Unfair Questions: Why Waste Your Vote?

People ask me all sorts of questions, many of them strange or dubious or otherwise fascinating.  I’d like to record some of the questions and my answers to them for your entertainment, disgust, or casual indifference.

I get the same question over and over around this time of the election cycle from plenty of people who don’t know me well enough yet to guess the answer I am likely to provide.  Many people seem to have a certain amount of curiosity about what I will do with a ballot regarding the Presidential race.  I don’t mind sharing my intentions on the matter, but the inevitable questions that follow tend to be real eye-rollers for me.

When I let them know that may vote for the Libertarian candidate or write someone in, the real entertainment begins.  First, the look of puzzlement, bewilderment, and utter confusion spreads across their face like homemade strawberry jam on warm toast.  Second, they look thoughtful and one can almost see the question forming before they manage to utter it.  Third, the question springs forth from their lips with all the force of the wisdom of the ages, “Why waste your vote like that?”

The image in my mind at the that moment probably bears some small resemblance to this:

It’s so cute when people ask me the question, because up until now they have found me to be a perfectly sane, sensible, and fairly rational person in our interactions.  But now, they give every impression that they know the terrifying truth that I’m one of those crazy people who votes for wild-eyed fringe third party candidates or maybe even *gasp* writes one in.

My first answer to their question is that I like to vote for a candidate who actually shares many of my policy preferences (i.e. not bankrupting our nation, not killing people overseas all willy-nilly quite so often, not ignoring the Constitution and eroding civil liberties).  I would submit that if you think bankrupting our nation, more killing of foreigners, and eroding civil liberties are good ideas and that voting for candidates who seem intent on doing those things is a good idea…well, maybe I’m not the crazy one.

My second answer to their question is that my vote is inherently a protest vote against what I see as the systemic corruption that infects our major parties.  Corruption is inevitable in government, and the greater the power of the government, the more attractive its offices to the corruptible.  It’s not surprising that corruption has become a larger problem as our government has grown larger.  I don’t think it’s some giant conspiracy, just the inevitability of human weakness.  And in the context of our political system the only way to hold those corrupt folks accountable is to elect someone else who is not currently part of the big business we call politics which happens to be crushing the populace under its heels either intentionally or unintentionally.  It seems fairly straightforward to me that we should really get a handle on that corporate infiltration of government thing, regardless of whether you lean left or right on the economic spectrum.

The responses to my points vary somewhat, but because I’m a practical man, they usually try to appeal to my practical side in an effort to sway me from harming the chances of the person they see as the lesser of the evils.  “But don’t you think that (insert their preferred major party candidate here) is the lesser of the two evils and that you may be handing the election to (insert the candidate they view as the greater of the two evils here)?”  Well, maybe.  It depends on what metric we use.  For example, Obama might be likely to kill somewhat fewer foreigners, whereas Romney might love the drone strikes even more, hard to imagine as that is.  Or Romney may not drive us toward an economic crash quite as quickly as Obama, as hard to imagine as that is.  They both seem to really like eroding civil liberties, though.  Tough call on that one.

My first answer to their question is to point out that it doesn’t really matter which one I think is the lesser of the two evils, primarily because I’m simply not limited to choosing between two evils here in what I like to call the real world.  I do have more than two choices, and like the grown man that I am, I’m capable of choosing among multiple alternatives using my awesome superpower of compare and contrast.

My second answer is that I know damn well I’m not handing the election to either of the candidates regardless of whether I vote for one of them or for a third party candidate.  I know that because I pay attention to the polls and I’m aware of which one will win the electoral votes from my state of residence.  The margin between them is quite high, and the odds of a surprise swing in the other direction make it more likely that the dreaded voter fraud occurred than anything else.  I can vote for whomever I like, and it impairs neither Obama or Romney in their chances of winning.  Not even a little.  And even if it did impair one of them from getting elected, why on earth would I feel directly responsible for it myself as if it all depended on me?  I’m sharing the responsibility for that with millions of other people who vote.

