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Party Animus

In his memoir If You Don’t Weaken (1940), Oscar Ameringer, witty and humane radical from the erstwhile hotbed of American socialism, Oklahoma (it really was!), professed a “rule of never voting for a presidential candidate who had the slightest chance of election. The ballot is too precious lightly to be thrown away on candidates selected and financed by the ‘angels’ and archangels of the two historic old parties which have managed my adopted country into the condition it is in today.”

Oscar’s statute remains sound. We are facing in 2012 the worst Democrat-Republican twosome since, uh, 2008? 2004? 2000? I detect a pattern.

A state’s electoral votes have never been decided by a single popular vote, so as history is our guide your vote for president does not matter.

Choose not between two evils: the candidate of crony capitalism and war with Iran or the candidate of crony socialism and smug anti-Catholicism. Groove instead to the old Prohibition Party hit: “I’d rather be right than president/I want my conscience clear.”


Strategic voting is for Board of Education or City Council elections in which you and your franchise actually matter. As a citizen, you can play a role, even an essential role, in the affairs of your place. But as a subject of the Empire, you count for nothing. You’re not even a brick in the wall in our quadrennial king-making charades.

So cast your ballot to satisfy your conscience. Obey the injunction of John Quincy Adams (whose son, Charles Francis Adams, bolted the Whigs to serve as Martin Van Buren’s running mate on the 1848 Free Soil ticket): “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” That might serve as an epitaph to Ron Paul’s congressional career.

I was born and bred in the cradle of minor partyism, so I suppose the blood—the ichor? the fever?—of electoral rebellion washes through my veins. Besides McGovern in 1972 and Goldwater in 1964, the last major-party candidate I might have voted for would have been Al Smith in 1928.

The nation’s first third party, the Anti-Masons, arose in my backyard in 1826 after a footloose drunken apostate Mason, Captain William Morgan, spilled the secrets of the craft in his book Illustrations of Freemasonry and wound up missing in the Jimmy Hoffa sense. (Some local Masons long contended that the sot Morgan hightailed it to Canada and lived out a bibulous life. His ghost can be seen staggering about the stripjoints which stipple the Canadian side of the Niagara border.)

The first third party I’d have supported without reservation, the anarchist-tinged Liberty Party, was born 20 miles down the road in Warsaw, New York. (Reading a biography of John Greenleaf Whittier, who was forever whinging about his ailments as most poets do, I was amused to see him tell Gerrit Smith in 1840 that he planned to vote for Liberty Party candidate James Birney “if my life is spared” through November of that year. Like most hypochondriacs, Whittier lived forever, finally taking his leave 52 years later and entering the valetudinarian Hall of Fame.)

[1]Why are the men with integrity and honor and courage so often found at the fringes of American political life? I think of Burton K. Wheeler (Progressive Party VP candidate in 1924) refusing to hand down a single sedition indictment as U.S. attorney for Montana during the First World War. Or Eugene V. Debs, five-time Socialist Party candidate for President, going to prison in 1919 for telling an audience in Canton, Ohio, that “the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both.”

Things sure have changed, huh?

Third parties have their share and more of frauds and kooks and backbiters (so unlike the Democrats and Republicans) but even at their meanest and most outré, a vote cast therefor serves as a gesture of protest, however ineffectual: an extended middle finger to the tank bearing down on you. Aaron Russo, the late Hollywood producer and manager of Bette Midler, tried and failed in the 1990s to launch a populist-libertarian party whose message to our overlords, in Russo’s words, was “F— YOU! WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS SHIT!”

Much better than “Hope and Change,” I’d say.

Me, I’m sticking with Oscar Ameringer. My default party in recent elections has been the Greens, but this time I’ll vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. I want my conscience clear.

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "Party Animus"

#1 Comment By Brian A. Cobb On October 9, 2012 @ 5:32 am

I’ve never voted for an incumbent, but this time I feel the need to make a statement.

…and I don’t want Romney’s squishy-soft, sweaty-palmed hands on the nuclear trigger.

#2 Comment By Cliff On October 9, 2012 @ 7:28 am

For a long time, I’ve wanted to launch a third party that would promise to outlaw television. In answer to the protests of the young, who would want to know how they should occupy their time without TV, it would be called the “Do Your Homework Party”.

