Susie and Sandy Make a Mistake

A reader, Dr. Peter Coppinger, wrote the following bedtime poem for his infant twins and emailed it to me.  It’s lovely.

“Susie and Sandy Make a Mistake.”

It was the first day of school and the children could vote,
On the lunchtime vegetable they wanted most.

Broccoli or beans were the only choice,
Then Susie and Sandy raised their loud voice.

“Beans are okay, but broccoli is terrible!

“We want a third choice on the lunchtime table!

“We’ll vote for carrots, yes, that’s what we’ll do!
“We’ll make a big point, even though we will lose.

The votes were counted until the day was done,
And to their dismay, the beans lost by one.

Now they were stuck eating broccoli all year,
The option that Susie and Sandy most feared.

“We voted our conscience!” they said standing tall.
Their friends said, “Whatever. You just fucked us all.”

Eat your heart out, Digital Cuttlefish.  Also, get out there and vote tomorrow!

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John-Henry Beck

    Technically I think they only fucked the half who preferred beans.
    Eh. I still really hate the lesser of two evils voting. Not that I have a better option than Obama anyway.

    Still, it also only would have taken a third or so of the class agreeing on carrots to change that outcome. Seems like much of why we’re stuck with two options is those two collude to keep people unaware of the other options, or convinced the no one wants the others.

    • Kodie

      I don’t know how you go about making a 3rd party candidate that enough people take seriously to rock the 2 major parties. I think even if you get a lot of people voting 3rd party, they will be scattered over several candidates and not, say, finding one of them the most serious and viable, for example, Ross Perot. That was pretty unusual, I’m not saying I voted for him or he was really better and I wish he had won – but what did he have that made an impression on voters. Mostly it was money. Who are the 3rd party candidates and why are they suppressed? I can name a handful of special interest candidates and people I admire their aspirations but who seem unprepared for the rigors of presidency. Most of what they want is what the people don’t want, frankly, and I hold them in regard as possibly a fantasy if they matched my ideals closely.

      In this little story, beans and broccoli are gross and carrots are the best. Obviously. Carrots didn’t make the ballot, how come? Not because people don’t like carrots if they had only known, but because the 3rd party candidate was escarole. Many people are simply not familiar with a type of lettuce. Others report its bitter flavor, or don’t find it versatile enough to eat every single day. And it’s just not a side dish kind of vegetable. I think it’s good, and I would favor it over beans or broccoli, but I know I can’t convince a majority to vote for it. I can’t even get a majority to like it better than either beans or broccoli. And if you sincerely prefer escarole, you still prefer beans compared to broccoli or vice versa, so some people are just being realistic. If you don’t want broccoli to win no matter what, choose beans, not escarole. If you really don’t care or it won’t make a difference, vote for escarole – even if you don’t prefer escarole?

      I don’t understand making the 3rd party carrots, seems rather like saying there is one clear obvious popular choice that everyone will just ignore. Most students would be fools not to choose carrots, they’re overwhelmingly popular and don’t need to be sold to get over beans or broccoli – carrots would have come ahead in the primary over broccoli and been on the ballot with beans and it wouldn’t even be a nail-biter. 3rd party candidates aren’t like carrots. I don’t know what more they need to be taken seriously than being one of the 2 major parties. It is almost like, if you are good at what you do and you offer what people want, people will hear about it, although I know a lot of that has to do with raising money and getting on the news – like Ross Perot did and nobody else seems to be able to figure out how to do as well.

      • Azkyroth

        The way they’d go about it if they WERE serious would be building a grassroots base and getting into local and state offices rather than throwing themselves at the presidency and the presidency only.

        • Kodie

          Yeah, another thing about 3rd party candidates that I’ve noticed is they are not already someone’s governor or senator. At least to some extent, the voting population needs to see their president in some position of competence of which to assess their readiness for the office and record of political honesty. Or something like that. Sheer “nobodies” get into the senate or governor positions if they are persuasive – Ross Perot was not in office before, but he was personable and appealing to a certain segment of the population and successful in business. Kind of like Herman Cain. Of all the candidates in the primaries, the more successful have a record in office and the least successful have no record in office, even if they might actually be better.

  • Anon

    1) The Obama administration has taken the wrong positions on some deal breaker issues for me (Patriot Act, NDAA, indefinite detention, strengthening SSPA, etc.). It would violate my conscience to vote for someone who’s been so wrong on executive power and military intelligence, even though Romney will be the same or worse). Would happily vote for Obama otherwise (as a fiscal conservative).
    2) An upset within the 3rd party margin could encourage positive changes for 3rd party voters in the future including:
    2.1) Being courted more strongly by each campaign and having a slight values shift to be more inclusive
    2.2) Encouraging a less two-party biased voting system like instant runoff
    3) This is a non-sequitur to your argument, but there are far bigger issues effecting the outcome of the election on an individual basis such as voter turn-out
    4) If you aren’t in a swing state, vote your conscience!