My third answer is that my vote against corruption, against eroding civil liberties, against wanton violence, and against bankrupting our nation seems to me much less wasteful than a vote in favor of whichever candidate represents those things to varying degrees.  I think it’s a waste of time to vote for evil when you don’t have to.

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33 Responses to Unfair Questions: Why Waste Your Vote?

  1. QuantumStorm says:

    Penn and Teller said it best: “The lesser of two evils is still evil, and the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.” Love this post. 

  2. I just love how committed people are to their parties.  There are some people that are so committed that the Democrats or Republicans are so much better than the other side, that their party can do almost anything and they will support it.Remember the anti-war group?  Whatever happened to them?  Remember when this party or that party thought we should live within a budget?  Whatever happened to those movements in any party?

  3. AmorVomnia7 says:

    “For example, Obama might be likely to kill somewhat fewer foreigners, whereas Romney might love the drone strikes even more, hard to imagine as that is.”What they say and what they do is two entirely different things. In all likelihood, their foreign policy would be near identical, despite the minor differences that they quibble over in debates. Obama will say he’s opposed to having as many drone strikes as Romney, but once Obama wins there will likely be ‘an event’ that changes his mind, and thus making it ‘understandable’ that he’d disregard his original platform… At least that’s what he’ll sell his supporters and they’ll gobble it all up without hesitation. This ‘event’ will also be used by the right to further criticize Obama for not initially having Romney’s platform etc etc… The cycle of political bullshit just continues like this over and over it seems.”The lesser of two evils” is quite possibly the most toxic thought process that the public can have as it is the source of the compromising of our values, and ultimately the source of all the corruption that has been allowed in politics. For example, imagine Bill Clinton (liberal just like Obama) trying to pass the idea of indefinite detention back in 1995. Even democrats would have crucified him for the idea. Move the clocks forward, where the people have been persuaded by “lesser of two evils” rhetoric, and people are willing to go “oh well”. I can’t imagine the things that we will be compromising 15 years from now if we don’t put our foot down to this stuff and stop voting for “the lesser of two evils” when evil should NEVER be voted for.

  4. Respectfully, a politician is still a politician.I don’t guffaw at the notion of “wasting” a vote, as some would. It’s your vote, and yours alone.I do, however, thoroughly enjoy this laughable notion that corruption, and ignorance of the constitution are singularly properties of the two main parties, and that the “independents” are somehow above the fray, morally superior, etc. etc.To each his, or her own…

  5. hxckendra says:

    Gary Johnson has my vote because I don’t vote someone out of office, I vote someone in.  This is my favorite post I’ve read in a while.

  6. Hinase says:

    Someone had to tell me this today and I felt discouraged. But what the debates highlighted was that the two parties are more of the same honestly. They agreed too much on everything and it scared me.

  7. i’m considering voting for Jill Stein.  

  8. Lovegrove says:

    I never vote for the mainstream parties in the UK. They’ve all become much like the US now, just different faces of the same ideology.

  9. When in doubt I vote for Mickey Mouse.  Honestly, I’m not psychic.  I live in California and our electoral votes are all going to go to Obama.  So, I can vote for anybody!  For fun, I think I’ll write in George W. Bush.  I once asked if a silly vote invalidated my other votes (we always have propositions to vote on in CA) and the answer was no… so Mickey Mouse or George W. Bush… hell, forget that I’m gonna write in Barbara Bush (the granny one).  

  10. MedicMark says:

    I don’t vote because I don’t believe I have a right to impose my way of life on someone else. Plus it’s just a waste of time. 

  11. firetyger says:

    I refuse to vote for evil. Regardless if it is the lesser. To a third party candidate that agrees with my stances my vote will go.

  12. Yeah, I hate that question too. Why would I vote for someone that I don’t want in office? That’s stupid. And crazy. And I live in Texas… in Austin. My local votes will be way outnumbered by all the liberals, and my state/federal votes will be outnumbered by all the conservatives. Even if I won’t statistically make a difference in the election, I still want my voice to be noted. Do you ever notice that when election season rolls around, suddenly everyone is a pundit and can predict the outcome of events? I like to laugh at that. 

