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The major candidates offer minor incentives

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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 7, 2000

My apologies to the young woman who approached me a couple of months ago during a concert at Skipper's Smokehouse.

You see, I had just gone to hear the music, because I am a big fan of blues singer Shana Smith and folksinger James Hawkins, who were performing, and hadn't known that the concert was actually a political rally.

So, after meeting a handful of candidates and having literature thrust into my hands urging me to stop growth, save our springs, save our aquifers and save Life as We Know It, I was not as polite as I should have been when she came up and asked me if I wanted to see some Ralph Nader literature.

"No," I answered.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

I replied that I knew everything I needed to know about Nader, and she went away.

And I thought I did.

And, as usual when I think I know everything about something, I was wrong.

And I hope she will partially forgive my rudeness when I tell her that I broke my intention to vote for NOBODY in this presidential election, and voted for her candidate.

What bothers me about third party candidates is that they almost always wind up actually aiding and representing someone whose values are 100 percent opposite of their own.

It works this way.

Nader, a liberal with what I consider a healthy disrespect for big business and entrenched political hacks, automatically siphons traditional Democrat votes away from Gore.

People like Buchanan siphon the extreme right votes, many of which would traditionally have gone to Bush.

So if I, who would tend to vote for Gore and his please-everyone gallop to the center (and I am sure he invented the center and knows a little girl in Oshkosh who depends heavily on the center for her life), instead vote for Nader, I am actually, some say, casting a vote for Bush.

And I guess the same applies to Bush-inclined voters who, as I did with Gore, find it physically impossible to hold their noses and vote at the same time, and vote for Buchanan, thereby aiding Gore.

You know what?

I don't care.

If either candidate sought to so homogenize, so capsulize, so cynically plot his sound-bite campaign that I can't overcome my nausea to vote for him -- tough.

If I thought there was more than a dime's worth of difference between them, it might matter more, but I am weary to the bone of having to choose between spoiled scions of wealthy families whose predominant skill is the ability to speak doubletalk until nobody is sure what they believe about anything.

At a recent speaking engagement a man in the back row, hearing of my intent to vote only in local and not in national races, reminded me that we both have seen what happens in countries where the vote isn't exercised, and begged me to vote for someone.

I was reminded of the election a few years back where my friends from the National Organization for Women begged me to vote against someone.

But the young woman (actually my embarrassment at my treatment of her) at the concert, and the gentleman at the speaking engagement in Beacon Woods, continued to nag at my conscience, right up to going into the voting box.

And the night before I voted (I did so before my recent trip out of the country), I saw a brief television interview with Nader and heard the first straight, presidential-sounding talk I have heard in six months.

So, knowing he has no chance to win, knowing that my action works to the advantage of the man I would normally have voted against, I voted for him.

If Al Gore didn't want my vote enough to come after it with straight (and even occasionally truthful) talk, then as far as I'm concerned he deserves a one-way ticket back to Tennessee.

No, this isn't any attempt to convince you to switch your vote.

I don't flatter myself to think that I could, and this newspaper recommended a different candidate than the one for whom I voted. (I don't think that's a big deal either. If newspapers had any influence, George McGovern would have been elected in 1972, but it's okay, Nixon worked out fine . . . tee hee.)

If you were able to make any sense out of anything the two bozos in the forefront said, then vote your conscience.

If you didn't bother to try, then democracy will triumph anyway, and we will, as usual, get the government we deserve.

By the way, vacation was great, but returning, now that the election is almost over with, is just about as great.

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