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Vote with your head or vote with your heart?

Column by George Sibley

Presidential election – November 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

IN MY NINTH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, there is finally a serious candidate for whom I can feel real enthusiasm — and all my self-appointed political advisors are telling me it’s irresponsible to vote for him. A vote for Ralph Nader, I am told, amounts to a vote for George Bush; Nader can’t win; all he can do is erode Al Gore’s support; therefore, I must vote again for “the lesser of two evils.”

Actually, I don’t believe that Al Gore is evil. I’m not sure about George W. Bush. But both of them strike me as more innocent than evil. Gore grew up in the cocoon of established government, Bush in the cocoon of established wealth. Established wealth is the more dangerous of the two as we’ve seen, for example, in George W.’s oil-patch shenanigans and brother Neil’s S&L adventures; those exploits show how far the Bushes will go to protect and enlarge the privilege they think is somehow their due.

And it’s pretty clear that Gore’s first impulse is usually to protect and enlarge the government in which he’s grown up.

As I see it, there’s not real evil in either man, just the ignorance of not knowing any better. If there is evil present, it’s in the extent to which established wealth and established government have become intertwined — to the point where they divert most of the resources of the nation to the protection and enlargement of each other in mutually beneficial ways.

What we’re enduring now is the quadrennial puppet-show put forward by consolidated power and privilege, to convince us that, just as in our choice of models and colors in everything else, we have a choice politically. “Let’s fight till six, and then have dinner,” said Tweedledum to Tweedledee.

But Nader is perceived as dangerous to power and privilege, which is why we don’t hear about him in the morning paper and the evening news — God forbid that their alleged standards of objectivity and fairness should force them into presenting the people with an actual choice they can’t control.

But have you noticed how Nader set what has become the theme for this year’s dumbshow? Tweedledee and Tweedledum have both decided to walk Nader’s walk: they are both falling all over themselves to declare their allegiance to “the little guy,” to “inclusion.” Bush and Gore are using corporate money, presumably with corporate permission, to tell us how much they are attuned to the needs of the little guy — to the senior trying to afford prescription drugs, the single mom wondering how she’s going to pay her heating bill, and the young working couple wondering if they will ever be able to get a house of their own.

But Nader’s the only one who’s actually talked that talk, all his life. He was for the little guy before the little guy got cool. He’s spent his life working on behalf of the people down on the ground, and very successfully. No wonder the big media are completely ignoring him: all the Goliaths have reason to be frightened of this David.

OF ALL THE MISBEGOTTEN REASONS put forth for why I shouldn’t vote for Nader, the most misbegotten is the rationale that third parties are somehow un-American. Many of the successful incursions against entrenched power and privilege in American history have been initiated by third parties, things like the direct election of senators, the enfranchising of women, and the elimination of poll taxes. My father — forced out of college by the Depression and into odd jobs to feed his parents and brothers — helped forge the New Deal by voting Socialist in 1932. Enough of a minority like my father voted for Norman Thomas so that Roosevelt’s government knew it had to work at least as much for people as for money.

Four years ago I voted for Nader, even though he wasn’t really running, because it made more sense than writing in Mickey Mouse again, or Gene McCarthy, since our ballots don’t give us the “None of the Above” option. But this time he’s actually running, and is the only candidate to get close to Central Colorado — physically (he was in Durango and Montrose in September), and more important: politically and economically.

So for the first time in nine elections, I will vote with enthusiasm, even though I know Nader can’t win because most everyone else is falling for the sucker pitch that a vote for Nader will help Tweedledee beat Tweedledum. The thing about winning is you ought to feel good about the victory; if you can’t, you might as well lose with integrity. Vote for Nader.

George Sibley writes and teaches in Gunnison, and now writes a column for Colorado Central.