  • Jonathan

    Similar to Anon. If I wasn’t in Texas (thanks Winner-Take-All Electoral College) and my conscience didn’t protest against it I’d vote for Obama. As is, like Anon said. WAY too many deal-breakers for me. Instead of hiding the previous administrations illegal warcrimes the Obama administration should have instead conducted a wide open (for transparency’s sake) investigation that included serious (no get-out-of-jail-free) for Bush and his cronies. Honestly, I think some of the deception that happened was enough to qualify for them being investigated for High Treason and executed if found to be guilty. As it stands, by intentionally blocking justice from being done, I find the Obama administration horribly guilty for subverting justice and couldn’t vote again for his administration even if they had done everything else right. So no, I wouldn’t vote for Obama (besides the fact that like I said, my vote won’t count here in TX).

    • Stogoe

      What about the deal-breakers that actually matter? I guarantee you, any Republican administration would be as bad or significantly worse than Obama has been on any or all of your listed deal-breakers. What’s more, Obama will be significantly more receptive to pressure in the right direction regarding them than Romney or any Republican would be. So we count all your deal-breakers as a wash. At best.
      So what’s left? The things that matter that the candidates actually differ on: Abortion, LGBT rights, Financial Regulation, Not Actively Disenfranchising Millions of Voters. For starters. Really, there is no question here. Vote Obama.

  • Elerena

    Hooray for pithy oversimplifications of complex issues!

  • Courtney C.

    I’m tired of people saying that by voting for a third-party candidate I’m “throwing away my vote” or “screwing everyone over.”

    1) The horrific policies on both sides are what’s screwing us over (endless drone strikes, killing of American citizens without due process, hyper-obsession with women and their reproductive rights) – not someone voting their conscience.

    2) I can’t speak for people in places like Ohio and Florida, but I live in Texas. You’re an idiot if you think my vote matters here.

    3) Sure, Obama sucks less than Romney. But is that what our so-called democracy has boiled down to? Why should I continue to play into this game where I simply vote for whoever I happen to hate less that year? I can’t effect change if I don’t ask for it.

  • Nate Frein

    I think a lot of people here need to remember that JT lives in Ohio.

    Basically, THE swing state. In his state, a vote that doesn’t go to Obama literally gives Romney one more vote unopposed.

    So yes, I do understand where he’s coming from. I don’t find it smug. I do find the “well, I don’t feel like playing this game at all” moral superiority smug.

    You wanna fix politics? Start local. One vote in your local district goes a lot farther. The presidents ARE NOT the only bloody elections going on right now.

    So knock off your smarmy “The elections have been bought hurr hurr hurr” attitudes while you sit at your computer or your couch or whatever and bitch about how bad top level politics have gotten.

    Get out and start trying to fix the base. Stop lecturing the people who want people to get out and fix the base. The fact is that you have three options. You can sit at home and bitch. You can try to foment revolution. Or you can get your ass out and vote and make your voice heard in your local political arenas.

    • invivoMark


    • iknklast

      Actually, I’ve been focusing most of my energy on the only race around here that counts. In Nebraska, most of our races are unopposed. We do have a major campaign going for our empty Senate seat (Ben Nelson retiring) between the tea-party faithful Deb Fischer and solid Democrat who has some positions I disagree with Bob Kerrey. A month ago, Kerrey didn’t have a prayer – about 35% and holding. Now, he’s within the margin of error in some polls. I like to think I made a difference – but our yard sign did get trashed a couple nights ago. Some people are really ugly. I haven’t trased a single yard sign (and my dog is an equal-opportunity marker – they’re all fair game).

      This ia a race that really counts, and where I feel I can really make a difference. And I hear some people who don’t agree with a single position of Deb Fischer say they’re going to vote for her because Kerrey moved away from Nebraska for a while, lived in New York, and moved back because he felt the state needed him in this election (he is probably the only democrat with a chance of winning). So, they think because Kerrey has roamed a bit, they should vote for a person who has terrible ideas, and is running for Senate because she’s angry that someone proposed a bill to increase the fees that are charged for grazing on public land (which is how Fischer made her $3 million, off the taxpayers dime. Now she wants to make sure none of it goes to teachers, health care, or abortions. She gets hers; no one else gets theirs. We pay to make her rich; she laughs in our face and doesn’t bother to reciprocate).

      • Stogoe

        Well, Fischer won, a woman who tried to steal her elderly neighbor’s land from them.

