Come election day, millions may vote for George W. Bush and Al Gore while
not believing in them. Doubtlessly, some will vote for one of these two
enthusiastically, but sometimes it seems neither of these candidates has
inspired many beyond their immediate family and those on their campaign
payroll. Many unimpassioned voters would consider backing a third party
candidate, like consumer advocate Ralph Nader - or Pat Buchanan or the
Libertarian or Natural Law candidates. But voters are scared.
Many are frightened that Gore will win - so they plan to vote for Bush;
many others are afraid that Bush will win - so they're looking at voting
for Gore. Are we becoming a nation that votes its fears rather than its
hopes and convictions? A vote should be a statement of what someone
believes - and indeed millions will do that come November 7. However, many
feel sidelined, their heart tells them to vote for a third party candidate,
but their head tells them to go for the "lesser of two evils."
Even with these shackles there are solutions - if people really do think it
through. One answer is suggested by the group Citizens for Strategic
Voting, which is taking out ads in newspapers urging people in states in
which Gore or Bush does not have a chance of winning to vote for Ralph
Nader. People could thus vote for Green Party candidate Nader without
feeling they are helping whichever of the major party candidates they want
to keep out of the White House. This is of course because the president is
elected by winning a majority of the electoral college and the candidate
who wins a given state gets all the electoral votes from that state. And if
Nader gets 5 percent of the popular vote, as Ross Perot did in 1996, the
Green Party gets federal money in 2004.
Good enough. But what if you live in one of those "swing states," (like
Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan,
Oregon, Washington) or if you don't believe the polls?
Here's a sure-fire solution - if you are close to (and trust) someone who
is on the other side of the two party divide in your state.
Say a husband plans to vote for Gore since he thinks Bush is dim. His wife
plans to vote for Bush because she thinks Gore is deceitful. If they both -
in the their hearts would like to vote for some third party candidate -
they can do so, by trusting each other and both voting for the third party
If they had just gone along with the husband voting for Gore and the wife
voting for Bush, in effect they would cancel out each other's vote. But if
they both vote for a third party candidate, they can magnify their votes.
For example, if instead of one for Gore and the other for Bush they both
voted for Nader, they would not change the balance between Gore and Bush,
but they would give Nader two votes. Instead of "wasting" their votes (by
canceling out each other), they would double their vote by giving both to
the candidate they truly want. They would vote their conviction without
helping whichever politician they least want. Of course, people can do this
with any third party candidate, and indeed, with any two third party
candidates (a husband can vote for one third party candidate, the wife for
a different one). This would send a strong signal that people are not
satisfied with the major parties.
A would-be Republican voting for Nader is not as unlikely as it might seem
to some. Nader's attraction comes largely from his intelligence and
integrity. In his address at the Green Party convention, he welcomed
"authentic conservatives" - as opposed to "corporatists." He stands for
community, for family, for accountability - as well as for social justice,
the environment and peace. He stands against abusive power, whether by
corporations - or the government.
This "vote swap" option is exercised by politicians all the time. One
congressman votes for another's dam project in return for a vote for his
military base. Maybe it's about time that the public used such tactics.
So there are solutions. People don't need to feel bound by the "lesser of
two evil argument." Step one: vote your convictions; Step two: figure out
what's happening in your state and vote with your head; Step three: find a
friend, relative or co-worker who was planning on voting for the other
"less of two evils," make a pact and double your heart instead of canceling
out each other on election day.
Sam Husseini is a political analyst who has appeared on CNN, Fox News
Channel and MSNBC. firstname.lastname@example.org