Sunday, August 7, 2016

Stop Telling Me I'm Wasting My Vote

Not long back, I told everyone that I would be voting third party or write-in during this election. I find the parties equally inept and morally-repugnant, and also despise both candidates they've put forth.

Since that time, I have heard a steady refrain from everyone:  that's just wasting your vote.

So let me officially give you four reasons to stop telling me that I'm wasting my vote:

1. I respect your vote -- why can't you do the same?

If you support Secretary Clinton as your candidate, I disagree with you. If you support Mr. Trump as your candidate, I disagree with you. I do not think either of them would be good Presidents; I think in both cases, the best case scenario is "Ineffective" and the worst case is "Disaster."

So I disagree with you, probably pretty strongly, if you support one of those candidates.

But that doesn't mean I will disrespect you by trying to convince you that you are "wasting" your vote.

How insulting is it, that you can't offer me the same respect?

I do not think your voice is wasted--even if I disagree with it--because I actually do believe in this whole "democracy" thing. I actually believe that each of us is supposed to make a formal official record of our desire for the country ("vote"), and that the Electoral College should take that into consideration when choosing the President.

So stop telling me that mine is wasted: every time you say that, you make it clear that you are so invested in 'winning' that you will gladly give away Democracy in the process, and support an oligarchy instead.

The only wasted Presidential vote is if you are voting for someone you don't actually believe would do a good job in office. (So, for me, to vote for Trump or Clinton is actually a wasted vote.)

2. A vote for one person is--stay with me now--a vote FOR someone, not AGAINST someone else

A sub-version of the "waste" argument goes like this:  "a vote for Gary Johnson is really a vote for Hillary!" or, "A vote for Jill Stein is really a vote for Trump!"

Okay, let me go slow and break this down for you.

Adding +1 to one person's total does not actually add +1 into a different person's column.

That seems pretty clearly first-grade arithmetic, but it is a common statement in today's political debates.

The basic idea of Democracy is that each candidate has a bucket, and each voter has a chip or rock, and they place their rocks/chips in the bucket of the guy or gal that they like. At the end, they are added up. Placing one in bucket A does not add one to bucket B.

And even children can see that.

So why would an intelligent person say, "Voting for Johnson is actually voting for Hillary"?

Well, what they are actually saying is this:  "Johnson won't win, so if you vote for him you are taking a vote that would have gone for my candidate and spending it elsewhere."

You see? A third party vote is only wasted if I would otherwise have voted for your candidate.  You are assuming that your candidate WOULD have had my vote, if I weren't some idealist out there voting for a third party.

But that's not true.

I am voting third party or write-in precisely because I think the other two are terrible, terrible potential leaders. I will not face Jesus saying that I was willing to put my support behind either of these two candidates. (More on why, later.)

Whenever I make this point to someone, they get flustered and say something like:  "Well, I hope it makes you feel better when you wake up on the 9th and [Trump/Hillary] is President!"

I don't think it's actually that much different who wins. It doesn't matter who is in the pilot's seat when the plane crashes, you still wind up dead. And neither of these two can pull America out of her tailspin. So it really doesn't matter who's in charge. Both are terrible choices.

If we wake up on the 9th with either as President, we are worse off as a nation. Significantly worse off. The best case for either candidate is that they will be an ineffective and bumbling Carter; the worst case for Trump is that he's Mussolini and the worst case for Clinton is that she's Nixon. These are not good names to be throwing out!

No, I will not feel good with either of these winning the Presidency. I will not feel better with one over the other. I will not wake up feeling better because we elected a possibly fascist, and I will not wake up feeling better because we elected the next Nixon either.

It will make me feel better to know that I did my duty as a citizen, which is to cast my vote for someone who would run the country well.

I don't trust either of your candidates. So I am not "wasting" a vote for either of them.

3. The situation could be fixed immediately, if Independents would stop falling for this argument

When you perpetuate the "wasted vote" argument, do you realize that you are actually sharing in one of the great propaganda campaigns of political history?

In basketball, if I have a bad team (and I've coached some bad ones!), my strategy is simple:  suppress down the pace (so that small point totals can win), and remove options for the other team (so they have to play "our game").

That is precisely what the Democrats and GOP have done for more than a generation, and you have not only fallen from it, you are now helping them.

You see, the Democrats and Republicans have terrible favorability ratings. No one likes them, so no one wants to vote for them.

So, what will they do to remain in power?

Simple, two things (and they both do them).

