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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Politricks 

Sometimes I think to myself
Should I vote red for my class or green for our children?
But whatever choice I make
I will not forsake
*
It's Super Tuesday and while I was standing in line to vote this morning, I kept going back and forth in my mind about what I would do. I supported Howard Dean's campaign and my plan has been to vote for him so long as he was on the ballot.

But as the election neared, I've been thinking more tactically about my vote. As it stands Dean is not going to win the primary, but I do want the DNC to remember that he is the one who brought the party back to life after the fiasco that was the 2002 mid-term elections. For that reason, I voted for the seven Dean-pledged delegates on the ballot. I want Dean's voice heard loudly and clearly in Boston.

However, on the line that will be reported in the media tonight and tomorrow, I voted for John Edwards.

This was a tactical decision. I can support John Kerry in the autumn, and I will gladly assuming he wins the nomination. The same is true of Edwards. Both of them are solid candidates, and either would be phenomenally better for the country than the current occupant of the White House. That said, if I were to choose between the two, I think Edwards is the better campaigner but my thinking lines up more with Kerry.

So why did I vote for Edwards? In the end, I think the continuation of the primary process is better for the country and for the candidates. Even though Kerry has been turning more and more of his attention to Bush, seems to do better as a candidate when someone is pushing at him.

And Edwards has been a good, relatively positive campaigner. I think part of what hurt Dean was how negative he and Gephardt got with each other the week before Iowa. So long as Edwards keeps things cordial -- and both he and Kerry keep reminding the people that the problem is Bush -- then it can only help.

The other thing is that so long as the primaries are considered competitive, there will be regular coverage of the candidates, the debates, the process, the issues, etc. That helps keep Kerry and Edwards in the news, countering the advantage of incumbency.

During the 2000 election, there was a small-scale tactical voting effort with Nader voters in close states being urged to vote Gore in return for Gore voters in safe (or lost) states voting for Nader. There were some complaints that such vote swapping violated the spirit of the electoral process if not actually violating the law, but considering how the electoral college works, I can't think of a better way to ensure that one's vote is effective.

As happened in New Hampshire and Florida in 2000, it is possible for a Green Party candidate and a Democratic candidate to split the moderate to liberal to progressive vote allowing a (far) right-of-center candidate to win.

Over the past few elections in the U.K., Labour, LimDems, and other parties have been using tactical voting to help ensure that the Tories don't win in constituencies where they may have the support of a plurality but not of a majority.

I can see how some would think such voting efforts are contrary to how the system should work, but when you have things like gerrymandering of Congressional distracts for partisan gain, including redrawing districts more frequently than once per census period, coordinating efforts between individuals and parties in different constituencies to ensure the best-possible outcome sounds like a good idea to me.

I also think such efforts could be the best way for third parties to get a foothold in our current system. If the Green Party could tactically conspire with the Democratic Party about what races are contested by who in which districts, it could strengthen both parties. In some elections, the Greens and Dems could be rivals -- witness the 2003 San Francisco mayoral race -- but in others they could be partners, the same way the Conservative Party in New York partners with the state Republican Party some times.

* Lyrics from "From Red to Blue" by Billy Bragg. The use of red and blue in the song doesn't match up with the U.S. context where red is used for the Republicans and blue for the Democrats, but the sentiment still fits.
I hate the compromises that life forces us to make
We must all bend a little if we are not to break
But the ideals you've opted out of,
I still hold them to be true

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