Liberal Democrats Left Out in the Cold

“The truly undecided voter is rare, say those who study the psychology of voting,” Joe Garofoli wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle. “Since neuroscientists say 90 percent of thought is unconscious, an undecided voter may have already decided–he just hasn’t revealed his pick to himself yet.”

Whether I’m a rare bird or a typical victim of self-denial, I didn’t know how I was going to vote until election day–or, to be more precise, a election minute. Roughly 15 to 20 percent of 2008 primary voters have had similar trouble getting their unconscious to talk to them.

Most of the electoral procrastinators are conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats–party loyalists whose influence has been diluted by independents who vote in their primaries. As has been widely discussed, conservatives were unhappy with the entire field of Republican presidential contenders. Less noted but no less significant has been the effect of John Edwards’ departure from the Democratic field.

Lefties don’t have a candidate.

Like most hardcore liberals, I had planned to vote for Edwards. I’m a registered Democrat. I live in New York, a “closed primary” state. That left Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I studied the printed grid inside my mechanical voting machine, a steel beast from the 1950s. New York keeps threatening to replace the classic booths. I hope they keep them forever. Old-school machines have a feature I treasure: you flip a switch to make an “X” appear next to your choice. You’re not committed until you pull the lever to open the curtain; you can flip the switch back and go with someone else instead.

I moved the switch to Hillary, to see how it looked. Hillary. Ted Rall votes for Hillary. I asked myself my usual test question: If she won, and I watched her being sworn in next January, how would I feel?

Bored. And slightly depressed.

I thought about the experience issue, her biggest advantage. “I am offering 35 years of experience making change,” she says. Though way overstated–35 years of what? being a lawyer?–living in the White House has to have left her with some insights. Unlike Obama, Hillary wouldn’t lose her way searching for the restroom. But political dynasties suck. Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton would be a sad statement. A nation of 300 million people shouldn’t keep turning to the same few families for leadership.

A woman president is a couple of centuries overdue. But issues matter more than affirmative action. I couldn’t overlook Clinton’s votes to go to war and to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on the never-ending horror show of Iraq. Thousands of people are dead because of her.

Hillary Clinton didn’t think Iraq had WMDs. No one smart did. The polls were running for the war, and so was she. She pandered. It was disgusting. But I was even more appalled by her lousy political skills. It ought to have been evident, even then, that (a) the war wouldn’t go well, (b) Americans would turn against it, and (c) this would occur before she was up for reelection in 2006. It was obvious to even me at the time, and it took me ten years to get a bachelor’s degree.

She was wrong. She had bad judgment. And her September 2007 vote for possible war against Iran proves she still does. I moved the lever left. The “X” disappeared from Clinton’s box.

I made an “X” pop up next to Obama’s name. “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of…” I wasn’t feeling it.

For what will soon have been eight long years, I reflected, left-of-center Americans have endured an illegitimate administration of morons, thieves and bullies. “[The press secretary’s] job is to help explain my decisions to the American people,” Bush once said, describing how he interacts with people who disagree with him. Bush stacked the Supreme Court by appointing right-wing extremists to replace moderates. Compromise was an alien concept to the Bushies. They did whatever they wanted–wars, torture, tax cuts for the superrich, tapping political dissidents’ phones–and Democrats did nothing to stop them, even after they regained control of both houses of Congress.

After 9/11 Republicans repeatedly screamed that liberals were pro-Islamist, anti-American traitors. Right-wing opinion mongers–Ann Coulter, Andrew Sullivan, James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard (and now The New York Times) accused me of treason. (Hey, I’m not the one trying to get rid of the Bill of Rights.)

Former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes suggested that I be imprisoned or shot. And “mainstream” Republicans indicated their tacit agreement with cricket-chirping silence. Not once did a Republican Congressman demand that their neo-McCarthyite allies apologize for their statements. Not once did a Republican opinion columnist take issue with equating the Democratic Party with anti-Americanism. Not once. Compare that to the Democratic practice of “Sister Souljah-ing” lefties who annoy the conservative hyenas.

I can’t forget the last eight years. Here’s why: they will happen again. Whenever Republicans control the White House and Congress and too many media outlets–as occurred under Eisenhower/McCarthy in the 1950s, Nixon in the 1970s, Reagan in the 1980s–they spew the same disgusting crap about the left. Lord knows Democrats have their flaws, but they don’t say that their opponents belong in concentration camps.

