Tuesday, July 17, 2012

None of the Above

Another guest post by my husband.

I hate presidental election years. They depress me. I always tell myself I'll avoid the coverage until October, and then just read the summaries of what happened and make my decision. Yet, despite not really watching TV (actually, the last thing Catholic Mommy and I watched over the air at home was the final Obama-McCain debate), I still find myself rubbernecking at the car crash that is modern American politics.

For the Democrats, we have President Obama, who I voted for in 2008 but has lost my support over breaking several key campaign promises, including support for oil pipelines and extending the Bush tax cuts. Both of those situations are framed by the administration as victories, but in reality, they're bad compromises, much like the worst-of-both-worlds health care plan that got passed. It hasn't been all bad; looking at the numbers rather than the rhetoric, he has made great and measurable improvements in the economy, even if the bounceback hasn't been as resounding as we'd all hoped. However, I don't believe any more that I can trust him to do anything he says he's going to do.

Do you really want to vote for this guy?

I've voted for a number of Republicans in my life, but never for President. This might have been the year, but, as a friend put it, "they didn't exactly bring their A-team". As a nominee, we have Mitt Romney, who has a big honesty problem himself, as well as just being a really weird dude. According to one focus group, the policies he's campaigning on are literally unbelievable, and if you look at his political record, he's basically Obama (e.g., known for passing universal health care and making compromises across party lines). 

Or this guy?

So what's a jaded voter to do?

This situation reminds me of the 2010 gubernotorial election in New York. The Democrats ran popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against Buffalo businessman and Republican Tea Party favorite Carl Paladino. Cuomo won in a landslide (probably aided by some racist, sexist and homophobic e-mails from Paladino), and while they differed on many key points, their education proposals were very similar, including capping property taxes while reducing state aid to schools. They also both supported a new constitutional convention for New York, which would (among other things) potentially allow them to change the pension plan for existing teachers, rather than just cutting benefits for new hires.

Cuomo enjoys a very high approval rate now overall, and has largely kept his campaign promises (though we haven't had a constitutional convention yet). This makes him a reviled figure by many in education, and I've seen some of the ill effects already: my alma mater has sharply reduced its foreign language options (and they only offered Spanish and French when I was there), and the school at which my mom teaches has had to make significant job cuts. New York State United Teachers, a 600,000 member union, declined to endorse a candidate during the election, and at least one state employee I know has declared that he doesn't plan to ever vote again.

So what did I do in that election? I voted for Howie Hawkins.

Hawkins is a blue-collar worker and long time political activist, primarily focusing on the environment and peace. He ran on the Green Party line. I'd voted for him once before, for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2006. He's been published in The Guardian (a major UK newspaper and excellent source of goofy US politician pictures) and other major publications, and is articulate enough that a staunch libertarian friend of mine was completely won over after hearing him speak several years ago, despite holding a widely different political ideology. 

How about this guy instead? (Source: Green Party of the United States)

I voted for Hawkins in large part because he was one of only two candidates on the ballot who opposed the constitutional convention, the other being Republican Warren Redlich, who ran on the Libertarian line after losing the Republican primary to Paladino. Each got about 1% of the vote.

For some reason, most people I know seem both completely disgusted with the major parties and unwilling to consider voting for third party candidates. I suspect people view them as being buffoons and/or spoilers. To a degree, this is an understandable conclusion. The only third party candidate who got any significant media exposure during the 2010 New York election was Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is 2 Damn High party, and much of that came from being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. And, of course, much has been made of the assumption that George H.W. Bush and Al Gore would've won their respective elections if not for Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

But it doesn't have to be this way; indeed, having such a homogenous group leading the country is unusual in a democracy. As of this writing, Democrats and Republicans hold every seat in the House of Representatives and all but 2 in the Senate (both of whom are independents with strong ties to the Democratic party). By contrast, Canada has 3 parties represented in their Senate and 6 in the House of Commons (not counting independents), the UK has 12 parties represented in each of their houses (and 18 non-affiliated in the House of Lords), and even Iraq has 8 parties in their Council of Representatives (again, not counting independents). Even in the United States, we've had third party presidents, though not recently.

I haven't decided who I'll vote for this year for President. Right now, I'm leaning toward Jill Stein, who was nominated this week as the Green Party candidate. From what little I know about her so far, it seems that her campaign is centered on creating jobs without sacrificing the environment or relying on the military, which sounds about like what I want a president to do next year.

Our next president? (Source: Green Party of the United States)

The main reason I voted for Obama over a third party candidate (probably Nader) last time was that I was afraid of the spoiler effect and didn't want to risk doing anything that might possibly result in Sarah Palin being President. I'm no longer concerned about that sort of thing. At least one exit poll from 1992 indicated that as many as a third of all voters who didn't vote for Perot would've done so if they thought he could win. If NYSUT had endorsed Hawkins or Redlich for governor and even 10% of their members voted that way, it would've doubled the vote total for that candidate, and their totals were already among the highest seen for third party candidates in New York in recent years.

If I can be part of convincing people a third party candidate can be viable, I want to do so. And that starts with all of you Americans reading this: if you don't like Obama or Romney, find someone you like more, and vote. "None of the above" is really a vote for the status quo. 

If all else fails, you can always write in this guy. (Source: Entertainment Weekly)

Jeremy is clearly not above selecting unflattering pictures of the opposition to try and sway readers. He's only going to write about politics while they're important, which means he should only have to write about them for the rest of his life. He also writes...well, not much lately, but at least manages to tweet every once in a while (@top10wolves).

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