Posted tagged ‘Blackfeet’

ColorsNW Exclusive – GYASI ROSS – Election and Obama

February 4, 2008


False Choices: Electable vs. Good

by Gyasi Ross / ColorsNW Contributing Blogger

I’ve got freakin’ anger issues when it comes to this election game! More on that later, but suffice it to say that I’m sick and tired of getting to the voting booth and being required to choose between a) the electable (is that even a word??) candidate, or b) the good candidate. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve always chosen the good candidate, but that’d be a lie. Instead, I give in to the emotional/sentimental blackmail that our beloved Democratic candidates inevitably employ. It sounds something like this:

Electable Candidate: “This is the most important election ever. Even though I’m a crappy candidate, I’m our best shot to get rid of blah, blah, blah.”

Silly Voters Like Me: “Gee, you’re right. I should not vote for the person I want. What was I thinking?”

Inspiring, right? In 2008, however, I think that I may be able to choose an electable candidate that is actually good. His name? Obama.

In any primary election, there is the electable/practical choice for the bid, and the idealistic/good choice for the bid. The practical choice is unsexy, but kinda safe; close to what we want, but not really. Think of the practical choice as Diet Pepsi—it’ll do if we just want sugary fizz, but as Ray Charles clearly saw, “ain’t nothing like the right thing, baby!”

Uh, huh.

Obviously then, if the so-called electable candidate is Diet Pepsi, then the good candidate is Pepsi, or maybe even Pepsi Max. It tastes so good going down, but you know there has to be a catch. In elections that “catch” is that the good candidate doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Cabo of getting elected. Consequently, the electable candidate emphasizes the good candidate’s unelectability and promises to give a whole lot of almost-real-thing in exchange for your vote.

Just like drinking Diet Pepsi, however, downgrading to the electable candidate leaves a nasty aftertaste in your mouth. If you’re anything like me, you’ll kick yourself after doing it. Hence, we’re back to where we started; my bitterness and anger at this election process.

I can’t lie—I’ve done it before. For example, in 2004 John Kerry was the practical choice, but not a good candidate. Now, I take some solace in the fact that Kerry is supporting Obama in 2008—good choice. Still, even that didn’t justify his candidacy as a Senator who initially supported the War in Iraq and later attempted to bring his vote more in line with Howard Dean and the political left. If I would’ve voted my conscience, I would’ve voted for Dennis Kucinich. Granted, Kucinich’s presidential campaigns are destined to go down in gasoline-boxered flames; still, the man has a message, and isn’t that what elections are about? But like many others, Diet Pepsi was sadly sufficient in 2004.

I resolved, however, never to vote for a candidate merely because of that candidate’s electability again. Instead, I want the real thing—a genuinely good candidate that I could feel good about. If that means that I have to vote for myself as a write-in candidate, and as a result the electable candidate loses by one vote, and everyone hates me like Chicago hates Steve Bartman…so be it. My conscience will be clear.

This year, however, I may not have to result to such drastic measures. The reason why? I actually like, respect and admire Obama. He is a messenger of hope; he has openly been opposed to the Iraq War since its illegitimate genesis, and has always promoted accessible and high-quality health care since his days in Illinois Legislature. As a Native, I admire that Obama has made it a priority to articulate a coherent stance on the trust relationship that the U.S. has with Natives. Further, Obama—with an unlikely win in Iowa and a near-win in Clinton’s firewall state, New Hampshire—is well-positioned to be the next president of the United States. In a word, he’s “electable”. And good. Together. Imagine that.

As Ray Charles so eloquently said, “ain’t nothing like the right thing, baby.” I plan to vote for Obama because he is—at long last— the real thing.

Gyasi Ross is from the Blackfeet and Suquamish Reservations, and is a Columbia Law School grad. He writes regularly for several publications in the country. He has worked with several tribes in various capacities and has a special interest in reconciling traditional lifestyles and contemporary economic development.

Interested in being a ColorsNW Contributing Blogger? Email Editor Naomi Ishisaka at for more information.