Sparking this train of thought: Michael Badnarik's Operation American Freedom
That's the name of his campaign for President, of course. Interesting. He's against the war in Iraq. Against gun control. Against the Patriot Act. Against Massive Spending. Pretty interesting stuff, could pull from either side. It will be interesting to see how much support he picks up, and how it compares to the Ghostly figure that is Ralph Nader.
I don't use that term pejoratively, mind. I really think Nader is the essance of a polical Ghost (a haunting figure that comes back to nag you for what you done wrong), just like Kerry is kind of a Zombie (once lively, then poisoned, now monotonous) and Bush is kind of a Skeleton (fierce, easily duped, possibly under the control of some unseen Wizard or Cheney/Rummy/Rove).
Necro-analogies aside, Badnarik's campaign is a good example of how third parties build support, by taking stances that feelright, no matter how politically feasible they are. That kind of purity is appealing, even magnetic.
I'm still obsessed with Ross Perot, and how he almost got to be president -- crazy, werid looking dude that he was -- simply by going on TV for long stretches of time and explaining shit. I don't know if he had a hidden agenda. I tend to think he was simply power-hungry; but the way he went about doing it, seriously trying to interest people in the long-term economic health of the country, speaks of a rather high view of humanity.
The Anarchists also exhibit this. I disagree with some of their actions even as I agree with many of their ideals, but I will say this without hesitation: Anarchists have a great reguard for the potential of human beings to be amazing creatures. It's almost Ryndian, the "heroic conception of mankind."
And for me it is precisely here where most Republicans and Democrats come up short. They're shepards, not leaders, and the worst kind at that: those with no respect for their flock. Their consistent (mis)underestimation of the intelligence of the non-political class will be their undoing.
How and when that happens, and whether it involves the parties changing their names (breaking up and reforming, as opposed to simply undergoing robust organizational renewal) is a matter for history to decide, as is the efficacy of inside infiltrators vs. outside agetators. For me and the radicals -- e.g. the people I blogged about below -- we're somewhat in competition with each other for who fixes things first, but it's important to remember we're often after the same things.
That being said, if you don't vote, or you vote for a third party this year in a national election, you're basically wasting your time, shouting into the maelstrom. If you want to make a splash, you've got to start organizing, evangelizing and institution-building. If you're not that serious, vote for fucking Kerry, ok? Boycotting only works when the system needs you (it doesn't), and the number of votes doesn't matter for any of the fringe candidates; no one's future is made by being a spoiler. All that matters for any radical or long-term cause is what organization is built and can be maintained for future use.
So do it. Organize, evangelize, institution-build, but build something that will last; but pull the lever to eject Bush, and then get ready to rumble with Big John.