Centrists ignore party core

In his Aug. 11 editorial, Ira Brooker ponders, “what’s a liberal to do?” He explores the avenues left to liberals after Al Gore named centrist Senator Joseph Lieberman as his vice presidential nominee. This is a dilemma I faced four years ago: endorse a ticket I disagreed with — Clinton/Gore — that was in a mild battle with the Republican candidate or vote for Green Party nominee Ralph Nader. It was even more difficult because four years before, I would have raced to the polls to pull the lever for “the Man from Hope.” However, the years between were filled with moderate policies and revealed the Clinton/Gore camp’s centrist leanings, making the decision difficult.
Voters have one clear power in a democracy: to vote a candidate in and out of office. During an elected official’s term, we have relatively little clout, but election day is a chance for reckoning. In the wake of the Reagan dynasty, and his appeal to what were called “Reagan Democrats,” candidates slowly moved to the center of the political spectrum. In 1996, Clinton counted on liberal votes. What else could the liberals do? Fascination with “soccer moms” and the suburbs meant the only contested political ground has been the center. Democrats get the liberals, Republicans get the far right, and the only battle has been over those without clear ideological leanings.
This strategy has been propagated by its overwhelming success, and the selection of Joseph Lieberman is the latest indicator. Politicians were shocked when W. picked Cheney because it went against this strategy. It was not an appeal to voters in the middle. Gore picked Lieberman because Gore was losing centrist votes to Bush, and all he could do was name a candidate whose political resum[0233] is as close to the middle as possible.
What’s left for the liberals is basic. As long as Gore (and the Democrats) have our votes they have no reason to appeal to us. If Gore’s campaign knows the liberal vote will turn out and vote Democratic in a close race, why should they try to appeal to us? If we won’t vote them out they won’t really lobby for our votes. We live in a time where half the people eligible to vote don’t, in large part because they feel it does not matter. People turned out for Jesse because he was not a suit. As long as liberals cave in to centrist Democrats to avoid the harm that could be, they encourage the race to the middle. The only power we have is our vote.
Growing up in Kansas, my candidates never won. The Democrats always lost to the Republicans, I felt like my vote was wasted. In 1996 I vowed to never again vote for a candidate “whose positions I very frequently detest!” Voting for Gore/Lieberman endorses the ticket, and even worse it intensifies and rewards the battle for the center. Even if Nader doesn’t win I will not consider my vote wasted.
Instead of voting against a candidate and perpetuating a system you think is flawed, vote to reject it. Nader probably won’t win, but if he gets 5 percent, the Green Party will have public financing in 2004 and can run a bigger campaign. The only way to stop the rush to the center is for the middle-of-the-road candidate to lose because the fringe votes for someone else. This year I will turn out and I will vote for Nader. The only thing is that I will be consistent and vote against all of the candidates “whose positions I very frequently detest!”
Christopher Paul is a graduate student in speech communication. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]