Saturday, November 8, 2003

Should felons be allowed to vote?
It isn't very often that you get a revelation from reading an article but it happened to me this morning. The cover story in this week's edition of The Nation is about felons losing the right to vote: ["The Last Disenfranchised Class"]. I have always been against felons having the right to vote. I even voted against a measure in Massachusetts in 2000 that would have changed the law allowing felons to vote, much to the chagrin of my liberal friends [I will never forget the heated argument Ben Geman, the former political reporter for the Boston Phoenix, and I got into about the issue at a post-campaign Nader party in Boston].
My reasoning has always been if you commit such a heinous crime as a felony, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.
However, after reading this article, I have to change my position. Since I am against the drug war and since I believe in decrimilization of some drug use, how can I support a policy to keeps people who have served their sentences from voting? Now, the article describes an interesting case of a Republican New York woman who made a very bad decision in an extenuating circumstances. Tons of people make one bad decision. But should this one bad decision keep people from exercising their God-given rights to vote, especially after they have served their sentences?

Nader redux?
The disenfranchisement article originally caught my eye this morning because I started reading the latest Micah Sifry piece on an approaching Ralph Nader 2004 campaign: ["Ralph Redux?"]. I am one of those Nader people who is undecided on what to do in 2004 [Full disclosure: I was Nader's New Hampshire coordinator in 2000]. I have been thinking about this for the last year or so and admittedly have been extremely worried about a second term of George W. Bush's reckless domestic and foreign policy. Frankly, in supporting Nader, I was never worried about Bush winning. I never thought he would turn out this way. I thought he would be more like his father was and more bipartisan, the way he governed Texas.
I thought wrong.
However, the issue of what the Greens do comes back to what the Democrats do. The Greens - not unlike the Libertarians - are a political party. They have every right to run their own candidates and should, safe states or not. Yes, the nation is in perilous danger. John Rosenbrink said it best in the Sifry piece:
"People ... are very focused on stopping the right-wing cabal that has taken over the country. Therefore, the focus has to be on defeating Bush. Beyond that, the Green Party needs to project a sense of urgency around saving the country, saving the Constitution, saving the planet."
But, political parties can do what they want to. And the Democrats have not yet given the Greens any reason to drop everything and support them. Nader said it best in 2000: Al Gore has to earn our votes. The Democrats have to earn our votes. Yes, the other guy is evil, but the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don't know. We don't know who the Democrat nominee will be yet. So can we really wait for them to choose before the Greens and to a lesser extent the Libertarians nominate their candidates? No. Parties should be able to do what they want.
But back to the main point: Have the Democrats shared any power with the Greens in an effort to woe them? No. Have the implemented Instant Runoff Voting in any of the states they control in an effort to make sure that Democrats win with Green #2 votes? No. The Democrats haven't done anything to improve relationships with Greens.
In fact, everything the Democrats are doing is almost all negative. They've continued the "spoiler" name calling. They have infiltrated groups, discussion meetings, and Internet chats about what the Greens should do and turned them into unproductive attacks on Nader and not on what the Democrats have done to become losers or what the two parties could do to defeat the Republicans. Some Democrats have even directly made personal attacks - publicly and privately - against Nader and Green supporters for what happened in 2000 instead of looking inward or making changes to the system.
These actions have done nothing to improve the political dialogue and the Democrats are no closer to getting Green support than they were in the late stages of 2000. If the Democrats don't get it together they will surely be doomed.

The latest poll numbers
Yesterday, Quinnipiac University released its latest poll from New York showing a very tight primary race: Joe Lieberman has 17 percent, Howard Dean has 15 percent, Wesley Clark has 12 percent, with the Rev. Al Sharpton and John Kerry tied with 11 percent. Dick Gephardt has 9 percent.
On Thursday, American Research Group released another New Hampshire poll showing Dean running away with it: Dean at 38 percent, Kerry at 24 percent, with Clark, Edwards, and Lieberman at 4 percent, and Gephardt and Carol Moseley Braun at 3 percent.