I know that the current American cultural momentum is toward Barack Obama. This is Obama’s moment, on a national level. However, on the eve of Election Day, there’s a different picture from where I stand. You won’t find me on the Obama bandwagon tomorrow.
I’ll be voting for Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney instead. Here’s why:
First, unlike Jim, I don’t live in a tossup state. I don’t even live in a state that’s just leaning in one direction. I live in New York state, and there’s no real possibility that John McCain will win here. No, Barack Obama would not lose New York even if all the truly progressive voters chose to vote for Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader instead of Obama. The truth is that most Democrats in New York state are party line Democrats, not strong liberals. Also, many New York Republicans will be voting for Obama tomorrow, canceling out any progressives who vote for third party candidates.
Second, I remember too well the betrayals of Barack Obama this summer. Obama’s support for George W. Bush’s FISA Amendments Act, for offshore oil drilling, for the death penalty, and for the faith-based initiative scheme for corrupt kickbacks to big churches are grave breaches of trust, and leave me with serious concerns about what he will actually do as President of the United States.
Furthermore, when the Democratic Party excluded atheists and other non-religious Americans from portions of the Democratic Presidential Convention in Denver, they lost my support for good. I’m not a Democrat, because the Democratic Party has made it clear that it does not welcome the support of people like me. I’m an independent, and Barack Obama is not an independent.
I’m not going to vote for ideological extremists like the Socialist Workers. So, the choice for me is between Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. Of these two, Nader is the stronger candidate, and I strongly admire his singular willingness to respond to an issues survey from the Atheist Community of Austin. Cynthia McKinney wouldn’t do that.
However, in voting for a liberal alternative to Barack Obama, I am not really voting for a candidate. I’m voting for an organization. I don’t harbor any illusions that anyone but John McCain and Barack Obama will come anywhere close to earning any Electoral College votes – certainly not in New York.
If a statewide candidate from the Green Party gains a certain number of votes, however, then the Green Party will earn an automatic place on the ballot, without having to go through the petitioning process for each state and local candidate. Thus, by voting for Cynthia McKinney, I am helping to strengthen the hand of local Green Party candidates across New York, and in doing so, putting pressure on the New York Democrats to better serve the liberal side of their constituency. That pressure will, indirectly, place some additional pressure on President Barack Obama himself, helping to blunt the demands that he triangulate as Bill Clinton did, and support Republican policies in order to maintain a center-right majority base for his presidency.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that, of all the available choices for President, Barack Obama is the best available. That doesn’t mean I trust him, however. If you’re in a state that has any possibility of tipping to McCain, I urge you to vote for Obama. If you’re in an Obama-secure blue state like mine, however, take a closer look at your state’s ballot, and consider a progressive alternative.