The Democratic Race in Eight Minutes

09 June 2008 · 13 comments

As you know, I don’t do a great job of keeping up with the news. Kris often shakes her head and mutters to herself when I reveal my ignorance about current events. This has especially been apparent during the primary election season.

Fortunately, Slate has produced a great nine minute video that summarzies the events of the 2008 Democratic primary:

I was enamored with Obama after his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention. I’m still enamored with him. But that’s probably not enough to make me vote for him. (I think McCain’s okay, too, but I like Obama better.)

As usual, I’ll be voting for the strongest third party candidate — a small and feeble expression of my discontent with our current political system.

1 dave in bend June 9, 2008 at 14:06

Argh! Don’t do it J.D.! Don’t throw your vote away for a third party candidate! Remember how close the 2000 election was? Votes taken away from Al Gore that went to Ralph Nader are the reason why George Bush went into the White House. I just can’t believe that people would make that same mistake all over again. It just drives me absolutely crazy that third party supporters think that they are sending a ‘message’. As if either party is really listening. Face it, we effectively have a two party system. It may not be fair, but it is what it is. Barack Obama is going to need every single vote this year to defeat McCain. I really and truly believe he is the right leader for this time in our history. Please reconsider.

2 Mark June 10, 2008 at 18:12

The majority of Nader voters were post adolescent, self-indulgent white guys and just look where that got us. Gee, thanks. Keep up the 20-something, self indulgence and you might just find yourself drafted and on a plane for Iraq.

OR, you can grow-up, get involved in the process and exercise your responsibility to help elect the best candidate best suited for the job.

3 dave in bend June 10, 2008 at 19:08

Frankly, Nader and his supporters just make me want to vomit. That guy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning and he and his supporters are directly responsible for our country being in the mess that it is in today. Even today, when I see a “Nader” sticker on a car, I can feel myself actually getting angry. Its like a red flag waving in front of a bull!

4 J.D. for President committee June 10, 2008 at 21:19

J.D.,

Stick to your guns. One of the problems with our culture of having to have 2 opposing sides: Coke/Pepsi; PC/Mac; Democrat/Republican. We might be able to make some real changes in this country if we had a few more political parties that were viable. (Or we could be like some European countries where there are so many choices that nothing gets done.) Either way, the scope of our political discourse is so narrow it is hard to institute real, dramatic change.

I know you tend to vote Libertarian. I don’t get “orthodox” Libertarians–they’re very odd to me.

5 Dave June 11, 2008 at 09:03

Although I am of the opinion that Nader’s role in the earlier election was that of a spoiler to Gore’s campaign, the fact of the matter is that as Americans we can vote for whomever we damn well please. The fact that you DO vote is in many respects far more important than who you vote for. And while I also think that an Oregonian voting for a third party candidate will probably not alter the outcome of the election and I personally think that in this election the Democratic candidate is a better choice than the other contenders (and for the record, I’m a registered Libertarian), I applaud the fact that you’re willing to cast your vote as your brain directs rather than following a herd mentality. A vote that is deliberately cast after appropriate consideration is worth far more than just checking the box for the party line. It shows you’re not asleep at the switch.

6 Amanda June 11, 2008 at 09:30

Thanks for posting that video. It was very informative.

I wonder why it is that politics makes us all so very indignant?

7 dave in bend June 11, 2008 at 19:10

Dave, voting for either democrat or republican isn’t being ‘asleep at the switch’. Its being realistic with the current system we have. Anybody who really believes that voting for a third party candidate really matters is living in a fantasy world. Anybody who votes for a third party candidate is not only wasting their time, but quite possibly shifting votes to a candidate who is wholly unsuited for the office they are running for. See the presidential election of 2000 as an example. Nader voters put Bush in office, its that simple. If you hate the war, the way the economy is today and the derision of most other countries in the world, you can thank a Nader voter for that.

8 J.D. for President committee June 11, 2008 at 19:50

Dave in Bend,

My you’re sure of yourself. I would think that you would be more angry at the people that don’t vote at all. Wasn’t it only half (or less than half) of those able to vote actually do. Maybe if we instituted a fine (like they do in Australia for instance) if you don’t vote.

