Could vote-pairing put Kerry over the top?

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Oct. 25 2004 4:14 PM

The Return of Vote-Pairing

Vote-pairing nearly saved Al Gore in 2000. Could it give Kerry a decisive boost this year?

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One month ago, several veterans of 2000 launched VotePair.org, with the goals of ending the disastrous Bush presidency, propelling Kerry to victory in the swing states, showing respect rather than derision for the voice of third parties, and building a hopeful nationwide progressive alliance in a bitterly polarized polity. While more than 10,000 Democrats caught behind Republican lines in states like Utah and Texas have already joined VotePair and are happy to vote Nader to secure progressive votes in the swing states for Kerry, just a few thousand swing-state Nader and third-party sympathizers have signed up as partners so far.

The political dynamics are markedly different this year than in 2000, of course. With America's progressives focused like a laser-beam on ousting Bush and saving the Supreme Court, the pool of Nader-sympathetic progressives has already shrunk drastically. Yet, in a surprising twist, another group has stepped forward to offer hundreds of voters willing to pair: swing-state Libertarians appalled by the Orwellian, antichoice, antigay, and repressive policies of the budget-busting Bush administration. These voters want to declare for Kerry-Edwards and find progressives in closed states to vote for the Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik. In this intriguing new alignment, libertarian groups, among them Libertarians for America and the Democratic Freedom Caucus, are sending their supporters to VotePair.

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Still, the Nader-leaners offer a sizable and movable counterculture bloc, which is why influential folk-rockers Patty Larkin and Dar Williams are urging their swing-state fans who may still be pondering a Nader vote to check out the VotePair option. VotePair's final pitch to Nader sympathizers in swing states is to stress the terrible human costs abroad and at home of the Bush presidency and to oppose efforts to demonize Nader, whose prior remarkable contributions to American life should never be forgotten. The strategy is starting to pay off, not just with Nader's sympathizers—but with Nader himself. On Oct. 9, he appeared on C-Span and listened to a question from a caller who told him that she loved him but worried that voting for him "could allow George Bush to get into office." At that point, Nader directed progressives worried about a Bush victory to go to VotePair.Org, whose URL was put on the screen by C-Span. Then Nader emphasized that he was running hard—against President Bush. If Nader keeps sending swing-state followers to VotePair, we may all have to thank him for helping John Kerry end this dark period in our history.

Jamin Raskin is a professor of constitutional law and local-government law at American University's Washington College of Law.

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