  13. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @QuantumStorm – Why vote for the lesser of the evils?  Cthulhu 2012!@TheTheologiansCafe – I do remember the anti-war group.  Some of that group is still doing their thing.  Others seem to have quieted down after a Democrat took office.  It is funny to watch the parties switch talking points, blissfully unaware of their cognitive dissonance or trying really hard to forget it.  I suspect we’ll see Republicans who were very concerned about voter fraud be suddenly very unconcerned about it if Romney wins, and Democrats who were unconcerned about voter fraud suddenly renew their interest in it if Romney wins.

  14. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Under_the_Ghillie – Indeed they are.With regard to independents, the idea that being an independent confers some sort of golden enlightenment is rather silly, yes.  I’ve met plenty of independents who were just as woefully unaware of their Constitutional rights and responsibilities as anyone else.  I’ve met plenty of independents who were really just wishy-washy wafflers who would agree with anything as long as it sounded kind of reasonable.  And some independents are just nutty conspiracy theorists.  It takes all kinds.@hxckendra – I’m glad you enjoyed it.  I’m also glad you’re not wasting your vote!  šŸ™‚

  15. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Hinase – Aye.  That was my impression after studying their respective positions earlier this year.  The first debate between them drove that point home for me.  They were explicitly agreeing with each other fairly often.  They had to really stretch to find significant policy disagreements between them.@flapper_femme_fatale – Excellent.    I think she’s a worthwhile candidate to vote for.  I’ve encouraged many of my progressive friends to vote for her.

  16. psychdr says:

    @Under_the_Ghillie – With respect, the american people are only capable of baby steps. We have no cohesion. So while voting for a third party may not solve the problem, it gets people out of the box. One very small step in the right direction.

  17. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Lovegrove – Fair enough.  So which parties have you voted for?@TiredSoVeryTired – Haha!  I dig that.  Mickey Mouse has en excellent platform.@MedicMark –  Fair to say.@firetyger –  I admire your refusal to vote for evil.  That’s not a waste at all!@WaitingToShrug – I know what you mean about voting in Texas.  I grew up there.  It’s a very interesting state.

  18. MrTrololo says:

    I had a similar discussion recently, I suppose you might just say that we weren’t on the same PAIGE. šŸ˜‰ lol

  19. hxckendra says:

    @flapper_femme_fatale – Have you been watching the debates between the third party candidates?  IVN hosted a debate last week between her and Gary Johnson.  Last night Free and Equal hosted a debate, moderated by Larry King, and Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, and Rocky Anderson were there.  The two major parties were invited but they (of course) declined.  There will be another debate on October 30 between the two winners of last night’s debate.  You should check it out if you’re seriously considering Stein!  Johnson has my vote, but she would be my second choice.

  20. galadrial says:

    Except third party votes are usually a refusal to deal with reality.If people fought as hard to be a force of change, as they do because they can’t get their way, we wouldn’t have two parties.Just my opinion…but that’s how I see it.Oh…and I am pretty sure the people who supported Hitler didn’t THINK they were voting for evil. His platform looked nice on paper.

  21. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @MrTrololo – Well played, sir.  Well played.@galadrial – Heh.  Voters in general refuse to deal with reality.  That’s not something distinctive about folks who vote for third parties.I’ll certainly agree that it would be better if folks could fight harder to be a force for positive change rather than simply insisting that their favored policy positions are the only way to get us there.  I think it’s more effective for me to lead by example in seeking harmony with others than to protest war.  I think it’s more effective for me to live simply and keep within my budget than to tell everyone else to stop indulging in rampant consumerism.  I think it’s more effective for me to live in such a way that it’s clear how much I value my liberty and my responsibility than it is to complain that so few people take them seriously.  None of that means I won’t bring the issues up on my blog, though. Godwin’s Law proves itself yet again.  The Germans were desperate for someone to save them at that point in history, and Hitler played to their anti-semitism and fear very well.  He was a compelling and passionate speaker, no doubt.