“I want the Republicans to feel the way I did in 2004,” an Iowa Democrat told The New York Times. So do I. I want them to watch everything they care about disassembled. Take Reagan and Bush’s names off the airports, nationalize major corporations, demolish Gitmo, gay marriage–anything that pisses them off.

I want revenge. Obama preaches reconciliation. “I will create a working majority because I won’t demonize my opponents,” says Obama. The Illinois senator is an interesting politician and might make a good leader. But not yet. Give me eight years of Democratic rule as ruthless and extreme and uncompromising as the last eight years of Bush. Then we can have some bipartisanship.

Obama’s let’s-tiptoe-through-the-tulips-with-the-GOP shtick amounts to bargaining with yourself. If a vendor at a flea market offers to sell you a lamp for $10 and you’re willing to pay $8, you don’t offer $8. Demonize, Barack, demonize!

Oh, and Obama says he wouldn’t have voted for the Iraq War. I say he’s lying. So do his votes for funding the war since he joined the Senate. His voting record on Iraq is the same as Hillary’s.

Hillary, no. Obama? Nobama. What to do?

“Hundreds of thousands of Democrats and independents who were motivated enough to go and vote on February 5 did so for Edwards, knowing full well that he was out of the running,” reports The Nation. I was one of them.


21 Responses to “”

  1. J. A. Ludtke Says:

    One of the Edwards votes in the California primary is mine.

    Something I wonder about…is all this talk of reconciliation something that is done so that Democratic candidates can win votes from independents in open primaries? Is the reason why Clinton and Obama sound like they’re running a general election campaign because, for all intents and purposes, they are right now?

  2. Eric Xodik Says:

    Oh, Jesus! It sure sucks that people who don’t want to impose self-righteous reactionary/ knee jerk ideologies on others vote (moderates). You make a very compelling case for a Soviet State that doesn’t allow whining.

    Do you even remember the last elections? Dukakis or Jackson? Clinton or Tsongas? Gore or Bradley? Kerry or a sharp stick in the eye?

    Mike Gravel is still in the race…why don’t you vote for him? Hillary probably has it rigged anyway so WTF?

  3. Aggie Dude Says:


    I like the fact that you acknowledge that you want revenge. You want eight years of the spitting on the Republicans for the last eight years, as you say, and then maybe we can talk bipartisanship. But consider what the general response to that would be from the right?

    It’s like Yugoslavia, except the killing is of people outside the country for the most part.

    What gets neglected in the discussion this year, I think, is that McCain being successful in shoring up the nomination for his party IS a repudiation of Bush. Sure he’s been a footsoldier, as has Clinton, Obama (to some degree) and yes…even our precious Edwards: who also voted for the war, but was not in office to taint his record with repeated votes.

    What if he had been? Do you think he would have? I think he would have, and there’s a laundry list of reasons why.

    So McCain is a classic hard-ass republican of old, he’s granddad telling war stories to the kiddies. But the fact that he succeeded against Mittbot, who toted himself as George W. without the incompetence, and Huckleberry, who is George W. without the money, I think says something about the fact that there is a silent war going on in the GOP. It’s silent because the media is silent about it, and because GOP operatives are used to keeping their mouths shut ‘for the good of the empire.’ McCain may play war hawk at times but his leadership from 2000 on would have been dramatically different. Now that we’re in the muck, he has to tote a line, but I don’t think liberals are going to save the GOP from theocratic fascism, I think people within that party must do that.

    We should vote for the best leaders with good intentions, and stop worrying about why fascists are going to win again. Fascism always wins unless it crumbles from within or is invaded from without.

  4. Jon C. Says:


    This isn’t the first time you’ve doubted whether Obama would’ve voted against the war. But surely you’ve read his 2002 Iraq speech? Granted, ardent vocal opposition to the war is no substitute for bad voting record – but if that were the case, why haven’t you been more skeptical of Edwards? This is a man who voted for the war, the Patriot Act, and No Child Left Behind, and yet campaigned against them all. As the ultra-progressive Russ Feingold put it: “He uses my voting record exactly as his platform, even though he had the opposite voting record.” The media blackout may have given him more anti-establishment cred, but that still doesn’t mean he was anything more than a pitchman.

