As a rule, the most unseemly thing about any presidential candidate is his desire to be president. How is it that making zillions in private equity isn't enough? How was it that the ruling over an entire American state did not quench your thirst for power? What insatiable impulse drives your dark ambition to reign over the richest nation on earth? Surely the person put in charge of the sentient drone army should not display a naked desperation for dominance. Surely the answer to this yearning for power isn’t nomination but therapy.
We are all enablers in the illness of presidential ambition. And yet, in the absence of a Hunger Games-style presidential lottery, it seems we are stuck electing presidents who aspire to be president. The best we might do is to vote for the long shots, the leftovers, the bullied and neglected and forgotten. There is something less offensive about a person who runs for an office he can’t hope to win; we know, at least that it will stop there, whereas we don’t know that after Obama finishes his second term he won’t try to conquer space and start a universal world government.
There are other, less bizarre reasons to vote for the hopeless outlier. In a much-discussed piece, my friend Conor Friedersdorf outlines Obama’s tilt rightward, from torture to the kill list to warrantless spying, and concludes that he’ll be casting a vote for no-shot Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Conor’s post, which has been shared 171,000 times on Facebook (and what’s more impressive, 77 times on LinkedIn), has been criticized for promoting a path that might in the end help Mitt Romney, thus supporting what (by Conor’s standards) might be the eviler of two evils. This was the not-entirely-implausible argument also lobbed at Nader voters in 2000. But unless you’re in a swing state or district, it hardly matters. Which is why you might consider casting your ballot for the quite likable Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. She’s got some unconventional opinions, a nice web site, and a winsome dimple. She says things like “All industries need to be nationalized in order to build a socialist planned economy” and “Socialism can only be achieved through the rise of a mass, revolutionary workers movement that overturns the capitalist system.”
While this doesn’t necessarily track my own impulses, and I might question the claim that Cuba is “a society that is organized to meet human needs,” talk of Marxist revolution conjures an alternative world in which candidates have differences of opinion larger than, say, whether we as a society need one or two border forces. One can imagine Peta debating some sort of anarchist and/or monarchist about how best to spark the revolution that will remake the formerly free world, which would be a lot more stimulating for, say, people charged with blogging about elections than Wednesday night's debate will be.
And the best thing about Peta Lindsay is that at 28, even in the event of a massive public opinion shift toward Marxist-Leninist political theory and some unknown concurrent event in which the people who live in the 38 states in which she is not on the ballot stay home November 6th, she can’t be president. I find this immensely appealing in a candidate.
Vote for Peta. It’s totally hopeless.