To Vote Your Gut or Hold Your Nose

Re: “The Practical Party: Or, why I won’t be voting my gut much next week” by Ben Joravsky, October 28

Ben, your reputation in this city is rooted, more than anything else, in your bravery. One of the reasons people feel they can count on you is because you have a track record of not backing down, of continuing to push and push and push so that the truth comes out.

For me and for many others, you have been the single most important voice in the city in taking on Richard Daley. You have ventured where other journalists wouldn’t dare. The respect you’ve built has been hard-earned and the debt of gratitude the city owes to you for your work over time is, in my opinion, immeasurable.

So for you to come out and announce that you’re going to cast votes based on fear—that’s a gray, blustery, sad day for the city of Chicago.

First, you’re implicitly saying that the Democrats should feel free to run the most abominable candidate they can find, so long as the Republican is still worse. It’s precisely that attitude which Rahm Emanuel seized upon as he engineered the increasing right-wing tilt of the Democratic Party. The result is that we have a horrific Democratic majority in Washington, led by people who wouldn’t even let single-payer health care be discussed, are actively defending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, threw billions of our tax dollars to “bail out” banks which are now just sitting on the cash soaking up interest, and much more. Of course, here in Illinois, we’ve long known what a horrific Democratic majority might look like, because King Michael Madigan is the one who continues to rule the state.

Second, since the Democrats are basically being encouraged to run to the center, the Republicans are being encouraged to run to the far right. Because it’s become easier for extremists to portray moderate Republicans as being “too close to the Democrats,” it’s that much easier for right-wing candidates to get bankrolled by fat cats like the Chamber of Commerce. And ultimately, since the right-leaning Democrats have a track record of giving business interests about as much as the Republicans anyway, it’s all win-win for them.

Third, you’re basically telling those of us who have tried to champion your positions to give it up. You’re saying that it’s more important to close some perceived ranks to defeat a perceived scourge like Bill Brady—a guy who’s been around Springfield for two decades and who knows that even as governor he’s got to kowtow to Mike Madigan—than it is to build a bona fide opposition to machine politics here in Chicago and across the state. You’re telling Madigan and his cronies that they really shouldn’t fear anything because when push comes to shove, even Ben Joravsky is going to buckle under the pressure. And if even Ben Joravsky is going to buckle under, then why should anyone else bother to keep fighting?

Look, Ben: Bill Brady was my state senator for years, and I assure you, the man is a hack who can’t break Illinois any more than it’s already broken. The real man to be feared is still Michael Madigan, because he’s the one who’s run our state into the ground. And a vote for Brady is the same as a vote for Quinn—it’s a vote for a man who’s not going to meaningfully stand up to the King.

A vote for Rich Whitney is different. It is the practical vote. Because when push comes to shove, it’s Madigan, not Daley, who is the real machine boss in this state. He’s speaker of the house, chair of the state Democratic Party, has his daughter in place as Attorney General, got the law fixed so that he could retain even more control over his legislators . . . the list goes on and on. And it’s the Greens—not the Republicans—who are taking the real electoral fight to Madigan. Even the Reader has underreported that we’re on the verge of knocking a couple of Madigan’s foot soldiers out. That’s a shame, because that’s the real simmering story of this election.

So, Ben, I prefer to regard your article here as you having had a momentary lapse of reason, not as you having thrown in the towel. I understand why you’re concerned about having a doofus like Bill Brady in the governor’s mansion. But we already have a doofus there in Pat Quinn. A vote for Quinn, like a vote for Brady, is a vote for more doofus. In a battle between machine and doofus, machine is always going to win. You surely know that better than anyone. After all, nobody has done more to shine a light on how so much of what passes for doofus in Chicago is machine in disguise. If anyone has ever earned a mulligan, it’s you. —Phil Huckelberry, Chair, Illinois Green Party

When your vote simply alternates between choosing the less odious of the big money approved candidates when the Republican is further right than normal and navel gazing about the importance of your aspirational vote when the Democrat is a safe bet to win, then your vote is wholly owned by the Democratic party. Only, ONLY, when progressives vote for an alternative even when it hurts, will a third party ever have a chance of becoming a winning party. Unless many millions of Americans can finally stick to voting their conscience will anything change. Being a dependable Democratic vote when the Republican candidate is tilting the race right will ALWAYS REINFORCE a rightward drift within the Democratic Party (as it has now for decades). I’ll be sticking with Whitney! —Jason Ward

As a Nader voter in 2000, I understand the frustration of the Green Party folks commenting here. But after the debacle in 2000, folks need to seriously consider whether we would even be in Iraq if Nader supporters in Florida had supported Gore instead.

I understand how badly we need to make government drastically more progressive, but until election reforms like IRV are in place, the right way to do that is by working your ass off within the Democratic party and in primary elections to find those good candidates and get them elected. And then to challenge them with even more progressive candidates in the next primary.

Sadly, supporting third parties in a system so biased toward only two rarely does anything but boost the candidate you like least. . . . Ultimately, in the short term, the actions of sell-out Democrats and Green Party supporters have the same result: lesser progressive policy than is otherwise possible. —wjmaggos