Reading the tone of the blogosphere, it might be useful to take a quick look at the choice faced by those who take issue with John McCain's position on immigration, Alaskan oil, campaign finance reform, health care, or a number of other issues, while passing over his record on national security, government spending, and clean government.
First, the recent history. The Left will have to deal again with Ralph Nader, who received 2.7% of the vote in 2000 to help elect George W. Bush. In his candidacies in 1996 and 2004, Nader averaged 575,000 votes (.5%), but will probably not do as well this time around, given Obamamania. In 1992, Ross Perot's 18.9% (and a broken tax pledge) helped greatly to defeat George H.W.Bush, and elect Bill Clinton. This time around, the Libertarian party of Bob Barr, the defeated Georgia Congressman, may draw better than their five-election average of 400,000 votes (.4%), particularly if they can capture some of the fans of Ron Paul, who ran as the Libertarian candidate in 1988. That may be enough to cost McCain a state or two.
What is notable in these votes is that they are overwhelmingly a vote against something, not a positive vote for something. Unlike many parlimentary systems, we do not have proportional representation, so the potential for splinter candidates to achieve office falls outside the 19th century admonition of Count Otto Von Bismarck of Prussia that "politics is the art of the possible." (He also observed that when someone says he supports something in principle, he will not support it in practice, but that is a story for another day.) Nevertheless, like weebles at a carnival, quixotic candidates with support of less than 1% of the voters keep bouncing up. Why?
For the candidates, it is mostly about ego. But what about the voters?
For some, it is emotional - a chance to strike at the people who should have known better, but have betrayed them. Hopefully, there will be enough time for these people to go through the five stages of grieving, and to act rationally.
For a second group, it is a chance to make a statement, in the hope that somebody who can do something will be listening. The non-reformation of the Republicans after Perot, and the Democrats after Nader, do not offer much encouragement.
For a third group, there is a hope that by falling hard enough there will be a cleansing, and the revived party will have found its way. If Obama wins, there will certainly be a catharsis for conservatives, with Nancy Peloi in the House, and Harry Reid in the Senate. And in the 20th century, these cycles were decades long.
So, what is one to do? Draw a little chart, with a list of your issues down the left side and columns for McCain and Obama. Look at the McCain and Obama web sites (add Barr or Nader if you wish) to see what they say their policies are. Become informed from the internet, newspapers, TV, radio, and conversation. And become energized by the positives - I am sure that for most moderates and conservatives McCain will win on the substance. But, he will need every vote.
Among the recent best from YouTube: Dan Quayle's "potatoe", the sequel.