Vote Your Conscience

With the presidential election one week away, there’s one idea I would like to start circulating, which is this:  vote for the candidate you want in office.

I know, that sounds self-evident.  However, for too many people, all that matters is that they voted for the guy who eventually won, rather than the guy they would have preferred to win.  Or, all their friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances say they’ll be voting for one guy, so they vote the same way to fit in.  Either way, I want to discourage such behavior in the strongest possible terms.

If you don’t vote for the candidate you prefer, there is no way he can possibly win.  If all your friends say they’re voting one way, go ahead and vote the other way if you want to.  Maybe your friends are atypical, and the majority agrees with you.  Or maybe they’re lying because they think that’s what you want to hear.  Or maybe it really is a foregone conclusion that your chosen candidate cannot win your state, in which case your vote for the preordained loser is purely a personal stand against your own hypocrisy and for your own principles.  And maybe you’ll wind up being pleasantly surprised.

You don’t get anything for picking the winner.  It’s not a horse race.  Your taxes won’t be any lower.  You don’t get five minutes alone with the winner to suggest things.  You might get a warm fuzzy for “being on the winning side,” but that pales in comparison to the pain of four years of the nation being driven the wrong direction when you had a chance to prevent it and did nothing.

Remember, it’s a secret ballot.  Vote for the guy you want.  Claim you voted for whomever you feel like.  No one’s going to go back and check.

Also remember that the exercise of your right to vote is intended to be your voice in the Great Experiment of American representative democracy.  People gave their lives, and are still giving their lives, so that you, the average American citizen, could have a say in how the nation is governed.  That simple notion, which most people take for granted or ignore completely these days, is astonishing, ridiculous even.  Ultimately, everything the United States does is the responsibility of each of its citizens, because we vote to choose the people who make the decisions that affect the entire world, or because by not voting we allow others to choose those people for us.

So vote.  Exercise your power as an American.  Select the candidates whose policies and positions you think would be most beneficial to the United States, or your particular state, as applicable, and vote for each one for that reason.  Don’t follow the crowd.  Don’t worry what people will think.  Don’t give away that most precious of rights, self-determination.  You have the right to make up your own mind and do exactly what you want inside the voting booth.  Don’t screw it up.

Think.  Decide.  Vote.


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6 Responses to “Vote Your Conscience”

  1. Joshua Says:
    October 28th, 2008

    If you don’t vote for the candidate you prefer, there is no way he can possibly win.

    This isn’t quite true. In fact you’ve just stumbled upon the main reason why so many of us voters don’t put much thought or homework into who they vote for, and why so many more don’t bother to vote at all.

    Simply put, we have very little incentive to become informed voters, because we are all well aware that in an electorate of millions, the odds against one person’s vote tipping the election one way or the other are astronomical. I voted for Bush in 2004 in a state that broke for John Kerry. I could have voted for Kerry, or for some third-party candidate, or simply blown off the election altogether and the outcome would have been exactly the same – Kerry would still have won my state. Yes, there is the cumulative effect of millions of individual decisions like mine, but as individual voters we have no control over that cumulative effect – only on how we vote as individuals. And if you believe that how you vote as an individual is basically meaningless – that the election turns on what everyone else does and not you – what incentive do you have to make the best possible decision?

    As a side note, here’s something else to chew on: It occurs to me that in terms of demographics and preserving traditional American values and culture, a similar dynamic is in play regarding individual decisions toward marriage and family-forming, or lack thereof…

  2. Joshua Says:
    October 28th, 2008

    And speaking of stumbling upon stuff, I just did that with a great discussion on another blog about the very same subject…

  3. Mycroft Holmes Says:
    October 29th, 2008

    You are quite correct. The odds that your preferred candidate will win or lose based on the single vote you cast is pretty darned unlikely. But if you don’t put in your vote at all, or vote for the more popular guy because you figure he’s going to win anyway, instead of for the guy you want to see win, then your preferred candidate’s odds get that much worse.

    My phrasing was hyperbolic, granted. There’s a school of ethics, I forget what it’s called, which proposes that the morality of any action can be judged based on what the result would be if everyone behaved in that manner. If everyone goes around murdering, then everyone winds up dead. If everyone steals, no one has any security regarding their property rights. On the other hand, if everyone smiles and says, “Good morning!” to people they meet on the street, then the world is kind of annoying but generally more pleasant.

    If nobody votes, then our system of government collapses and anarchy reigns. If everyone votes for the guy they are told will win instead of the guy they want to win, then the guy they don’t want is going to win. If you don’t vote, you are functionally equivalent to someone who can’t vote. If almost nobody votes, then those few who do so acquire a disproportionate amount of control over your existence, because they’re making the decisions for you.

    As a practical matter, your vote is one in a potential hundred million or so, a drop in the proverbial bucket. It is, to coin a phrase, the principle of the thing. The ideal is that we all get together and decide as a group what we want our country to be. We don’t all get our way all the time, but the act of taking part in the decision-making process affects the outcome. Reagan beat Mondale 49 states to 1 in 1984, signalling an overwhelming mandate to continue his policies. Bush beat Gore, or didn’t, in 2000 by a handful of votes in Florida, and Bush has never enjoyed the kind of moral authority Reagan had because of it.

    We vote because that’s how America works. We bother to make the best possible individual decision about who to vote for on the assumption that everyone else is doing the same thing, which should result in the best possible collective decision, taking into account everyone’s disparate viewpoints. If we’re going to let ourselves be swayed by peer pressure or biased media or pure dumb apathy, then we might as well flip a coin.

  4. Joshua Says:
    October 30th, 2008

    I’ve also heard it said that voting is like seeking shelter from an approaching thunderstorm or buying a lottery ticket: Your odds of getting struck by lightning, having all your favorite numbers get drawn, or casting a vote that turns out to decide the outcome of an election may be infinitesimal, but the reward associated with action when these rare events do occur still far outweigh the risk.

    Of course, it helps that there is little if any risk to the voter involved in voting – in this case, precisely because one individual vote is unlikely to count for much. If I somehow knew my vote had a very good chance of deciding the election, there’d be a lot more risk involved in my decision (especially if others, particularly passionate partisans of my candidate’s opponent, were also aware of how much my one vote would mean).

  5. Ted Says:
    October 30th, 2008

    Joshua, when I read your first comment, I was confused. I couldn’t tell if you were going for “i”m voting for a third party guy with no chance of winning” or “the only vote that counts is the electoral college” or even “fuckit, my guy ain’t winning my state so I ain’t votin” kind of thing. Your last comment made me change my mind.

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Good to know that you will stand up and be anonymous since there is a minimal risk of your neighbors finding out which way you cast your ballot.

    After all, that’s the American way.

  6. Tam Says:
    October 31st, 2008

    A little part of my youthful idealism has died in this election. After many years of trying, the Democrats have finally decided to run The Wrong Lizard.

    I was a Badnarik supporter the last time ’round, too…


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