Dear Mr. President,
In Arizona, a Republican candidate has taken to recruiting homeless men to run as Green Party candidates in hopes they will attract votes away from the Democrats they run against. This seems to be pretty low, even for the GOP. I'm generally in favor of third-party candidates, but not when it requires the exploitation of vulnerable populations. If these homeless men really wanted to run for office as members of the Green Party then I have no cause for objection to this and neither does any one else. Somehow I doubt that the anti-tax candidate for State Senate who calles himself "Grandpa" and thinks we should have more God in the public school system is really emblematic of the Green Party platform.
I think what bothers me the most about this is that it plays on the ignorance of voters who see "Green Party" and look no further at a candidate's qualifications or policy positions. That this ploy might be successful undermines my faith in the voters (even in the State of Arizona,) and makes me even less hopeful for a unified and politically capable alternative to Democrats on the left. (I confess, I've long hoped that a viable third party might emerge, if only to make my conscience a little lighter on election day.)
Instead we get candidates like Goodspaceguy, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. I know that as the standard-bearer of the Democratic party, you have no obligation to worry about or cultivate a serious third party alternative, especially one that would take away voters on the left. But it is in your interest to protect yourself and other Democrats from a damaging third-party challenge, and the day will come when more serious candidates than Perot or even Goodpaceguy will emerge. Unifying the liberal base of the Democratic party can only be done by allowing us to be represented in the party's mainstream. Until that happens, tricks like the one in Arizona will continue to be effective. Not because the left is stupid and uninformed, but because we are so tired of voting for the cowardly centrists who lay claim to our loyalty on the mere basis of being the lesser of two evils. Real progressive candidates with serious credentials and gravitas will make their way onto the ballot one way or another, Mr. President; Democrats need to decide now if, when that day comes, they'll be the ones running them, or if they'll be stuck running against them.