I just got an email from Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, who’s running on the Justice Party ticket. I don’t like the name of his party — I once heard a deacon say in a homily that we don’t really want justice, we want mercy. Presumably a Mercy Party would be one that didn’t run ads.

Anyway, I liked what he had to say in the email and, as he’s on the ballot here and Richard Nixon isn’t, I may well vote for him.

Here follows the relevant portions of the email, which may be deleted from this post without complaint from me if the reviewer considers them unoriginal or otherwise inappropriate:

On the imperial presidency:

“This race is also about whether our nation will continue down the road toward totalitarianism with an imperial presidency that has been made so much worse under both the Bush and the Obama administrations, which have shown utter contempt for the rule of law, due process, and the restrictions under the War Powers Clause of the United State Constitution.”

On jobs and trade:

“President Obama would like us to ignore what happened in the past four years. During the last 43 months we have had more than 8% unemployment. It is the only time in this nation’s history that we have had a president that has presided for more than three years of over 8% unemployment.”

“We need to renegotiate the outrageous free trade agreements and make sure they are fair trade so that we’re not discriminating against those employers who want to hire United States workers.”

On healthcare:

“We’re talking here about Obamacare and Romneycare. I would call it Insurance CompanyCare because they’re the ones who wrote it. They joined up with a very conservative foundation years ago to develop this plan, to make the American people buy this perverse product.”

“The solution to Medicare is to provide Medicare for everybody. To make it a single payer system.”

#3 Comment By Noah172 On October 9, 2012 @ 8:50 am

Why are the men with integrity and honor and courage so often found at the fringes of American political life?

Because they have nothing to lose by telling the truth.

#4 Comment By Siegfried X On October 9, 2012 @ 8:55 am

I also will be voting third party. The good news is that third parties may matter this year. In several states third party candidates are polling higher than the difference between Romney and Obama. So come November 7th there may be speculation (as in the past with Perot and Nader) that third party votes flipped states between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

And of course, each vote cast for a third party vote matters in the sense that the election is a poll.

#5 Comment By CDK On October 9, 2012 @ 9:30 am

Don’t you legitimate the election process when you vote? After all, if you play the game, your consent to the outcome is implied. Better not to vote at all. I haven’t voted in 12 years, though a couple of times I’ve been tempted. I still regret the vote I cast in 2000, but I have never regretted not voting.

#6 Comment By Rossbach On October 9, 2012 @ 10:13 am

I’m not a big fan of Romney (especially his foreign policy) and I have often voted for 3rd party candidates in national elections, but I will probably vote for him in 2012 just to get rid of Obama who, with the possible exception of George W. Bush, has got to be the worst president ever.

#7 Comment By Old Whig On October 9, 2012 @ 10:36 am

Virgil Good or Gary Johnson, I’ll flip a coin.

Old Whig

#8 Comment By pantathalos On October 9, 2012 @ 11:11 am

Gary Johnson would be a fine president based on his foreign policy alone.

#9 Comment By Leon Berton On October 9, 2012 @ 11:42 am

The notion of ‘clear conscience’ is easily a veil for self-adulation.

Conscience just means making a choice based on judgment (cum-scientia = conscience = with knowledge that is true and sound, according to one’s best judgment).

Judgments, to be true, ought to be based on the nature of things and what is found reality or actuality.

For example, let’s say I am someone who has the responsibility of taking care of a person for who is suffering from an incurable disease (as is my country) for which there are imperfect, but potentially beneficial remedies, even though they definitely carry possible negative side-effects (let’s say, R&R as the only viable candidates in this election).

Now, if decide I shall ‘vote for’ or choose a fictional remedy that has no possibility of affecting her or his health, because it does not exist among actual or real possibilities, I can hide behind the self-promoting posture that I voted my conscience. But I shall have not dealt with actuality.

But at least, I’ll have sent a ‘sign’ of signal that I truly want what is ‘best’.

Well, judgments and integrity require that one deal with reality as it is, not as one wishes it were! So long as one is not choosing what is inherently evil (No one has presented a case that R&R are such, or that what they MIGHT enact is such.), one is obliged, obligated to seek incremental betterment over none, and and also not permit things to potentially get much worse or promote greater evils.