First - suppress the vote.  That is, stop eligible voters from turning out, so that your small base of supporters have a disproportionately large say in things. The GOP targets minorities in this, making the US the most difficult place to get an ID and then forcing voter ID laws to keep them from voting.  The Democrats target busy wealthy people, and so in 44 of the 50 states, the Democrats have succeeded in scheduling special interest votes at times that aren't part of the normal federal election cycle to keep busy people away from the polls.  In both cases, the goal is the same:  lower voter turnout so you don't actually need very many votes to win. They've done it well--despite being the "cradle of Democracy", America is 29th in voter turnout, with a dismal 54% voting rate.

But suppressing the vote isn't enough.

You also need to make people feel they have no other options. Convince people that since no third party candidate has ever won, therefore no third party candidate can ever win.  Of course, that argument makes no sense. By that logic, Obama wouldn't have been elected because we'd had no black presidents, and Clinton wouldn't have just won the Democratic nomination because we'd never had a woman do it. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't happen.

But that strategy is effective.  Because odds are, many of you will vote for Trump or Clinton even though you hate them, because you think anything else has no chance of success.

But is that truth, or just the lie of the parties who need you to believe it?

As the NY Times pointed out a few days ago:  a very, very, very small percentage of people have actually supported Trump and Clinton in the voting booth thus far. There are 221 million registered voters in the U.S. The parties have successfully suppressed 88 million of their voices--they won't bother to vote. Let's assume that this won't change; that leaves us with 133 million likely voters...of whom about 13 million have cast votes for Trump during primaries and 17 million have cast votes for Clinton during the primaries. Let's assume those are all firm commitments.

So 103 million votes are still up in the air. That is 77% of the voting population!

77% of the voting population does not overtly support Clinton or Trump.

If everyone voted their conscience, all we would need is about 14% of the remaining voters to get behind one man or woman and they would beat both candidates.

Literally:  Pokemon Go has gotten more downloads in the past month than we would need to get votes behind a third-party or write in candidate.

If we would all stop buying into the propaganda they are selling and just vote our consciences, we would change everything this election.

If you aren't one of those who voted for Trump or Clinton in the primaries...then MY vote isn't being wasted--YOUR vote is, because you are spending it not on someone you believe in, but are a puppet to the propoganda of the parties.

4. Stop blaming me because your party put forth a terrible candidate

I'm a registered independent. I don't have an affiliation with either of these parties.

So stop blaming me that your party just nominated a terrible candidate. Putting forth a terrible candidate and then complaining that I 'waste' my vote by not supporting them is ridiculous and illogical.

You won't bully me into supporting a bad candidate by making the other one a boogeyman.

And by the way--no one should do that. When Ford was selling exploding Pintos, people stopped buying them...and so the company stopped making exploding cars. It's the same way in politics: if you keep giving a party your vote no matter who they put out as candidates, then why would they ever need to put out a good one?

This election has made one thing clear to me:  if the GOP were to nominate Hitler and the Democrats were to nominate Mussolini, Americans would just gobble them up, and be complaining to ME for refusing to cast my vote behind one. They would spend their hours arguing which fascist was worse, when it is obvious that both would be evil.

The truth is, these are terrible candidates. The president's job is essentially the "CEO" or Chief Executive for the country. His or her role is to provide leadership that unites Americans; to command our armed forces; and to operate the largest bureaucracy in the world (the Executive Branch of the government employs nearly 2.1 million employees, so running it is the equivalent of running every Wal-Mart in America plus every Target in America plus every Kroger in America).

So those are the three key things:  lead our military; unite the country; oversee the largest employer in the world efficiently and effectively.

And our two parties have given us terrible, terrible choices.

I do not believe Secretary Clinton can do this job.

She is terribly hawkish, being a part of both George W's wars and Obama's fumbling in the Middle East--and, before that, the decisions of her husband which helped put the Taliban in power in 1996 and led to a lot of this. Sec. Clinton has proved to be one of the most active warmongers in the history of our nation.

She is also massively divisive; has been ever sense her time in Arkansas as First Lady. She uses personal email servers to hide from FOIA requests, she cares far too much what others think of her--causing her to switch radically from one "deeply held" position to another, following wherever the political wind blows. The only people united behind her are Wall Street bankers (Bernie wasn't wrong here): 99.96% of Wall Street money has gone to Clinton over Trump.

I will not cast a vote saying that this woman should be in this job.

Nor will I do so for Mr. Trump.

