Personal Voices: The Missing Candidates

A few weeks ago the U.S. was inundated with coverage of the Iraqi so-called elections. Everybody rushed off to vote for the one candidate -- Saddam. Surprise, he won. The stories were somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and they laughed it up on CNN how they don't have any democracy in Iraq, and how much better off we are, by contrast.

Too bad, when I go to the polls Tuesday, the Virginia ballot will look pretty much the same.

Surely I jest? This is American democracy in action: Instead of complaining I should be out registering people to vote. If I want an alternative to my representatives, I should not only vote against them, but I should collect others to do the same!

Possibly. Trouble is both the major races on the ballot in my congressional district are virtually unopposed.

First, there is Republican Senator John Warner. Pro-war. Stands for just about everything I don't want. Not a month ago I sat in his office and listened to a smug 22-year-old Senate aid tell me that war with Iraq wouldn't be so bad after all, and who cares if they're getting calls 4 to 1 against the war; damn their constituents, full speed ahead. Besides, it's only poor folks in the military who will get blown away, after all.

I went searching for an alternative. Who is the Democrat in this race? There is none. No one, zilch, zippo. The Democratic party couldn't come up with a single candidate to go up against the four-term senator from Virginia. I suppose I could always vote for Nancy Spannaus, whose website includes a nice photo of Lyndon LaRouche. Or Jacob Hornberger, also an independent. Both are underfunded, no chance to win candidates, so once again, I'll throw away my vote.

Maybe in the Congressional elections? I've been itching to get rid of Tom Davis ever since his pals (campaign contributors) in the boardroom at Teligent fired all my friends with no severance pay, a year before anyone could say Enron. Funny they had money to donate to Davis but not enough to pay their employees. Davis is the Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and has no problem with hundreds of thousands of foreigners dying so long as we get cheap access to their oil in the process. In short, he's not my guy.

Alas, once again, there is no Democrat even on the ballot. The only opponent is some guy in Centreville from the Constitution Action Party (http://www.frankcreel.org/). He points out that the Democrats didn't field a candidate against Davis because their positions would hardly differ anyway. He's got a chance.

Over the years I've called and visited both offices on a few issues, and have learned something important: Although I am a constituent, a citizen and a voter, I'm not important enough, or didn't donate enough money, to merit their interest.

With Davis and Warner, northern Virginia can be just like Iraq: pro-war "candidates" beholden to no one except ultra-conservative extremists and defense contractors with lots of cash.

Sadly, if you listen to the pundits and CNN, there are hardly any elections of any interest anywhere in the United States. Everyone is too far ahead or too far behind in the polls, so it's already been decided. In extreme cases -- like here -- they were so far behind they didn't even bother to run. Sad.

Just like the voters in Mosul and Basra, I'll show up and cast my vote. At least we've got some very important ballot initiatives to make it worth the drive. If nothing else, voting for third-party candidates will send the message that at least some people out there are looking for an alternative. I'm not a Democrat and I tend to vote on a candidate by candidate basis. But a realistic choice would be nice, wouldn't it?

We have a 200-year-old democratic tradition and freedom to cast our vote for any candidate. For the voters of Iraq, their lack of choice is enforced by a dictator and his army. They've only got one candidate on the ballot because they live in a dictatorship. So what's our excuse?

Charles Sheehan-Miles is a decorated Gulf War combat veteran and the author of "Prayer at Rumayla" (XLibris, 2001). He is a former president of the National Gulf War Resource Center.

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