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  • Nov 20 / 2008
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Jimmy Carter’s Legacy

Nicaragua . . . wants to eliminate American economic, political, cultural, and strategic influence from the hemisphere. The space left by the U.S. will be occupied by countries like Iran, Russia, and China. — Luis Fleischman, Center for Security Policy

My two eldest daughters both got to vote in a presidential election for the first time this year — one had recently turned 18, the other 21. The older was exasperated that she had had to wait three years to participate in this ritual, and disgusted by the candidates she had to choose between when she finally got her chance.

I know exactly how she felt. I turned 18 in 1974 and had to wait two years to vote in a presidential election, only to have a choice between the bumbling Jerry Ford and the unknown but grating Jimmy Carter. I sat out the 1976 election, lived to regret it, and enthusiastically cast my first vote for president in 1980, at the ripe age of 24, for Ronald Reagan. Thirty years later, we’re still suffering the consequences of Carter’s single term and his insane encouragement of revolution in Latin America and the Mideast! Of course, in the absence of Carter’s disastrous domestic and foreign policies, Reagan might never have been president; nevertheless, if I had it to do over again, I would hold my nose and vote for Ford.

The only time I ever voted for a third-party candidate was in 1988, the year I covered the Democratic and Republican conventions for the news magazine I edited. I was living in the Boston area at the time, familiar with Michael Dukakis, and confident that he had no chance of winning. So, to express my disapproval for George H.W. Bush, who had made clear his contempt for the Reagan Revolution and his determination to steer a different course, I cast my ballot for Ron Paul. That, I have never regretted. I did vote for Papa Bush in 1992, however, when Ross Perot was siphoning off enough of his support to throw the election to Bill Clinton, which he did — to our country’s everlasting shame.

In several of the elections since, including this year’s, I have had heated discussions with self-avowed conservatives who expressed a determination to vote for a third-party candidate. Having once cast a protest vote myself, I am certainly sympathetic to the temptation (though not to the sanctimonious self-righteousness with which they announce their decision); but failing to vote for the lesser of two evils when the greater evil is likely to win as a result is, to my mind, just plain stupid.

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