My Presidential Endorsement Strategy: Barack Obama, Ron Paul, and the Green Party

My Presidential Endorsement Strategy

by Okla Elliott

I have an odd dual endorsement this year for President. I am endorsing both Barack Obama and Ron Paul. Wait a minute, you might be saying, how can you endorse two candidates for President? Here’s how: I am endorsing Ron Paul for the Republican nomination and then endorsing Barack Obama for the general election.

I have been an open critic of many of Obama’s policies, but right now, I am much happier with him as President than with Romney or Santorum. I am not, however, happy merely to have more of the same discussion in this country. I want a real debate on our foreign policy. I want a real debate on our civil liberties. On our drug laws. On our money policy. On our foreign aid policy. And so on. If Obama is debating Romney or Santorum, these will not be the issues of the day. It will be more of the same old tired nonsense we hear every election year.

But wait a minute, you might be saying again, what if Ron Paul actually wins? First off, I do not think any of the Republican candidates can beat Obama, but Ron Paul pretty much guarantees that Obama will be re-elected, because Ron Paul is simply too radical for Americans to elect, too old (a problem that hurt McCain in 2008), and simply too wacky on too many issues (like returning to the gold standard in the 21st century). So, not only will Ron Paul not win the general election, he’ll guarantee an Obama victory. But this way, we would get to have a national debate about cutting our military spending, ending our needless wars overseas, repealing the Patriot Act, revising our draconian drug laws, and so on, but we won’t actually end up with a libertarian guy who would close public schools and deregulate everything from lead paint to carbon monoxide emissions.

With the way the economy is (slightly) improving and with the mess the Republican Party has made of itself so far this election cycle, I think Obama can and will beat whichever Republican candidate happens to win the primaries. But if Ron Paul wins the nomination—which he could do, given the proportional delegate distribution the Republican Party is doing this year—then we would get to have a real debate about real issues in this country, instead of pretending things like the Patriot Act are fine and noble, which is exactly what we’ll get if Obama and Santorum are the nominees (since both voted for the Patriot Act and have defended it). And perhaps hearing Ron Paul denounce American militarism abroad and civil rights infringements at home will allow Obama to adopt some of those measures while retaining his willingness to protect the environment, improve our healthcare system, and fund public schools, etc. Minimally, it will make those issues part of the national discussion, which we desperately need.

And so, I am making a call for all progressives and independents to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries, and then to vote for Barack Obama in the general election. It’s a strange strategy, I know, but I think it is one that could yield the greatest results for the country’s political discourse and future.

But since the Green Party is the only political party in the US I truly agree with, I am only suggesting that progressives vote for Obama in the swing states in the general election. Being in Illinois, which Obama will win handsomely (20-25%), I will vote for Ron Paul during the GOP primary and then will vote Green Party for the general election, with a smattering of Democrats and Green Party candidates for the other races. Were I in Ohio, however, I would vote Ron Paul and then Obama. This seems like the right mixture of idealism and practical voting for this year. (In 2008, I was living in Ohio, but since it was clear to any sane person that Obama was going to dominate that election, I voted Nader/Gonzalez for the Presidential ticket and mostly Democrats [and no Republicans] for the remaining races. In short, I believe our voting strategies change election to election, state to state, and candidate to candidate. My above proposal for a progressive 2012 voting strategy is not to be considered a universal rule, but rather my choice of action based on my assessment of the current situation.)

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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3 Responses to My Presidential Endorsement Strategy: Barack Obama, Ron Paul, and the Green Party

  1. George Conn says:

    I like your thinking here, and I fully uphold this strategy. However, I have to question whether it will achieve the ends you want in quite the way that you hope. A serious Paul candidacy would certainly make “American militarism abroad and civil rights infringements at home” “part of the national discussion”—more so than they are now, at least. But to foresee, thereby, a kind of Paul-ward tilt in the Democrat platform is far too much.

    We can see already, in the fight among the GOP candidates, why this wouldn’t happen. Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich do not fend off the Ron Paul threat by co-opting some of his message; it’s not 1892, and they’re not Bryan drawing votes away from the Populists. They don’t engage with him critically on a policy level; they simply call him nuts—almost literally call him nuts—and move on. Is unconditional military aid to a nuclear-armed foreign country that doesn’t share intelligence with us such a wise idea? Why would a candidate entangle himself in this question, when a much cheaper solution, politically, is to say that Paul systemically avoids reality (Gingrich) or that he represents the Dennis Kucinich wing of the GOP (Santorum)?

    It’s hard to imagine Obama being quite as personally dismissive when running against Paul, since being an asshole is just not his style politically. But it’s even harder to imagine him budging even slightly on the PATRIOT Act or especially Middle East policy. (He already cannot bow to the feet of AIPAC enough to dispel the deep suspicions of that his middle name arouses.) Whether Obama would wield it himself or simply delegate it to others, the abusive ad hominem will always be the weapon of choice against Ron Paul.

    • Okla Elliott says:

      In 2008, we saw Obama cynically take on the McCain/Palin idea of offshore drilling, which he adamantly denounced early on. We also saw him switch from railing against the telecom immunity bill and then voting for it, once sufficient political expediency was attached to it. And this occurred on a handful of issues, where he took the GOP idea in order to take their votes, so he is not above taking ideas from his opponents. Do I think Obama would ever take up Paul’s position on all of the above-mentioned matters? Of course not. But what I do think is that if the national mood turns enough against things like the PATRIOT Act, then Obama might see the wisdom in overturning it, or perhaps other politicians who want votes from the anti-PATRIOT Act voting bloc might — either outcome being superior to our current situation.

      There is never a perfect guarantee that altering the national discussion will result in immediate changes of policy, but it often does. Try to think of any candidate running on a platform supporting racial segregation. It’s unthinkable today, and that’s entirely because the national discourse would never allow it. If we have any hope at all of getting to a place where things like the PATRIOT Act are considered untenable for any politician to uphold, then we first have to make it part of the national discourse.

      Is success guaranteed? Of course not. But neither is failure. And so, my proposed course of action strikes me as the one dictated by a game theory analysis of the situation. If it’s Obama and Romney (or Santorum), there is zero chance this would be part of the national debate, and thus zero chance of the policy being changed by the presidential election. If it’s Obama and Paul, then there is some chance this could happen, and thus the only rational choice is to support the strategy I outline here.

  2. Sherrod Brown is the only Democrat I can vote for in the upcoming election without reservations.

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