So, I went to hear Ralph Nader speak at Columbia College today. He's kicking off his Illinois campaign, and this is his first appearance in the state.
I was the Illinois manager for the Nader campaign in 2000, and I'm not a supporter of the Nader 2004 campaign. That's the background.
The place was filled with 200 or so mostly young, mostly white people. And this is a crowd that represents 1 to 5 percent of the Democratic Party coalition. John Kerry -- or any centrist presidential candidate -- will not bring these people out to vote. These people (many of them first-time voters) need an unalloyed candidate who doesn't seem part of the establishment to inspire them to participate. They need a candidate who can call for President Bush's impeachment for an "unconstitutionally-authorized war based on untruths" in order to register to vote and feel that they aren't selling out.
Of course, the tension is that Kerry is better than Bush for these people, but many of them won't vote for Kerry.
That's where instant runoff voting comes in. Voters get a first-choice and a second-choice.
The crusading candidate can inspire and energize voters, who then give their second-choices to the better ccentrist candidate.
Plus, it's great for a civic culture to have more voices and more choices. Too many topics are taboo in our political discourse. One young bearded radical asked Ralph about Israel-Palestine: whether as President he would cut off economic aid to Israel and whether he would back the "racist two-state solution." Ralph said that he would do both of these things and then mentioned that in Israel, there's more freedom to discuss U.S. policy towards Israel and especially the economic aid we provide than there is in the United States.
I think that's true -- it's a taboo to talk about Israel in anything less than a solidarity song. But it raises another point: more choices help raise more issues, and as democrats, we all should like that. That helps to inform and articulate the public will.