Monday, June 13, 2005

Advice to third party people

Dadahead is musing about third parties. If you -- like him -- would like to see the Democrats move left on some issue or another, there's a way you can work to accomplish this. It doesn't involve voting for a third party, however.

You've got to go out there and convince ordinary people that your stance on the issue is the right one. Generate popular support for a measure, and politicians will drift towards you. Or support measures that will, if passed, generate popular support on your issue down the road. For example, if you support marijuana legalization, push real hard for big federal research money for rigorously testing the safety of marijuana vis-a-vis other addictive drugs, and wait for the windfall when the "Is Pot Really Dangerous?" headline appears on Time and Newsweek, with lab-coated scientists on the inside answering in the negative. Not all issues are marijuana legalization, and other issues will give rise to other strategies. But remember that your task is first and foremost one of convincing more people that you're right. The voting part is smaller and comes after.

I hope you're not just interested in voting for a party that represents you. What you ought to be interested in, if you are a mature political agent, is getting substantive policy changes enacted. It's hard for me to see any path leading from a Nader vote to actual leftwards movement in American policy. In most cases, there's no reason to believe that the Democrats will, on purely strategic grounds, move left to appease you, even if you cost them multiple elections by voting third-party. Assuming a normal distribution of voters across each of the political/philosophical axes, moving left puts them at risk of losing the people in the center, and there are way more voters in the center than on the edges. Now if you have some reason to think that there isn't a normal (bell-shaped) distribution on your issue, this analysis may not apply. And there are positions, like Kerry's "alliances!" foreign policy stance in the last election, that don't have real appeal to anybody anywhere and should be changed. But any time that there are substantially more people in the center than on your edge, the Democrats won't move left to accommodate you. They do better conceding Nader his 3% than moving left and giving the GOP 10% off the middle. (Also remember that when Democrats lose one of their moderates to the GOP they need 2 votes to make up for it, while losing a lefty to Nader can be made up by one.)

Dadahead is thinking about abortion, which incorporates a bunch of different questions. There is majority support for the right to have an abortion, but parental consent and notification laws have support in the 70s. Look, I want to get rid of these laws too, for all the abusive-parent reasons that you guys do. But the thing for us to do isn't to abandon the Democrats over this -- it's to make a good TV ad that incorporates the lessons in Alley Rat's story, fund it, and make a big controversy when the networks don't air it, so people go on the web and check it out. When the numbers get closer to even, the Democrats will pick up the issue, and bad laws will be repealed.

These aren't easy strategies and they don't promise immediate gain. But unlike the fantasy of somehow moving the Democrats to your position by voting Green, they have a chance of actually succeeding someday.


Anonymous said...

We need progressives both INSIDE and OUTSIDE the Democratic party.

Organize Green, vote strategically.

Sometimes we need to kick Dems out of office. There is no earthly reason that Zell Miller should have held his seat so long. He NEVER voted as a Democrat. A good spoiler effect election could have gotten him out of office so the Dems could run a real Dem!

The party is seized up. It needs help from within and without. There need to be people pushing from change from within, but they need help from outside issue groups, think tanks, and yes, a 3rd party that can bring up issues that insider Dems don't want to talk about but real Americans do.

If the Democratic Leadership could wean themselves from the consultant class and the corporate money and begin working on the people's issues, there would be no need for a 3rd party.

But it seems the leadership is leaning toward a Republican-lite strategy again and that is just a loser from the beginning.

Conservative Dems like to say that liberals "have no where else to go." Well, if that wasn't true, conservative Dems wouldn't be able to take us for granted quite so easily.

Anonymous said...

this is much better: