This Strange Foreign Democracy

The more I dig into the U.S. presidential election, the more I must admit my ignorance of its mechanics and, at least, my sheer astonishment in front of this foreign conception of democracy (pun intended).

For example, saying that having judges naming president the guy who received the less popular votes is not how I feel an election should work in a democracy, is an understatement.

Just when I started to get some sense of the candidate selection process, caucuses etc. comes this polemic regarding Ralf Nader.

Cory Doctorow reports:

Ralph Nader is soliciting comments on whether he should run for the presidency this coming fall. Ralphdontrun is a site put together by "progressive Democrats and independents" urging Nader not to run on the grounds that he could act as a spoiler, handing another four years to Bush. They've put up a powerful and effective Flash movie stating this case, and they're urging the public to contact Nader and politely, forcefully urge him to not run.

In short, if Bush is where he is, it's Nader's fault. Lawrence Lessig thinks so too.

It just doesn't compute with me. Blame my ignorance of the political duopoly that reigns in America, I've been raised in a country where the multiparty system is as obvious and natural as it is to cast a paper bulletin in an election ballot.

On what democratic values is anyone entitled to ask someone else not to run for an election on the sole basis that it may influence the outcome unfavorably for another candidate? What does it tell about the respect some have for others voice? There are only five comments on Prof. Lessig's entry at the time of this writing, and already four are dissenting. To summarize one in particular that resonates with me: may voters who do not consider either of the major parties representative of their interests vote for a party that they believe does represent those interests, or should they merely accept their voicelessness, understand that they should expect nothing better, and cease to participate in the political process?

I myself do not play with dissenting vote to suddenly make a 180-degrees turnaround at the last moment and vote for the one I really think should get the job, but as much as I'd love to rewrite history for France just before April 21, 2002, and wish someone would have convinced Le Pen not to run, preventing someone who can legally run from running is more akin to countries like Iran than to democracies.

Campaigning to get your candidate elected by convincing people to vote for them seems a much better way forward, isn't it?