Vote your conscience


The Democratic preference vote is tomorrow. If youíre a Democrat, get out there and make your vote heard. This is as much about the direction of the party as about who gets nominated.


Democrats have been trying so hard to be what some consider electable ó to be basically a Republican but just a touch less to the right. I wish Joe Lieberman would just go ahead and switch parties. I saw a comparison of his positions and Richard Nixonís policies. He is more Republican than Nixon ever was, so why doesnít he just go ahead and say so?


I would encourage you to vote for whoever really represents your views, regardless of who's most likely to win or beat George Bush. I know thatís not the conventional wisdom, but hereís why I think itís important.


My favorite candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, illustrates the point perfectly. He seems to be representing true Democratic principles the best. Heís the only one who voted against the war. He also voted against the ďPatriotĒ act and has the clearest stand on international trade, that it should take care of workers and the environment.


But suppose I and a lot of other people decide to vote for someone more conservative because we think they're more likely to get the nomination and to beat Bush. Two things happen. First, candidates for other offices, and presidential candidates next time, think Democratic voters are more conservative than they really are, and so position themselves to the right. Or they may just not bother to run if they don't think they can win. Further, some discouraged voters leave the party or become inactive and new people don't come in because the party doesn't seem to represent them. With each election cycle this error compounds itself and the party creeps artificially to the right.


Second, we put forward candidates who donít stand distinctly apart from their opposition. Had Gore not tried to be so "centrist", would he have won even more votes? Would he have attracted more of those who didnít vote because they didnít see any distinct options? Would Nader perhaps not have felt compelled to offer an alternative or would he have attracted fewer votes?


If you're thinking people just won't vote for a truly Democratic candidate, that they prefer Bush politics, think again. Who won the popular vote last time? Gore. And that was after losing 5% to Nader.


Either people are going to vote for Democratic ideas and candidates or they arenít. Pandering only hurts our chances. A candidate who has the guts to say what he thinks comes across as more trustworthy and more presidential.


Of course a candidate can also pander the other direction, pretending to be a champion of the disillusioned Democrats just to get attention. The Chicago Tribune had a story recently on how the Howard Dean of the campaign trail is unrecognizable to those in Vermont who knew him as governor. To them he was hardly a champion of traditional Democratic causes.


Regardless of what happens, what kind of candidates you will see running next time depends on who gets supported this time -- those who believe in Democratic principles and say so, or those who are Republican-lite or pretend to be so.


If Kucinich is not your cup of tea, Senator Kerry has a great base of experience and a wonderful track record, except for that vote authorizing the war. But in any case, vote ó and vote your conscience. Afterward we can all rally behind whoever does get nominated.


Not as many voting places are open this time. You can find where to vote by calling the County Recorderís office at 771-3248, or log on at www.co.yavapai.az.us/services/ElectionPrecinct/ElectionPrecinctSearch.asp.