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Ian Wilder: NBC finally starts to understand voting

[Ed. Taken in its entirety from “On the Wilder Side” (with permission), this post by Ian Wilder is worth reading…-rkh]

If NBC keeps this up they might actually stop asking the stupid “spoiler ” question of every non-corporate candidate they meet. They finally got that voter choices are complex, especially in a winner take all system. Voter’s issue both positive and negative votes, i.e. they make preference decision not only among the candidates they like, but also among the candidates they don’t dislike. NBC recognizes this possibility below by lumping the results of the 2nd through 4th place candidates together as an anti-front-runner (Obama) vote. Though this is still a simplification of voter preferences, it is closer to reality than the simple left or right “spoiler” dichotomy most of the corporate media mindlessly repeats.

from NBC/WSJ Poll: Obama keeps lead over McCain

But Obama’s lead over McCain expands to 13 points when third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are added into the mix — with Obama at 48 percent, McCain at 35 percent, Nader at 5 percent and Barr at 2 percent. However, it’s important to note that the pro-Obama vote (48 percent) and anti-Obama vote (adding up to 42 percent) is consistent with the result from the two-way match up. (emphasis added)

Of course this poll ignores Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party Presidential candidate as much of the corporate media and political establishment has. It is interesting how much more coverage the corporate media to gave McKinney’s former Georgia congressional colleague, and now Libertarian Presidential candidate, Bob Barr. Congressman Conyers seems to be following the lead of the corporate media by inviting former Congressman Barr to speak at impeachment hearings. Conyers did not invite McKinney who introduced the first Articles of Impeachment as her last act in Congress in 2005, which was 3 years before Kucinich introduced his.

McKinney has given what I believe is the best answer to date on the corporate apocryphal “spoiler” question in this week’s Newsweek.com interview. (This interview is internet only.)

Of course, there’s the perennial third-party candidate question: What do you make of arguments that you’ll pull votes away from the Democrats, thereby ushering into office a Republican who shares even fewer of your views?
That’s not grounded in the facts. As the film “American Blackout” points out very well, there were numerous instruments used in the 2000 and 2004 elections to disfranchise voters. Voter caging and voter ID laws exist to disfranchise voters. The question I believe Newsweek ought to be asking is how can we ensure that people who have the right to vote also have the opportunity to vote. And after their vote is cast, how can we ensure their votes are counted. How can an environment that does not ensure election integrity ensure us that the will of the voter is reflected in the announced outcome?

So it doesn’t concern you that taking even 1 percent away from a major political party could result in four more years of policies that differ even more drastically from those of the Green Party?
That’s your language, not my language. I gave you my take, but you haven’t accepted my take. Maybe you would feel differently if your vote wasn’t counted. In an environment where people vote their values, we must have election integrity where every vote is counted. We didn’t have that in 2000 and 2004 and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans did anything about it. But in 2004, the Green Party did something about it.

For those who are still stuck on the “spoiler” myth, we can return to the ultimate fable, Ralph Nader’s run as the 2000 Green Party presidential candidate. The following quote is from Building A New Progressive Majority by Al From on the Democratic Leadership Council’s (DLC) own website (Both Clintons, Gore, Lieberman, Kerry and Edwards are all member of the DLC)

They maintain that Gore lost not because of his populist, big government message but because of cultural and moral issues, fueled by resentment of President Clinton’s behavior and by Gore’s own personal shortcomings. I think they’re wrong on all counts. The assertion that Nader’s marginal vote hurt Gore is not borne out by polling data. When exit pollers asked voters how they would have voted in a two-way race, Bush actually won by a point. That was better than he did with Nader in the race. (emphasis added.)

It is interesting to note that From’s analysis also undercuts the “spoiler” mythology. He does not see voters as being along a left-right dichotomy where they choose among the candidates on their side of the aisle. IN other words, he does not accept that having a second candidate who is labeled as being on the left necessarily takes away votes from the first candidate who is labeled leftist. Instead, he brings up the issue of the negative vote, i.e. that some voters where choosing among candidates who were not Al Gore because they disliked Clinton/Gore. Some of those voters chose Nader, but would chose Bush if Nader were not running. There goes “spoiler” to keep the Easter Bunny company.

Of course, the ultimate proof of the illogic of the corporate “spoiler” fear-mongering is the inaction of either corporate party in changing from a winner-take-all system. A change from a winner-take-all system to more representative system, such as the the one the Democratic Party uses in its own primaries, would end even a thought of a “spoiler”. But both the Democratic and Republican Parties have opposed implementing such a system in general elections. Of course the truth of the matter is as Nassau Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs has said that “the Republican Party is my second favorite party” meaning that his Democratic Party would rather see a Republican elected than a non-corporate candidate. – ISW

Ronald Hardy

One Comment

  1. I only partially agree with the idea of rejecting a left-right spectrum for analyzing where these candidates stand ideologically. And let’s be clear, when Cynthia says “politics is the authoritative allocation of values in a society, as reflected in the public policy we get,” the word values can basically be paraphrased as political, economic or other types of ideology. The two words may not be identical, but they overlap sufficiently to be used in analagous way.

    Therefore, when you talk about an MSNBC (or similar corporate media) poll that excludes independent or partisan candidates on what we can generally consider to be the left (whether Green, Marxist or otherwise), those terms still have meaning. Bob Barr may do a good job of feigning what we would consider to be progressive stances on civil rights issues and the war, but that’s about it, isn’t it? And if you look more critically or objectively as Greens, other progressives and many libertarians do at his record, the way he speaks and his program, he generally comes out well to the right of Obama and McCain on the majority of issues. The libertarian agenda is right wing, from a progressive or even moderate standpoint so I basically don’t see them as a threat to the establishment, whose strongest voice is the media, so it’s not surprising he’s included in such polls and discussions while candidates like Cynthia or those further left are not. Nader is a partial exception to this trend, for some reasons I think are nefarious as we’ve discussed on this website many times, but also because (to be fair), he’s gotten too much support in the past and today to ignore completely. In some sense, I suppose that’s a positive.

    Ian’s broader points about the spoiler issue, even the DLC’s own views on the issue and the advocacy of an IRV system are more incisive. I didn’t mean to nitpick, I’m just tired of hearing about everyone abandoning the left-right spectrum when it still largely holds in terms of most of the choices we’re offered, even if most people don’t vote on such a basis. The problem is that choices on the true left are now basically marginalized to a minority of democrats holding public office and to third parties and independent candidates.

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