  22. Doubledb says:

    @hxckendra – I like Stein but dont agree with all of her issues. Is she the one that wanted to wipe student debt and/or make public education through college. I just dont see that working well. Companies will want their money and k-12 public education already has enough problems, adding college to that equation would seem to make things worse, not better. Is Ron Paul still in or is he out now? the only thing I disgree.d with him on was going to the gold standard. I dont have cable so I feel out of the loop this year.

  23. Doubledb says:

    This is a most excellent blog!

  24. galadrial says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – Just so.I spent almost a decade on the Board of Trustees for a community of 2700 homes.What did they want?Everything.What did they not want?The trust fees to go up…EVER.Problem…one year our trash tipping fees tripled. No matter who did the hauling, the cost was three times as much as we budgeted for. It happened to be the same year we got creamed with a three foot snow storm. We had budgeted conservatively—backed on the previous three years…so we had 15K for snow removal for the year. The cost for that storm alone? 190k. So to stay in our budget, we needed to either raise the fees, or cut deeply into the community amenities. We asked the community. They answered…NEITHER. A year or two later, the liability insurance increases by fifteen TIMES…same problem.So yes, I do understand the issues quite well,…but I also have witnessed human behavior.  No matter what choice you make, it will be WRONG.

  25. @hxckendra – honestly, i haven’t been paying much attention to ANY of the debates.  the mainstream ones have been an excuse for me to go to my friend’s house and smoke hookah :p

  26. cmdr_keen says:

    The most important part about voting for third-party/independent candidates is once they reach a certain threshold they qualify for official standing and/or federal funding during the next election cycle. So even if the vote is negligible in this electoral cycle, it may be the start of a growing, strengthening third party. I think Herman Cain said it best – if you find a candidate who you agree with everything on – run. They’re fantasies who don’t exist, or are being truthful; it’s human nature. Find a candidate who has an agreeable position on a majority of issues and vote for them.@Nous_Apeiron – @galadrial – As someone who has studied Nazi Germany history, particularly German voting patterns, and is researching it again currently – the Germans knew full well what they were getting in Hitler. His Antisemitism was clear for all to see, as was his Jew-free ideology. It’s a persistent, yet inaccurate myth that the Germans did not know what Hitler would do if he got into power. It’s why the political elites of the time were so reluctant to give the Chancellorship to Hitler, despite his party securing the largest share of the vote, but not quite a majority (Nazi support peaked at 33.1% in May 1932, declining to 32.6% in November 1932 prior to Hitler becoming chancellor in January 1933). Hitler secured power because his biggest electoral opponents – the Social Democrats and the Communists – would not work together to form a coalition that would outnumber the National Socialists. This truly was a case of divide and conquer.It is only with the clarity of hindsight that we view antisemitism as a Bad Thing. Prior to World War II and the terrors that followed, antisemitism was common across Europe and in the US. It was just that the particularly violent and eliminist thread of antisemitism advocated by Hitler was unusual.

  27. Nidan says:

    If I do vote for Obama this time around, it will solely be because I disaprove of Romney’s plan to destroy Obamacare, and replace it with a dog-eat-dog policy.Obama really pissed me off by continuing the Bush bailouts when he first entered office. That sooo disillusioned me. I thought he’d be different, because he sounded different than all the other politicians. (Both Republican and Democrat) If I knew then, what I know now, I might’ve voted for McCain or a third party. This year, the only thing I know for sure is that I’m NOT voting for Romney.

  28. Nidan says:

    @MedicMark – I’ll bet that you get a lot of people attacking you for saying that. To partisans, not voting is considered almost sacrilege.

  29. dw817 says:

    Felix The Cat isn’t running for President so I’m a little disappointed. He could fix our country with his Magic Bag Of Tricks. Anyways, pulling you away from the political party for a moment, wanted to wish you and your mate a very Happy Halloween ! [Card]

  30. psychdr says:

    Reason is a great publication.

  31. This is unrelated to your post.  FYI, I’ve been blocked on a certain “conservative” Xanga site.

  32. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @soccerdadforlife – Ah.  Duly noted.  Thanks for the heads up.  We can just discuss the issue on your site if you want or let it lie.  I’m content either way.

  33. Pingback: Unfair Questions: Why waste your vote again? | Isorropia

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