Sunday, October 28, 2012

The wasted vote

I don't recall if I posted on this topic before, but if so, it's worth revisiting, especially this time of the year.

Many people talk about how they would like to vote third party because they dislike the major party candidates, or how they would like to vote for one of the two main party candidates; but they won't, because they feel they would be wasting their votes.  Others just decide to vote for the one they think will win, rather than the one they want to win.

I ask:  What would make their vote well spent, instead?

I say there is no such thing as a wasted vote; or, they're all wasted.

The vast majority of time, elections aren't close enough that any individual's vote is going to make a difference.  How is your one vote for a candidate who loses by a hundred thousand any more wasted than the one vote cast for a candidate who wins by a hundred thousand?

What would your vote accomplish either way?

What return do you get for casting your vote one way or another?  A clear conscience for throwing in with the lesser of two evils instead of with an actual good?  Is someone at least paying you?

Not that I have anything against people who vote tactically, but even in that sense, the sense of voting to increase the probability of successfully electing someone who isn't as bad as the alternative in any particular election, there's still the fact that you're making an unnecessary contribution to the polling statistics, at the expense of sending a message about the kind of person you really think should be in charge.  That may be more of a waste than anything, if you do nothing else for the next four years.

The best thing to do, really, is to try to stay current on political happenings, vote in primaries when you can, and do your homework so you can vote meaningfully in local and state elections, because that's where national-level politicians get started.  Maybe someday you'll find, say, pro-life Democrats who don't capitulate on abortion when they go to Washington because they finally see how much support they have inside their party.  Maybe someday you'll find activists and journalists hoisted by their own petards as they try harder and harder to paint the Tea Party as racists and imperialists every time one gets elected on a sane and traditional platform.

Or maybe that's not your thing, but whatever you believe, if you don't help the right people get started in politics, you'll always only be choosing between a candidate you don't like and a candidate you don't want.