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Practical Politics

We recently saw an article on the danger of political pragmatism, that is, voting not for who you feel is the best, but picking the lesser of two evils. Instead, vote for the best candidate, even if they can’t win. Is that a practical strategy?

Sadly, no. The error of choosing who is the best (when they can’t win) is simple – it’s the same as not voting. That may be harsh, but true. The reality is the two major parties come together and pick two candidates, and those are your only choices.

If you think by voting for a 2nd tier candidate you’re “sending a message” to the major parties you’re mistaken. They don’t really care about the little guy, just consolidating power.

Think that’s over the top? A little cynical? Consider Washington state. Washington had a “top two” primary system, where in the primary the top-two candidates of either party would advance to the general election. Every vote counts, and the top two could be both from a single party (or a 3rd party).

Sounds good, but both Republicans and Democrats challenged the system. You can read the Washington State announcement or more commentary on the matter.

Remember what happened in California’s governor recall election? The field was wide-open – anyone and everyone who could pay the filing fee appeared on the ballot. But what happened? It turned out the race came down to two candidates – the ridiculous ones were eliminated. The major parties argument chaos would reign in such an open system amounted to nothing. How about an open primary (like Washington) where anyone can run, but only the top two vote getters advance to the general?

Both could be Democrats or Republicans. But the point is the choice then belongs to the people, not the parties. The current system isn’t about who is the best possible candidate (and we won’t even get started about the order of primary elections, where the actual candidate is chosen by just a few states). Party affiliation then becomes just a general statement on platform, and a transfer of power occurs from the political parties to the people (voters). It’s no wonder why the major parties both agree to come together to fight such a system.

What can you do to change the status quo? First become informed.

  • Democrats, get Tammy Bruce’s book “The New American Revolution”. Tammy is a lesbian, pro-choice feminist Democrat who is suddenly accused of being too conservative for the Democrats. That’s how far the Democrats have moved. When a lesbian, pro-choice, ex-president of NOW is outside the Democratic party looking in, you know how much they’ve changed.
  • Republicans, get “Conservatives Betrayed” by Richard Viguerie to see how far the Republicans have moved since Reagan. Today’s Republicans bear little resemblance to 20 years ago, or to actual conservatives.

Work within the system to effect real change. Voting for 2nd tier candidates is voting for the status quo. You’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to work within the party system to get qualified candidates elevated to 1st tier status. Republicans need to return to fiscal responsibility and integrity, and Democrats must return to fighting for the middle class (if you think Democrats today fight for the middle class you need to really find out what the Democrats are up to).

You’ve got to work for a fundamental shift in philosophy in the Republican and Democrat parties. You might also want to look an Newt Gingrich’s “American Solutions” group, which also seeks reform in the political arena. Newt is a Republican, but certainly has harsh words for both sides of the isle.

We admire the ideals of people who vote their conscience knowing it means a worse candidate will win the election, but desire those people to become involved in the Democrat and Republican parties to effect real change. Voting for 2nd tier or 3rd party candidates is tantamount to not voting – and the major parties only care about actual voters.



  1. strangerthansf says:

    I think I understand what you’re saying. When it comes to a Presidential election, voting for a third party candidate is effectively the same as not voting (in terms of determining the winner.) That’s a reasonable attitude toward the general election.

    Should we extend this same attitude toward the primaries? Should I only vote for a top-tier candidate in the primaries? But it gets tricky to identify the top-tier candidates, because there tend to be surprises in the early primaries. Bill Clinton wasn’t a front-runner going into the primaries; at one point, the polls put his support in the single digits. But he won the nomination.

    So it seems to me that at least in the primaries, it’s pretty hard to identify who is and who isn’t a top-tier candidate. You’d be better off voting based on principle than on pragmatism in the primaries.

  2. strangerthansf says:

    I’m the same person as Jew at Zeal for Truth, by the way.

  3. The primaries give you the chance to influence the parties. That’s where the impact needs to be made. But the main point is if you want better candidates, you must work *with* the parties to change them.

    You’re right, the primaries are the place to do this. That means you must be registered as a Republicrat.

    But also, you have to work with the parties outside the primary. Get involved at other times with other issues to make your voice heard. They *will* listen, but it’s going to be a tough road.

    By the time the general election rolls around, you’re stuck with whatever two choices the parties have.

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