  5. jsntyme Says:

    I was spared your agony in the voting booth because I knew I’d be having surgery and wouldn’t be able to vote on election day. I voted by absentee ballot in California BEFORE Edwards dropped out of the race. Though he’d been struggling in the earlier contests, I hoped that Super Tuesday might begin to turn the tide his way with liberals on the two coasts finally getting to have their say. At first I was disappointed that my vote wouldn’t “count” because Edwards was out, but then I realized there was no way I could have chosen between the other two. Neither of them represent me, an anti-war, pro-everybody’s rights, universal health care demanding, class warring, concerned global citizen, liberal to my core. I won’t be boycotting the election in November though, because we have to spare this country four more years of destruction by the Republican party. Yes, I’ll vote for either of them–but not with the enthusiam and satisfaction I felt when marking my absentee ballot for John Edwards.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    As usual, somehow it6s all about you.

  7. JHC Says:

    I can’t get too excited about either candidate.

    Clinton, like other Democrats, does seem to have gone along with the Iraq war just because it was politically convenient at the time, even though it should have been obvious that the war would not go well. And she’s still going along with what Republicans want, though she really ought to know better, considering the way they treated her and her husband when he was president. She should know that they’ll hate her however she votes.

    Obama’s talk of bipartisanship does seem rather naive. We really shouldn’t put the past eight years behind us, because the problems are still there. I’m afraid that as usual, Republicans will define bipartisanship as doing whatever they want.

    And Obama’s calls for unnecessary reconciliation and understanding go beyond politics. Don’t forget that when an “ex-gay” gay basher appeared at Obama events and caused criticism, Obama said gays need to open a dialogue with religious gay haters. But you don’t open a dialogue with people like that. They are hate-mongers. Their opinions are invalid.

    So basically we have Clinton pandering to Republicans and Obama wanting to forget everything the Republicans have done. Either would still be better than McCain or Huckabee, of course, but we need someone who’ll deal with the fundamental problem of Republicans trying to tear apart the country, and neither of them seem willing to do that.

  8. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Once again, I have to say a big HALLELUJAH! and TESTIFY BROTHER!!! to Ted Rall. Great column!

    I especially like the remark from the Iowa Democrat that we should get revenge on the Republicans. It doesn’t matter what Democrats in Congress do. Any watered-down alternative they offer to the Repukes on anything will be considered “revenge” on the Republicans by their sound machine.

    So why don’t the Democrats realize we have nothing to lose and go all out?

    The very reason Vichy Democrat Pelosi said she opposes impeachment is that the Repukes will say it is just “revenge” for what the Repukes did to Clinton.

    But let’s be honest – what they did to Clinton was just revenge on the Democrats for the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings. Then house-speaker Newt Gingrich said so just before the Repukes took the House and Senate in 1994. On national TV, he said he would create “20 congressional committees to investigate Democratic malfeasance.”

    As Jimmy Cagney (a genuine tough guy on and off-screen) said about the Empire of Japan in the movie “Blood on the Sun,” (my paraphrase), “Yeah, we’ll forgive them. After we get even.”

    Until the Democrats learn to fight just as hard and retaliate just as fast as the Repukes, they will continue to lose…both in the elections and in public opinion.

  9. Natasha Yar-Routh Says:

    I think the minimum platform for any Democratic candidate this year should be the repeal of every bit of legislation passed under Bush, the ending of every program he started and the shredding of all of Bush’s signing statements. That should all be done in the first hundred hours, then we can get on to passing the sort of laws that will have the rethugs frothing at the mouth.

  10. Angelo Says:

    Only political hobbyists like ourselves are thinking it through to the point that we make protest votes. I think the candidates know that they can take the rest of the left for granted. But perhaps getting the centrist finger has a silver lining.

    We can always hope that Hillary and Oprama are just pandering to the middle just to get elected. I think that is likely. The alternative is that they are actually being honest when they pander to the middle.

  11. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Hey Angelo,

    If Hillary’s anything like her husband, I’m sure it’s pure pandering.

    Remember, her husband was a Democrat who gave us NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. He caved on allowing gays to serve openly in the military. He supported the Star Wars, SDI, boondoggle that Reagan started. He signed so-called “Welfare Reform” into law.

