Sure, keep on scolding me for wanting honest and principled candidates like Matt Hoh, who’s running for the Senate in North Carolina for the Green Party. It’s all my fault for wanting candidates who truly offer hope and change, instead of more of the same.
Blame the voters, Democrats! It’s a surefire way to victory, if “victory” means another shellacking at the midterms by the Party of Trump. Sigh.
Whatever else is true, it’s not morning again in America.
As a progressive-leaning person, I’m deeply disappointed by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. I’m an independent and have no allegiance to either party. The Republican Party, dominated by Trump, is a non-starter for me. The Democratic Party is corporate dominated, a party of the moneyed interests, so I have little interest in it at the national level.
The Progressive Caucus keeps praising Biden instead of pushing him, so they’re part of the problem. The so-called Squad (AOC and company) never seem to use their combined power for anything meaningful. A concerted minority can make a difference: look at the Tea Partiers. But the Squad basically does as they’re told by Nancy Pelosi.
People tell me the Squad is small and their influence is limited by the mathematics of Congress. But what Congressional hills have they chosen to hold fast and fight on, if any, to effect true change? United, a squad of progressives could drive policy because Pelosi often needs their votes. Yet they refuse to come together to drive change that might upset Pelosi/Biden, so how progressive are they, truly?
When you look at the specifics of Democratic actions, they (the actions) disappoint. A climate change bill saluted and applauded by the oil and gas industry. Changes in drug pricing that don’t take place until 2025, and only to a short list of drugs. The complete abandonment of a government-option for health care. Basically, the Democrats have kowtowed to lobbyists for fossil fuel, big pharma, and private health insurance companies.
In short: nothing has fundamentally changed, exactly what Biden promised to his big donors. He is what he’s always been: a conservative-leaning Democrat who serves the moneyed interests, who supports expanding police forces and prisons, and who believes the best way to promote peace is by supporting massive military budgets and overseas wars.
Even if there’s truth to my critique, my Democratic friends say, you must still vote blue no matter who, because the Republicans are so much worse. Yet if we continue to vote for Democrats because they give us a few more crumbs than the alternative, all we’ll ever get is crumbs.
A colleague of mine, Matthew Hoh, is running for the Senate as a Green in North Carolina. The Democratic Party there did everything it could, legal and less-than-legal, to block his access to the ballot. It took a lawsuit and a federal judge to get his name added to the ballot.
Matt Hoh is a former Marine and State Department guy who resigned publicly to protest the Afghan War. He has strong progressive principles and unassailable integrity and supports policies most Americans would loudly applaud. Again, the Democrats did everything they could to block him from the ballot.
Some people say that a vote for Matt Hoh and third-party candidates like him is a vote for Trump and the Republicans. For me, that’s total BS. Candidates like Matt Hoh help us. They drive an agenda that’s truly for workers, that’s truly for change. If nothing else, they force corporate-tool Democrats to turn slightly leftward rather than always toward the right.
Perhaps you know the saying about Democrats: fake left, run right. They fake left in the primary, exciting the “liberal” base, then they run right in the main election and, if they win, they then rule and legislate from the right as well. The mainstream corporate press terms this “sensible” and “moderate.”
We need more principled leaders like Matt Hoh to drive real change. If they “help” Trump and the Republicans by “stealing” votes, that’s not their fault: it’s the fault of the Democrats who are reluctant to be seen as truly liberal or progressive and who are basically tools of the moneyed interests.
If Matt Hoh wins lots of votes in North Carolina (and I hope he does), all credit to the voters for seeing him as he is and for voting for what they believe in. Indeed, instead of people insisting that Matt Hoh should drop out to help the mainstream Democrat, it’s the mainstream Democrat who should drop out to help Matt Hoh.
I do my best to vote for what I believe in. Which is why I won’t be voting for Trump, or DeSantis, or Biden (or Harris or Mayor Pete or whomever) in 2024. I’ll be voting for candidates who in their words and deeds promise us something more than crumbs. Leaders like Matt Hoh.
Whenever I teach Introduction to American Government, a course for freshman, I give a lecture on the notorious Bush v. Gore 2000 presidential election and use the Florida recount story to teach a basic lesson about U.S. politics: elections are not an exact science because vote totals in any given election are always only approximations. In the period leading up to the 2000 fiasco, in typical nationwide elections upwards of a million votes were tossed as uncountable for various reasons.
The reasons for the imprecision of election tallies are several but the three that I highlight to my students are: (1) the wide variation across jurisdictions in the kind, quality and age of voting technology and in the reliable application of procedures and standards (as evidenced in 2000 in the faulty punch hole devices in South Florida that resulted in many thousands of uncounted ballots); (2) the amateur status of poll workers (an hour or two of “training” qualified me to serve at a polling station during my graduate school days); and (3) the partisanship of election officials (as notoriously exemplified in 2018 by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s contested “oversight” of the close election that resulted in his election as Georgia governor). Since 2000, many states adopted computerized voting systems in what turned out to be the false expectation that precision in voting tallies could be achieved through digitization.
We have gotten past presidential elections only approximately right and we can expect this upcoming one to be no more than approximately right. And given the unprecedented number of requests for absentee ballots, state and county switches to mail-in balloting systems during this pandemic, slow-downs in mail delivery engineered by Trump’s postmaster general, and Trump’s unrelenting campaign to de-legitimize absentee and mail-in ballots, the likelihood is that the tally of uncounted ballots will be higher than ever this November. As a longtime absentee ballot voter, my recent experience with both the local election board and local mail delivery service does not give me confidence.
I mailed my absentee ballot request for the November 3 election in mid-August and was still waiting for a ballot in late September. I emailed the local election board and was told that they couldn’t find my paper ballot request (curiously, my wife’s request, which had been dropped off in a separate envelope with mine, was processed). I was instructed to file another request, this time electronically, which I immediately did. Notified by email that my absentee ballot was mailed October 1, I am still waiting for its arrival two weeks later. Meanwhile, I did receive an absentee ballot by mail but it was my neighbor’s and this botched delivery only increased my unease.
When I think of the many voters across the country who might encounter similar problems and have less time and energy than I have to follow up on undelivered or delayed absentee ballots, I begin to wonder if the imprecision of November’s tallies will be on such a scale as to change the outcome. And, if not change it, then leave it open to dispute, a dispute to be settled by a Supreme Court with justices who are increasingly conservative and in three cases beholden to the man who nominated them. It’s what Trump is counting on for “victory.”
M. Davout, a professor of political science, teaches in the Deep South.