To Waste a Vote

I’ve been meditating on this question of whether voting against a candidate, rather than for, is ultimately the right thing to do. I certainly am not much enamored of John Kerry, who wants to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq, who has shown support for the abominable and frightening Patriot Act, who just seems a little bit weasely to me, etc.

I’m registered Green, and I like David Cobb a great deal… though not as much as Dennis Kucinich, who struck me early in the primaries as one of the most articulate, plain-spoken presidential candidates I had ever heard. But I’m a pretty hardcore pragmatist, and know that candidates who actually reflect my views are too “radical” for mainstream America, i.e. don’t stand a chance. Interestingly, the voter’s guide (PDF) put out by the Green Party of Contra Costa County explicitly offers “No recommendation for president” (followed by a brief essay).

Earlier tonight, Mark Odell left a comment on an old post (Peace and Love) including a number of links to writers making the case that there is no such thing as a “wasted vote.” Do we (those of us who do not feel that mainstream candidates adequately represent our views) really want to spend the rest of our lives voting against candidates rather than for them? It’s a valid question.

Some say that success in politics is all about knowing how to compromise. I think it’s more like the game of Survivor – vote the weak and the strong players off the island first, leaving only the middle ground as contenders. The need to satisfy the widest possible swath of voters becomes a built-in middling mechanism, which almost guarantees that mediocrity will be rewarded. Every time.

Living in California, I probably have the luxury of voting Cobb without putting my state’s electoral votes at risk. But somehow, with the stakes this high, I think I’d rather wait for Instant Runoff Voting to become a reality before taking that plunge. This is my reality compromise: Register Green, vote Green in the primaries, and then become a begrudging Democrat in the general election. Every time.

In the end, I think that my moral responsibility to defenestrate Bushco trumps my desire to help pave the way for alternative candidates. But only just. And I pray for a future in which the race isn’t so close, the consequences so grave.

Music: Sonic Youth :: Mote

7 Replies to “To Waste a Vote”

  1. You know I made my decision on “for or against” years ago.

    It boils down to this. I can always live with myself after voting my conscience. Always.

    Support the candidate that most closely reflects your views. Give the third parties a shot in the arm, so that they might have a shot at the Presidency someday. The death of the two party hegemony begins and ends with us, the voters.

    If you vote the lesser of two evils, it’s still evil. And you’re still just (an unwilling) part of the problem.

  2. I, too, voted for the lesser of two evils even though I’m a registered Libertarian. I would love to see a Libertarian president in office someday but refuse to see Bush in office another 5 minutes.

    How will this happen? I and others who want to see 3rd party candidates do well need to get off our asses and help them get the word out. Will it kill us to spend an afternoon going door to door telling our neighbors about our chosen candidates? Probably not. I think we’re all stuck in the mindset that we don’t have the time for it. Let someone else do it. And I’m as guilty as the next person.

    We also need to contact our Senators and Representatives to get the policy changed so that 3rd party candidates can participate in the debates.

    It’s easy enough to be an arm-chair activist but it doesn’t really get anything done.

  3. I don’t like what bush is doing. But I don’t think it would server the world nor the US if Kerry got elected, I got these thought very recently. If the american people can’t see how bad bush is (and they don’t since so many people will vote for him), the best thing that can happen is 4 more years of bushism. I believe that 4 more years will teach voters to think before voting. Also I whish that more state would drop winner take all great voters, that would be a lot better for democracy.

    Ludo
    ps I *had* to vote for Chirac in 2002.

  4. to believe that our responisibility in this election (and in the democracy) is to just “vote our conscience” where that means voting for the person who most represents your views or who you’d most like to see in the whitehouse is both simplistic and shortsighted. it’s like quoting soemone out of context.

    een though we call it voting for a president, in actuality, it’s voting for an outcome. in the present context, the preferred outcome is FOR a change in executive. FOR a change in foreign policy. FOR a channge in how the rest of the world sees us. to see that as voting AGAINST Bush seems removed from that larger context. In some elections we’ll have the luxury to ALSO vote for our first choice in candidate because either the mandate for change will be less necessary to demonstrate or the outcome so much a foregone conclusion. (that’s when i start writing-in Robert Anton Wilson for president.) but right now, bush needs to be shown teh door FORCEFULLY! to NOT do so would be unconscionable. to NOT do so would be a wasted vote.

    and not that we need reminding, but did you read this? (click me)

  5. to believe that our responisibility in this election (and in the democracy) is to just “vote our conscience” where that means voting for the person who most represents your views or who you’d most like to see in the whitehouse is both simplistic and shortsighted.

    No, what’s “short-sighted” is the person that thinks that a vote for Stalin over Pol Pot somehow puts them on a moral high ground.

    “Yeah, that Stalin guy is pretty reprehensible, but BY GOD HE’S NOT POL POT!”

    To believe that Kerry is some shining example of what’s right with our republic and will usher in a new era of change in DC is simplistic beyond words.

    I’m not going the “anyone but..” route, because that’s what you’ll get. Anyone but.

  6. not saying that kerry is a shining example of anything. i do think however, that his administration will be orders of magnitude less corrupt than bush’s (while still being flawed of course). but i think removing bush is a moral imperative. so, anyone but bush…except pol pot. or stalin.

    in thinking about it further though, i’m not sure that the election is the most effective place to support “third party” candidates anyway. the most important momentum happens before the election as well as locally. once supporters and reformers can give such candidates a level playing field (e.g., allowing them to partake in the presidential debates), then i’d feel more comfortable with spending a vote on them. Though i’m not sure that anyone running this cycle excites me enough to stand behind them wholeheartedly.

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