Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Friday, 13 December 2002

I've heard a lot of Democratic criticism of third-party voters lately, together with a lot of ill-informed assumptions about how third-party voters must be feeling now (along the lines of "Well, I bet they're sorry now. They probably feel like idiots, given the way things turned out.").

In fact, though, I haven't heard many such comments from third-party voters. The ones I know seem to sincerely feel that they made the best choice they could, given the choices available.

This suggests to me that Democrats gain no advantage--and probably suffer considerable harm--from their (especially common lately) pre-election tactics of exhorting third-party voters to vote for the Democratic candidate simply because he's not the Republican.

The Democrats seem to think that the third-party voters just don't understand the situation: That if they could just explain clearly enough what the impact of a Republic president (or a Republican majority in the Senate) would be, no right-thinking person would fail to see that the thing to do was to hold your nose and vote for the Democrat. The result is lots of exhortations along the lines of "Sure, he's not perfect, but he's better than the Republican and your guy can't win."

I think experience shows that this is a terrible strategic move on the part of the Democrats.

My own sense is that the third-party voters know exactly what the consequences of a Republican president (or majority-Republican Senate) are likely to be.

So, why then do they vote for the third-party candidate? I think there are several reasons.

First, a lot of people simply refuse to vote for the "lesser of two evils." Exhortations to do so are going to do no good and will only discredit the speaker, much as if he had urged supporting child-molestation for some short-term tactical advantage.

Second, I think some people believe that "before things can get better they must get much, much worse": That only by experiencing in full the result of bad policies will the electorate learn to put those policies behind us for a generation or two. They see the exhortations as confirmation of their strategy.

Finally, most third-party voters sincerely support the policies of their candidates. Their interests are in moving closer to whatever they thing a good, just society is--more Green, more Libertarian, whatever. They view a third-party candidate getting 5% instead of 4% (or 3% instead of 2%) as a statement to the politicians that these votes are available to someone who will support their policies--and not available to someone who won't.

No writing today (except that my current task at work is a document, so that's writing).

Actually, yesterday was a good day at work. My boss's boss's boss's boss came to the site and held a meeting where she talked about what she wants to do. It's the first time in three years a senior executive has come to the site and clearly articulated a positive vision for what we might do next.

I finally got around to adding John Savage and Kelly Searsmith (two of the folks in the local writing group) to my links page. We're going to meet again Sunday, after a long break (since the end of August) because none of us were writing enough new stuff. I've read the story we'll be critiquing. Tomorrow I'll mull over what to say about it.


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