This general election more than most will test the courage of voters to avoid lesser-evil strategic voting that has propped up our two-party plutocracy. People with intelligence and conscience must resist peer pressure and the temptation to vote against John McCain by voting for Barack Obama.
Of course, a McCain presidency that pursues much of the same policies and values of the totally inept and morally bankrupt Bush administration is something to loathe. But lesser-evil voting sustains our corrupt political system.
Many say they are voting for Barack Obama in a most enthusiastic and positive way. For me, this does not work. I see no compelling evidence in Obama's history that he has what it takes to be a true, solid reformer. All I see is a young, inexperienced terrific talker that has used slick rhetoric to sell himself. With intellectual and ideological elitism and an aura of superiority and academic smugness, he has successfully fooled millions of people who are so disillusioned with our corrupt political system that they have let themselves be manipulated by poetic promises of change. In reality, he is just another super-ambitious, lying mainstream politician that has taken considerable money and support from all sorts of corporate and other special interests.
Indeed, despite all the hoopla about huge numbers of small contributors to he has also relied on exactly the same kind of big, wealthy supporters as the other candidates. As the Washington Post noted in the article Big Donors Among Obama's Grass Roots: "Seventy-nine 'bundlers,' five of them billionaires, have tapped their personal networks to raise at least $200,000 each. They have helped the campaign recruit more than 27,000 donors to write checks for $2,300, the maximum allowed. Donors who have given more than $200 account for about half of Obama's total haul, which stands at nearly $240 million. ...The list includes partners from 18 top law firms, 21 Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies."
Sure, Obama says that small contributors will have access, but Obama's bundlers help make up a more loosely defined "national finance committee," whose members are made to feel part of the campaign's inner workings through weekly conference calls and quarterly meetings at which they quiz the candidate or his strategists. Not exactly what $20 contributors get.
I remain troubled that Michelle Obama's salary at University of Chicago Hospitals when her husband won the US Senate seat was $121,000. Within weeks of his swearing in, her salary went to over $320,000. The following year Obama did an earmark request for $1 million for her employer.
Todd Spivak of the Houston Press has documented how Obama accomplished next to nothing in his first six years in the Illinois legislature. But then Democrat Emil Jones Jr. an African American with thirty years in the legislature became head of the senate and explicitly decided to make the young Obama a US senator. He did this by making Obama a sponsor of 26 bills that became law. This gave Obama exactly what he needed to portray himself as a highly successful legislator. Has Obama repaid Jones? Yes. He has provided tens of millions in earmarks for Jones' district. As to such actions, Jones famously said: "Some call it pork; I call it steak."
Also, Obama's judgments about people he has used to advance his career have been appalling. These include a former domestic terrorist, a radical hate-selling pastor and a federally indicted Chicago wheeler-dealer. While he talks about bringing diverse interests together, he has never done that to any significant degree as a senator or candidate. Voters have been divided along race lines whether or not it was planned. If he was not black he would not be getting over 90 percent of the African-American vote, without which he would not have beaten Clinton. There is no valid reason for making someone president because of his race.
Make no mistake; I was never for Clinton either. And I never appreciated why anyone should prefer her because of her sex. Call me an idealist, but the only candidate for president worth voting for should have nothing to do with their color, gender or religion.
What are better options for voters?
One choice is to boycott the presidential election altogether and not be a co-conspirator in the criminal conspiracy that our two-party political system has become. This requires facing the ugly reality that voting for Democrats or Republicans will never deliver the root, systemic reforms our failing democracy requires.
Better yet, if you feel compelled to vote, then vote for Ralph Nader. He has a distinguished record over many decades of working solely in the public interest without succumbing to corporate and other special interests seeking political favors. If honesty, integrity, intellectuality, independence, courageous policy positions and true political reforms matter to you, then Nader merits your support. This man of principles deserves your principled vote.
Here are some Nader positions that Obama and McCain do NOT support but that our nation sorely needs: a single payer universal health care system, aggressive crackdown on corporate welfare and crime, impeachment of Bush and Cheney, ending corporate personhood, adopting a carbon pollution tax, opening up ballot access. And Nader is a genuine supporter of the national peace movement to end the US occupation of Iraq. Note that Obama supported the reelection of Iraq war supporter Joe Lieberman. Unlike Obama, Nader is against government subsidies for turning corn into ethanol.
"We need a Jeffersonian revolution," says Nader. "If it doesn't happen, our democracy will continue to weaken and things will get worse. Right now, we have a two-party electoral dictatorship with each party looking for the highest corporate bidder." Amen.
I have been voting for Nader, the most legitimate populist and progressive, whenever he has been on my ballot. This wisdom by I.F. Stone keeps me committed to him: "The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it - to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it."
The fight is not about electing Nader president, but overthrowing the two-party plutocracy that is killing the middle class and fostering rising economic inequality. Should you have any negative thoughts about Nader because of the 2000 election, the facts refute blaming him for the Bush victory, including more than 200,000 registered Democrats in Florida that voted for Bush (compared to 97,000 votes for Nader, only 25 percent of which would have voted for Gore) and over half of the registered Democrats that did not vote at all because Gore ran a terrible campaign.