I find your opinion of third parties misguided, if not passionate. Their function in the history of American politics has been to bring important issues to the forefront. When and important issue has spurred a third party on of the big parties usually co-opts the message and thereby killing the smaller party. It is obvious that there is a need for other voices (Green, Libertarian, Independsnt, etc.). The campaign of Ron Paul, although a Republican at the moment, could easily slide back over to the Libertarians. There is something that Nader is saying that is appealing to people. This will continue until his issues are resolved or he becomes a non-story.

Daveinbend, Gore lost the vote on his own. He didn’t know who he was and listened to his “handlers” to the point that he lost his message. He was running not to lose and did lose. It’s too bad that he’s more at ease with himself now and is in all likelyhood a much better candidate now than he was 8 years ago. Fortunately our system is still fine even with all it’s faults. And fortunately we don’t live in your lock step either/or world. If you’re not comfortable with shades of gray, nuance and ambiguity then you may not want to pay attention to politics.

9 Dave June 12, 2008 at 16:54

Davd in Bend-

The two currently dominant political parties started as alternate parties- the Democratic party as a result of a coalition of Anti-Federalists and the Republican party as an alternative to the Democratic party and the Whigs. By your analysis neither one of those parties SHOULD have ever gotten any votes because they couldn’t have accomplished any change. The Republicans elected Lincoln, who eventually accomplished the end of slavery. Damn, who knows where we would be if those Republicans hadn’t wasted their votes in 1854 when the party was founded. Perhaps we wouldn’t need to import farm labor! And while it may be that at the moment the two major parties have a stranglehold on politics, the fact of the matter is that historically change does occur, it most likely will occur in the future and part of it does involve the presentation of points of view that differ from the two major parties.

With regard to your assertion that third party candidates are unsuited for office, most people who run for political office are wholly unsuited to holding office. None the less we elect them anyway, in no small part I suspect because we believe that we have no choice but the two choices on the top of the major party tickets. We DO have a choice. If you believe that one of the two major party candidates best represents what you want to see in political office then by all means vote for one of them. But if you don’t believe that, then there are other alternatives.

Lastly, just because Nader happened to hit Gore the hardest doesn’t mean that the Democratic party’s candidate is always going to be the one getting the short end of the stick. For example, Ron Paul could take votes away from John McCain. Similarly, Huckabee could decide to run an independent campaign and take conservative Christian votes from McCain. The difference is that you have a negative opinion about how ONE third party candidate affected ONE race. Next time you might well be rooting for the third party to split the Republican vote. And believe me, that’s a very real alternative in some races. For example, the Libertarian candidates frequently draw from Republican bases of support just as often as they do Democratic ones.

10 Josh June 16, 2008 at 10:56

A vote that is deliberately cast after appropriate consideration is worth far more than just checking the box for the party line.

Except that it still only counts as one vote.

11 Dave June 18, 2008 at 08:01

In this context I’m defining “worth” as benefit to the system overall, not in terms of contribution to the total number of votes cast and counted. It is a given that one vote tallies the same as any other vote when counting the number of votes cast. However, in terms of how much weight I personally give to someone’s opinion and how much I believe someone contributes to the system by having an informed vote versus simply voting “red” or “blue”, someone who has weighed the alternatives and has a rational reason for the way they cast their vote has contributed far more to the political discourse than simply voting the party line. And that, I suppose, is the ultimate benefit for me and everyone else- the contribution to political discourse that shapes how all of us decide. For example, if JD decided to publish how he was voting and the reasons why he voted that way and not another way it adds to the political discourse. That political discourse adds far more to the electorate’s understanding of the issues than does an ignorant adoption of a party’s slate of candidates. And creating that political discourse and greater awareness is the only way that change will occur.

12 Josh June 18, 2008 at 12:29

Ah, so a vote deliberately cast and widely discussed after appropriate consideration (and before those with whom you are discussing it have themselves voted) has greater worth, i.e., contributes to the political discourse. Sure, I’d agree with that. The discussion, however, is not the vote. The discussion may be worth a lot, but one vote is still one vote, regardless of the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it.

13 Dave June 18, 2008 at 16:56

Alright. If it pleases you, the mass of the vote will not change, but it’s weight varies. In the meantime I’m resorting to quotations from more learned individuals to make my point for me.

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.

—John F. Kennedy,

A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.

—Theodore Roosevelt

Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.

—Gore Vidal

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.

—Sir Winston Churchill

VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

—Ambrose Bierce

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