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Concurring Opinion: Vote Carter A Painfully Narrow Set of Options by Chandler Davidson “The Democratic Party is one of privilege and special interest, living off the bounty of the federal government. It’s the Democratic Party supporters who are on the receiving end of everything from food stamps to government jobs, all paid for by hard-working taxpayers . . . The Republican Party is the party of producers and working people of this country.” John Connally at the 1980 National Republican convention. “Most Republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight these leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women. You know, very few of us are that gullible.” Sen. Edward Kennedy quoting FDR at the 1980 National Democratic convention Barring improbabilities, one of two men will be elected president as a result of the November election: Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. This is true even if the contest is thrown into the House of Representatives. So the question of who reduces very simply to this: Who do you want in the White House next January. Carter . . . or Reagan? Progressives, liberals, and moderates therefore have a painfully narrow set of options Nov. 4. They can vote for Carter. Or they can help elect Reagan. There is no third option. There are simply various ways of helping elect Reagan. The most straightforward one is to vote for him. Another is to vote for a third-party candidate. Or one can refuse to vote. All of these actions will help put Reagan over the top. Chandler Davidson is a contributing editor of The Texas Observer. This is not big news, but I belabor the point because otherwise astute people still talk as though John Anderson had a chance. Of course, in a strictly mathematical sense he does. But it isn’t great enough to risk electing Reagan by voting for Anderson, whose true practical chances are exceedingly remote. Actually, there are three currently fashionable arguments that some progressives and moderates advance against voting for Carter. The first is that Anderson does have a fighting chance, and he is so superior to Carter that the risk of electing Reagan by voting for Anderson is worth it. The second is that Anderson does not have a chance, but either voting for him or “going fishing” will lead to reforms in the Democratic Party or in the nominating system generally. The third argument, most often espoused by those who do not plan to vote at all, is that Reagan, if elected, will simply play Tweedle Dum to Carter’s Tweedle Dee. If you’ve seen one major-party candidate, you’ve seen ’em all, as Gerald Ford once remarked about slums. Each of these arguments deserves scrutiny. To begin, what kind of chance does Anderson have? It is a fact that a thirdparty candidate has never won the presidency since the present two-party system was established in the middle of the 19th Century. It is a fact that the last third-party candidate to win as much as 17% of the popular vote was Robert LaFollette in 1924. But times change. So what about John Anderson in the fall of 1980? Just six weeks before the election, he was showing about 13 percent in the polls. But a CBS-New York Times poll taken after the televised debate that was supposed to have established him as a serious candidate showed his overall support had dropped to nine percent and voters who watched the debate said they developed stronger negative feelings about him. But is he so superior in his campaign stances that a progressive voter, as a matter of conscience, should back him even at these long odds? New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis recently observed that Anderson is running against most of his record as a congressman, his years of conservative voting. He has recently moved toward the center, but when the shift comes so soon after the announcement of candidacy, is it the result of sincerity or tactics? In Anderson’s case, it is probably both. As a Republican from Illinois’ 16th District, he came out openly against Nixon’s broad view of executive privilege early in the Watergate crisis. He was on Nixon’s back before many Democrats. Yet, while acknowledging Anderson’s courage and decency on this and various other issues, the authors of the Almanac of American Politics went on to say in the 1978 edition that “Anderson is very definitely a Republican, not a Democrat in disguise. He believes that Republican economic policies are sounder and better for the nation in the long run, that the defense budget should remain high or be raised even higher, that the federal government is too big and remote and clumsy and should be cut back.” Anderson once backed the KempRoth 30 percent tax-reduction bill, although during his campaign he has criticized Reagan for supporting it. He was strong for nuclear power until last year, although he now advocates extreme caution in further nuclear licensing. He has a terrible labor record. AFLCIO leaders did not even discuss him during their recent endorsement meeting. His rating by the National Association of Businessmen was consistently high. In 1976 he scored 80 out of a possible 100 points. \(Republican Bill Archer of Houston scored 91; Henry B. GonBefore his support began to crumble this summer, his big donors included the Rockefellers and other “modernate” Republicans such as Robert Anderson, chairman of Atlantic Richfield oil company, who has now switched to Reagan. Looked at closely and unsentimenTHE TEXAS OBSERVER 3