    He may have thrown a couple of liberal bones when it came to protecting Roe v. Wade or signing the Brady Bill into law, but he was just as corporatist as the next Repuke.

  12. IrishUp Says:

    I also voted for Edwards (in MA he was still on the ballot!). I’m not part of the Obama glee club, but I’ll take an Obama/Edwards ticket.

    Scott Ritter flat out called HRC a liar and unfit to be POTUS. I gotta agree. If she wins, I will have to learn more than the first two words of Oh! Cananada.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Good, Im not the only person who ‘wasted’ a vote. Of course, in my heavily fascist voting district my vote never counts anyway. I knew that no matter what I did the winners would be Hucakbee and McCain aka Hillary. There is very little difference between them. I just wonder if they both get the nod if they wont be each others running mates…

  14. Seth Warren Says:

    Hillary Clinton inspires so much venomous, irrational hatred that I really want to vote for her just to piss people off. As it stands, I’m voting for her because I think she’s better for the job than Barack Obama. How much better is way open for debate, because I’d love to have some righteous Liberal revenge too, and Hillary isn’t going to bring it, I know – not to the degree I’d like to see, anyhow.

    Obama is way too cuddly; I’ll take the woman who I know can be a Bitch rather than Mr. “Let’s All Make Nice” anyday!

    Not that it matters – I live in Pennsylvania where the primary is so late it’s irrelevant and has no chance of tipping the delegate scale.

  15. Jana C.H. Says:

    At my caucus I voted for Edwards on the first ballot, along with two other people. No Edwards delegate for us! There were, however, enough Uncommitteds to get a delegate, so I switched on the second ballot and was elected as uncommitted delegate for my precinct. You take your victories where you can get them.

    In caucuses, unlike primaries, you CAN vote for “none of the above”. Isn’t that what we’ve all been longing for?

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Thucydides: It is easy to endure defeat in democratic elections, because losers can think they have been defeated by nobodies.

  16. Aggie Dude Says:

    Hillary is not like her husband, H2H, she’s far more progressive in her policies. I think that both Obama and Clinton are pandering to the center just as Edwards pandered to the populists. This nation is so anti-intellectual and so driven by far right politics and culture that a true leftist…as in a socialist, wouldn’t have a chance of getting elected.

    Enter Kucinich. In most other democratic nations he’d be more toward the center.

    One step at a time. Lets try to stop the hemorrhaging first. Just 4 years of Carter gave us Reagan, people.

  17. Matthew Says:

    Four years of Carter gave us Reagan. Yep, four years of a centrist, charisma deficient Democrat had enough people thinking “so what” that a B-movie actor fronting for the hard right could walk away with it. Which is basically why I oppose Hillary.

    (Why couldn’t we have had Jack Palance instead?)

  18. Angelo Says:

    One step at a time. Lets try to stop the hemorrhaging first. Just 4 years of Carter gave us Reagan, people.

    Isn’t that precisely why a weak, centrist democrat is a step in the wrong direction?
    Do you mean preempting the repugs with our own likable, good-looking, idiot is the way to go? I can actually appreciate that. Once you accept that our country is full of dummies, the obvious course of action becomes electing the best face and voice.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Why are some on the left so opposed to owning guns? Why did the repukenikins want revenge for Nixon, and Reagan’s Contra affair when their leaders were obviously acting outside the legal restrictions of the court. With this administration why hav’nt there been massive calls for investigations since 2006? Aggie Dude, welcome to Michigan. Why are people so fussy about learning Spanish, when most Americans can speak Canadian, eh?

  20. Angelo Says:

    The next Bush will erase every pussy-foot step Obama or Clinton will make.

    Fuck centrism.

  21. Swisn Says:

    Just my 2cents but I don’t know how sincere Obama is about concilliatory bipartisanship. Maybe he means that or maybe its a front because a welcoming “hey, he’s one of us” black man stands a better chance in a national election than an angry black man. Hillary is not another Bill and I actually do think she’d be more capable but there is still the sensation that this is as much about doing a Clinton-style (not technically illegal but pushing the intent of the law) end run around the 22nd Amendment.

    If it makes anyone feel better, this isn’t a centrist buffet either. As a socially liberal, foreign policy moderate and fiscal hawk, none of them speak for me either. You had Edwards. Closest thing I got was Rudy Giuliani – oh goody!

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