    • John Horstman


  • Shaun C

    But I have a severe gastrointestinal reaction to beans and I’m allergic to broccoli. Oh well, guess I’ll just give up voting in my best interest, and instead take one for the team. It’s unfortunate because if I continue to vote this way, there will never be anything approaching real choice, and asparagus is yummy!

    • Stogoe

      At this point, only one of the two will win the presidency. If you want more choice, don’t start complaining on Election Day. We have these things called Primaries, and also State and Local Elections.

  • Zme

    Nate has it right.

    If you want a third party don’t start its candidates at the top level.

    Get elected to the school board, town selectmen, mayor, state representatives, &c. &c. When the party has sufficient lower level representation then the higher level candidacies follow naturally.

  • biopeter

    Yes, Elerena! Voting for a third party candidate while taking the risk that Romney might win is horribly complicated! What a complex issue indeed!

    • invivoMark

      To be as fair as possible to Elerena, depending on where you live, it CAN be a complex issue.

      And for precisely that reason, our gracious host has written a magnificent article to help you parse out the nuances that might be relevant to your decision:

      Given that, I think JT is well within his rights to present whatever brief message he wants to, and Dr. Coppinger is within his rights to express that message through poetry, however biting or snarky he wants to make it.

  • otrame

    Look, I am not happy with some of the stuff Obama has done. More than not happy.

    But this is about the frigging SCOTUS, folks. Who do you want replacing the retirees? That little problem has the potential to screw us over for the next 15 years or more. Voting Green will help the bad guys do terrible things. I mean, do you actually WANT Roe v. Wade overturned?

    Those of you who mentioned being a a serious Republican state like Texas and therefore think their Presidential vote will be useless, I would like to point out that 43 percent of Texas voters went with Obama last time. It’s not as close as you might think.

    I did vote Green in some of the local elections (Texas has early voting). I also did not vote in two cases. In the past when given a choice between a Republican and a Libertarian, I voted Republican. But this year, I just couldn’t do it. The Republican Party has soiled itself so profoundly that I am not sure it will be able to get itself decent again in my lifetime.

  • Sandy

    Gee, I was going to vote for Stein, but maybe the presidential election actually WILL hinge on my individual vote from California’s liberal 9th congressional district. The electoral college works that way, right?

    I’m a little weary of being lectured by way of shitty hypotheticals about “throwing my vote away” on a candidate who more or less represents my views; I recognize that voting my conscience is a luxury I can afford living as I do in state whose outcome is a forgone conclusion and where my individual vote carries less weight than about anywhere else in the nation–so in the morning I’ll go to the polls for my biennial song and dance schtick without the usual resigned, rote pragmatism (apart from Feinstein, who has never impressed me and is, as usual, running unopposed). I think it will feel pretty good.

  • John Horstman

    Vote beans, then work with other students to source carrots to the lunch room from non-institutional sources. You’ll still have the less-shitty beans to sustain you while you work for the thing you really want. The failure of the third-party-vote thinking in a national election where the candidate has no chance is one of imagination. The people voting for candidates without even a prayer (and we know how useless those are) apparently can’t conceive of changing social policy in any way other than national electoral politics. Vote for the least-bad, then engage in local, direct activism to make things better. Build up third parties on a local level so they eventually have some chance of winning at higher levels, as Nate Frein says. A Green Party governor or senator has a much better chance of tackling the presidential mountain than some random fuck no one ever heard of before (even if she’s clearly the best candidate by a long shot). Not voting or voting third party plays into the extant power structure far more than other paths, since it tends to give people a self-satisfied attitude that translates into them thinking they’ve actually already done something. It’s basically the electoral equivalent of prayer – doing nothing but feeling good about it. Get over yourselves and vote to save the contraceptive mandate if nothing else. You can live with a bit of cognitive dissonance (just look at working-class Republicans).

  • Epinephrine

    I’m Canadian. We have three (or four, in some areas!) parties, and it sucks. As a left-winger, I vote left, but unfortunately, the left is split into liberals (more centrist than anything) and NDP (actually left). For ages the NDP has been viewed as a non-option, and there has never been an NDP prime minister. Well, we have a conservative majority, despite only having ~40% support. The rest of the vote was split between the various other options. It’s a seriously crappy situation.
    Worst of all, it will likely repeat itself. Truly left voters will be encouraged by how well the NDP did this past election, and will staunchly vote NDP. Quebec will likely still support the PQ. Liberals will have a new leader, and will be trying to bounce back from their lousy performance in the 2011 election. And the conservatives will cruise to yet another victory (whether minority or majority) since we have too many groups jostling for the support of the “not right wing” side.

    We need a coalition, an agreement to back out when support for one left-party would undermine the other. Otherwise we’re stuck. What we really need is a complete overhaul to a non-first-past-the-post system to something like a single transferable vote system. But no party that gets in in the current model is likely to propose a change to a new model.