Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Waste Your Vote

With the conventions over, there are now just under two months left to decide which big government, corporatist, anti-freedom warmonger is less objectionable.

Of course, there are more than just the two candidates, but voting for someone with no realistic chance to win is tantamount to "wasting your vote", as the conventional thinking goes. But that ignores the reality of the Electoral College (among many, many other things), which renders all but the most competitive states basically meaningless. And a vote can only be "wasted" if it had value to begin with, so to help you determine if casting your vote for The Lesser of Two Evils might make a difference, I put together this handy map:[1]

The thing about voting for someone else, though, is that it isn't about winning; it's about making the major parties afraid. It's about forcing them to truly compete on their merits in an open marketplace, and not just against each other. Would the Democrats so coldly dismiss the notion of reforming drug policy if they were worried about losing votes to the Greens or the Libertarians? Would the Republicans so thoughtlessly call for harsher laws against pornography and gambling and whatever else their authoritarian wing deems morally unacceptable? Would either of them be so indifferent to the massive costs—in every sense of the word—of fighting an endless war?

Every single vote for a third party or independent candidate—regardless of what state it comes from—says to the Republicans and Democrats, "you've lost me, and if you want me back you'd better start listening to what I want." Is that not a message worth sending? I say it is, and I hope I'm not alone, because the strength with which it resonates will depend entirely on the number of voters who choose to send it. I'm aware that this number may be rather low, but my vote will make it one higher, and for that reason my vote will not be wasted.

Will yours?

1. The lightly-shaded states are those that, as of September 9, are not forecast by Nate Silver (who's very good at this stuff) as "safe" for Obama or Romney. Many of those states are still projected to lean one way or another by a margin of several percentage points. And even if a state is ridiculously close, it won't matter who wins its electoral votes unless those are the votes needed to secure a majority (or to create a tie), and given that in 2000 a 500-vote margin in Florida was narrow enough for the outcome to be determined by the Supreme Court, the likelihood of Obama v. Romney coming down to a single vote is essentially zero.
    And I'm not even addressing (for now) the question of whether Obama and Romney differ in any meaningful way.