I should think this is obvious now, especially when one considers the likely negative effects on the lives of so many if BHO is reelected, since this to permit this or choose it will willfully permit the less good or what is more evil prevail.

My and your ancestors often fought in wars for the common good in which, out of necessity, they had to accept allies that were not at all what our ancestors might have wished they had been.

But those ancestors did not withdraw into their own little world, nor did they refuse to deal with reality and its less than perfect scenarios.

#10 Comment By ivan_the_mad On October 9, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

“the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both.”

That could easily have been written today.

#11 Comment By libertarian jerry On October 9, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

Most people must realize the Paradigm in America has always been Left/Right,Demo./Repub.,Conservative/Liberal. All the candidates on the national level have been pre selected by the Power Elite. All the MSM attention is focused on this Paradigm. With that said,then,it really doesn’t matter who is elected President. Either way,the Elites win. Putting this truth aside, in the end half the adult population doesn’t vote. The ones that do vote and are a voting majority like things the way they are. As long as mom and pop are on Social Security and Medicare,as long as the poor are shuffled onto the welfare rolls and get Medicaid,as long as this voting majority keeps their jobs but if not can go on “Unemployment” and Food Stamps,then nothing will really change. The Welfare State in America has bought the loyalty and the votes of this voting majority. As for the rest of us who produce anything that can be taxed,we have to just sit back,shut up and watch the government gravy train role by.

#12 Comment By Aaron in Israel On October 10, 2012 @ 1:22 am

I can’t follow the logic of this article. Your vote doesn’t matter. Therefore you should vote (for a minor party).

If your vote is a way to “satisfy your conscience,” then wouldn’t it make sense to vote for that minorest of all minor parties – yourself? Presumably that party is most representative of your views. All this is assuming of course that you can “satisfy your conscience” by doing something that “doesn’t matter.”

#13 Comment By Byard Pidgeon On October 10, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

A third party “protest” vote is the vote of a fool, or a grown up but still spoiled child, having a tantrum.
If you want a third party, or a fourth, fifth or sixth, then get off your chair…go out and work with and for the party of your dreams, to help it grow and elect people into office at every level, from school board to city council, county office, on up the ballot.
You want to really feel good with a clear conscience?…then do some real political work.

#14 Comment By J.J. Gonzalez On October 10, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

Bravo “Aaron in Israel” for this knock-out retort!

#15 Comment By Bob Jones On October 10, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

Leon, I have seen you make this analogy before, and think it is extremely problematic, as for it to apply to the current election it has to assume facts not in evidence. Namely, that Romney and Obama are significantly different. It seems the proper analogy – if you view either MR or BO as the “medicine” for you sick patient, then you are making those choice between arsenic and cyanide. In that case, letting the patient die naturally might truly be more humane.

#16 Comment By Leon Berton On October 11, 2012 @ 9:23 am

@ Bob Jones, yes, I have posed this example before. But we already know the actions, dispositions and objectives of BHO and those he has placed in positions of power, and we have seen their consequences.

But the difference between R&R and BHO et alii is hardly that between arsenic and cyanide, unless a person wants to contrive a gratuitous set of assumptions in their own little private world of fantasy.

Romney is patently different from BHO and offers a new set of variables and possibilities that might, might, offer the chance of making things pragmatically better, and even recuperating a culture in which we live more in accord with the principles of the Constitution.

But, then, I’m concerned about real, living human beings and the consequences of what can occur if things get worse. I’m not talking in an indifferent, detached manner about some ‘abstract’ result, such as what you suggest by saying ‘letting the patient (this republic, its common good, the real persons who comprise such) die naturally might truly be more humane’.

Just what do you think is going to miraculously emerge or substitute for it in this fantasy world of self-indulgent musings?

#17 Comment By J.J. Gonzalez On October 11, 2012 @ 10:35 am

Would your conscience be clear if you just let the patient die?

#18 Comment By Scott Lahti On October 11, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

Rocky Anderson email quoted above: “[The Obama years mark] the only time in this nation’s history that we have had a president that has presided for more than three years of over 8% unemployment.”

The [2] saw average annual unemployment levels over 8% throughout, with their final nine years, 1933-1941, of course, marked by the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.

