If Romney is elected, he will re-empower neocons and serve the interests of the national security state with (perhaps) greater zeal than Obama would, but with this difference: his every move will be scrutinized and hampered by a determined opposition. Also if Romney is elected, he will try to privatize Social Security and Medicare and transfer even what little remains of the nation's wealth to the oligarchs--but he will face the same wall of opposition that stymied Bush on these issues. Obama, on the other hand, can continue to negotiate away Social Security and Medicare and progressive taxation and face only whimpers from his own base. Romney may nominate a justice likely to reverse Roe v. Wade, but it would be with the certain knowledge he was engendering an electoral tsunami against Republicans that would last a generation, if not forever. Obama will nominate another corporatist jurist certain to further indenture flesh-and-blood citizens to their corporate-citizen betters, and pay no political price. From the bank bailouts to climate change to Israel/Palestine to the Patriot Act--one could go on for pages, and the story would in every case be the same.
This dynamic at work in American politics is now evident even to the willfully blinkered. It is a dynamic that will not change if Obama is re-elected with solid liberal support. Why would it? It will also not change if Romney eeks out a victory despite solid support for Obama, because whatever new reactionary or militaristic policies Romney succeeds in perpetrating will be loudly condemned by the next Democratic presidential candidate, who, if elected, will then adopt them.
The only point of leverage is here: whether Obama wins or loses, if progressive third party candidates get enough support to scuttle the Democrat in a close race, change is possible. This is not wishful thinking, but an empirical observation. Every successful progressive movement in our history has illuminated this path to change. Politicians are not ideologues but pragmatists. They need your vote to get elected. If you deny it to them, the next one will learn to whistle your tune.
The partisan argument for progessives to hold their nose with one hand and vote for Obama with the other is thus refuted, but the larger point introduced above bears emphasis.
As I have documented elsewhere9, the partisan duopoly disenfranchises the entire electorate, left, right, and center. The American people as a whole, irrespective of ideology, have been locked out of running their own country as the writers of the Constitution intended they would. The mechanism at its root is dead simple and works in exactly the same way on both "liberal" and "conservative" voters. You are offered two choices, each of whom has been carefully vetted by the owners and is dedicated to serving elite interests. You are then pursuaded that one of them is bad and must be voted against.
This is not to say that there aren't real issues between the two; on the contrary, without the presence and validity of such issues the trick wouldn't work. People aren't stupid. But from the point of view of those whose interests the elected candidate will first serve, those issues are of minor importance.
Once voters are pursuaded of the validity of a vote-against it only remains to ensure that the two political "sides" remain in approximate parity, a task ably handled by the corporate media in collusion with the parties themselves.
The only escape from this trap is to understand that the call of civic duty is a call to active participation (activism) in the political process. To those who answer such a call, voting-against doesn't even make sense, because it means giving up on one's own commitment to self-government. It is only when voting for the actual changes one wishes to see that it is rational to hope those changes will someday happen.
As I have shown in my book The Good American: A Situation Report for Citizens, the real challenges facing America and the world are far more dire than most people realize, even those who make an effort to be informed. Unless Americans reclaim their government, and soon, we stand to lose everything; our democracy, our livelihoods, our liberty, and the ecological foundation of civilization. It will not require a wholesale conversion of the electorate to political activism. It only requires enough of us refusing to play the partisan game to break the duopoly's lockdown on political discourse. At that point the gates of the political arena are unlocked, and the course of the nation can once more become subject to the will of the people.
My vote for Jill Stein in swing-state Virginia isn't a protest vote, it isn't an angry vote, and it isn't elitist. It is a well-informed vote for the political agenda I think is best for my country. The United States of America is (or can be) a Jeffersonian democracy, and I am a citizen. Casting this vote is my civic responsibility. What's yours?
1. Michael Eric Dyson http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/7/effective_evil_or_progressives_best_hope
5. It is formally valid by disjunctive syllogism (modus tollendo ponens): ((O or R) and notR) implies O.