Trump should not be in charge of our military. For one thing, he has publicly advocated war crimes (torturing and killing family members of terrorists), and has publicly hated on POWs and war heroes. Furthermore--and it's stunning this hasn't gotten play publicly--he dodged the Vietnam draft five times, and said his time as a prep school student gave him better military training and understanding than actual soldiers. The man is not going to make wise decisions in charge of the world's most powerful military.

The only thing more stunning than hawkish Republicans getting behind a draft-dodger and military-hater is that Christians are willing to support him. If you'd told me that Christians would get behind a guy who owns a strip club for goodness' sake, not to mention multiple casinos, I'd have said "No chance." If you told me on top of that he would be a multi-time adulterer, three-times married, longtime pro-choice candidate who only switches literally during the election to get votes, and who says he doesn't confess sins to God because he doesn't make them...I'd have said you were crazy. Not unless the guy made a deal with the devil could he convince Christians to vote for him. But even though my brethren might be falling for it, I won't. He is not a good man. He's a morally very bad man. He should not be in charge.

And perhaps most relevantly:  he will lead poorly. Critical to success as a leader is being the "steady hand at the wheel"--and he is anything but steady. He will careen the country all over the place. He will crash it into the ground--just as he has four of his companies. If he can't lead small companies with a few hundred employees, how can he run the largest organization in the entire world (more employees than Wal-Mart plus Target plus Kroger)?

So no, I won't vote for Trump.

I won't vote for either of these two. It is not my responsibility to choose one over the other. It is my civic duty to cast my voice for someone who will lead the country well.

Right now, that is looking most like a write-in for Marco Rubio or Condoleeza Rice.

I refuse to put my vote behind either Nixon or Mussolini. And you shouldn't, either.

P.S. -- Stop with the Supreme Court argument, too.

When you go through this with people, they usually don't have much to argue with. So they usually do this:  "But what about the Supreme Court!!!!"

This is a boogeyman used in every election, and I for one have seen through it.

A couple of things:

(1)  The President can only nominate justices. He/she can't appoint them. If you care about the Supreme Court, choose your Senators. As we saw with Bork and Myers, the Senate can simply refuse to vote, or vote down, a candidate that they don't like. They can keep sending the President back to the well a thousand times until he comes up with one they like. The power is 100% in the Senate in this case, so don't worry about Supreme Court with the President--he's largely irrelevant in this case. The Senate is what matters, so if this is important to you, research your Senate votes.

(2) There is no way to tell a "liberal" from "conservative" judge. Most judges so rarely interact with the specific legislation they will see as a SCOTUS member, that they are unknown.  People thought Scalia was a moderate and was elected 99-0. People though Ginsberg was moderate and she was elected with similar overwhelming margins--every conservative there liked her, too, at the time. People thought Kennedy would be liberal but he's actually a swing voter; O'Conner was supposed to be conservative but turned out moderate.

So not only does the President have limited power over putting justices in place, but he can't predict what they would do anyway.

This should not affect your Presidential vote at all. The President will have almost no influence on the SCOTUS, but it is used by parties to try and force you to abandon your convictions and support them instead.


  1. Eric Montgomery07 August, 2016 20:14

    Thank you Michael for writing this. It perfectly explains why not only a Christian shouldn't vote for the lesser of two evils, but why the argument about the potential supreme court justice nominee is not a legitimate argument either

  2. Wow! Loved this!! I hate politics, especially at election time, and one reason being made to feel I have to choose the lesser of two evils. I am a Christian and was so frustrated with the 2 choices I had before me being afraid of them have given me a lot to think about. Blessings!!

  3. Love pretty much every word. Thank you for articulating. My reasons for not supporting either are much more policy oriented but even if they had good policies (which they don't) I would then move to the personal obstacles and be stopped dead in my tracks. It IS my civic duty to vote for a good leader. And I will not falter on that duty like so many of my countrymen seem to be doing.

  4. Loved the piece. It articulates my views on the current Presidential election. Only beef is with the statement, "The GOP targets minorities in this, making the US the most difficult place to get an ID and then forcing voter ID laws to keep them from voting." Not sure I've ever read a more ridiculous statement. But no one is perfect.

    Thanks for the piece. I will be sharing it.

  5. Well-articulated and a tight argument if you think both would be equal disasters. Some of us, though, think one is totally unqualified to be President and the other, though not a great option, is at least competent. And, if you live in a purple state, voting for the third party candidate does help the totally unqualified candidate. That's the dilemma many of us face.

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