#19 Comment By Leon Berton On October 11, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

@ J.J. Gonzalez. No, my conscience would not be clear if I were to just let my country die.

We’re not speaking of irreversible conditions here, whether regarding this republic (or, to use my example, an ill person who capable of being revived and recuperated).

Most of you who respond negatively to my analogy presume you can justify inaction or futile gestures because everything is lost.

I love my country, my family, and my friends too greatly to wallow in that sort of presumptuous pessimism.

#20 Comment By James On October 12, 2012 @ 10:00 am


Maybe allowing the patient to die in this case is the action? Then you can start anew and try to get back to proper scale.

And what would happen if all of us that are tired of picking the lesser of evils, as I suspect you are as am I, voted for a clear conscience? Maybe we would not be in this awful situation.

#21 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On October 12, 2012 @ 11:52 am

Oh, but the goofs running for minor parties are even scarier than the Big Two and would be much worse if any of them actually won.

And, hey, since your vote doesn’t matter why vote at all?

Don’t you have anything better to do Tuesday night after work?

#22 Comment By Anonymoose On October 12, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

If voting doesn’t matter (obvious) than claims that one is voting (and voting alone) to achieve a demonstrable end (the election of Romney/Ryan) are specious.

Is voting for a third party equivalent? While voting for a third party ALONE could be considered, from the POV of someone wanting to propose alternative, suboptimal, it is certainly not a loss for this cause. A Third Party vote is as close to a spoil vote as Americans have, and therefore it is the most “pragmatic” way (insofar as voting is concerned) to answer the question of how one should express discontent with the system and its representatives.

“But why don’t you self-indulgent children actually work with these parties?” This is said by those who don’t know the 3rd party voters, who are often more politically active than the average person anyway. It is also irrelevant, since as I said before, merely voting is simply sub-optimal.

#23 Comment By Olav On October 13, 2012 @ 11:47 am

Here’s a graffiti that is on point:


#24 Comment By John Gruskos On October 13, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

“the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses”

Will be rewarded by Gary Johnson in the following ways:

The tax system will be made more regressive, so that the working class can enjoy paying more taxes.

The currency will be more deflationary, so that the working class can pay back their loans in dollars more valuable than those they originally borrowed.

Immigration will be increased. This will help increase unemployment, increase housing costs, and decrease wages.

#25 Comment By David Giza On October 14, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

I’m voting for Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party because I believe that he is the best candidate. If I thought that Romney or Obama were better than him, I would vote for one of them.

I’m not going to vote for Johnson of the Libertarian Party because they support open immigration, free trade and the legalization of drugs. The first two policies have been failures and legalizing drugs would just create more drug addicts and deaths.

Although I agree with the Green Party on some things, they don’t believe in a comprehensive energy policy. I agree that the United States should spend money on solar, hydroelectricity and wind power but we can’t abandon coal, oil and natural gas, either.

I blame the media and the two major parties for not covering and making it difficult for minor party candidates running for any office in this country to get on the ballot.

#26 Comment By Angus On October 21, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

They support open immigration, free trade and the legalization of drugs. The first two policies have been failures

Using the word “have” here implies that open immigration and free trade have actually been tried.

#27 Comment By Chris Travers On October 31, 2012 @ 5:21 am

Along the lines of the suggestions for third parties, may I modestly propose The Swift Party, running on a platform openly mocking the bipartisan consensus. For example in the first 100 days of office, the candidate could:

* Promise to invade Greece to bring them democracy

* Solve the problem of welfare by instituting regulations for an infant meat market, with price supports.

* Solve the problem of Israel and Palestine by annexing the whole area and offering it as a “two state solution” (being the 51st and 52nd states)

* Never negotiate with Lillyput!

But really the whole purpose would be to use the race to provide satirical commentary about what is actually going on and inject commentary into the race. We could reach out to satirists and commentators to run for office. If we could get air time, every answer could start with “I agree with X, we should….”

For example:

“I agree with Bush. The only way out of this is a two state solution, but to do that we have to annex Israel and the Territories first.”

#28 Comment By Chris On August 9, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

I voted, and for the first time in years we had write in status, for a Constitution Party candidate here in NC. Then again, I was for 4 yrs ,state chairman too. Now mostof time, I vote for myself…..or Bill