Thoughts on making my vote count when I know it won’t count…
If you’re reading this you probably already know that I live in Washington State. As such, because of the electoral college system, my exercise in democracy this November matters very little in the Presidential race. Save some natural disaster Hillary Clinton will secure our state’s electoral college votes. So, why bother voting in this race at all? (Note that I’m not talking about avoiding the down ballot contests here).
This is actually a question worth consideration. What are the good reasons to vote, and do they outweigh the reasons to not vote? First, I want to tackle the latter. The sole reason I can imagine possessing for not voting would be for an extreme aversion to all of the candidates on the ballot. However, even the marginal candidates have something to offer, so this line of thinking quickly dissipates.
But are there good reasons to vote? Well, if I don’t vote I’m essentially abdicating my responsibility to my fellow citizens. I would become a “free rider” that would reap the benefits of an institution that I had no part in holding up. Maybe it is the guilt I still carry as a result of an upbringing heavily colored by the Midwestern Protestant work ethic, but to me an abstention from voting seems almost unethical.
So now to my choices at hand. I have six choices on my ballot here in Washington, and not one of which am I excited about. For the first time in my life I registered as a Democrat in order to cast my vote in the Democratic caucus for Senator Bernie Sanders. This was a candidate that I firmly believed in and could actually get excited about. But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.
Pros: Seems to understand that our trade deals have left American workers competing against countries that don’t play by the same rules and can undercut labor and environmental costs so severely that our economy keeps moving toward a Walmart economy. Also may have a halfway decent student loan proposal.
Cons: The man is a walking excrement hydrant that brags about sexually assaulting women. He is a racist, a sexist, and is drumming up xenophobic mania among his supporters in a way that must be labeled as fascist, or at least neo-fascist. He has bribed public officials, ran a sham “university”, and will soon be subject of a trial in which he is accused of raping a 13 year old girl. He doesn’t understand why we can’t use our nuclear weapons. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that trickle down economics is a viable model for the country. He mistakenly believes we (he) can negotiate down the national debt. I could go on, but you likely already know the rest. I wouldn’t let this man manage an Arby’s, and it would be incredibly irresponsible for any thinking person to willfully elect a weak, thin-skinned, megalomaniac such as this to our highest office. There is zero chance I vote for Donald Trump.
Pros: Wants to keep our government intact. Thinks things like the EPA and Department of Education are worth keeping around. Wants to fix the ACA by implementing a public option. Wants to put in place training for displaced coal workers. Understands climate change is real and is a threat. Isn’t likely to roll back the civil rights gains made in the last decade. Might be willing to listen to progressives.
She has a good chance of getting elected, which means that the type of reforms I’d like to see take place have a slightly better chance of being enacted.
Cons: Her position on the Dakota pipeline is a complete joke. She will continue to implement neo-liberal policies as she has for decades. I don’t believe she will fight for real progress towards mitigating climate change.I don’t believe she understands the Black Lives Matter movement, nor does she see the problems the movement is so clearly articulating. She unequivocally supports Israel and will look the other way when it commits war crimes because she refuses to take a moral stand against countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia because of the “enemy of my enemy” policy we seem all too eager to cling to. She was endorsed by Henry Kissinger, a man who will never (though he should) stand trial for his own war crimes.
I also believe that she helped cover up her husband’s first rape accuser (though most if not all of the others don’t seem credible). I still don’t understand why she has stuck by such a sleazeball.
Voting for Hillary is essentially voting for 4 more years of the Obama administration, though I have a feeling it will be a much more hawkish one. It would also send the message to Donald Trump and his supporters that a large majority of Americans reject his brand of deplorable demagoguery. But would anyone notice my one vote?
Pros: He’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican is what you might expect me to say but that’s a statement with no weight behind it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying with either of those two parties as plenty of capable and responsible politicians do.
I will say that his desire to see the US as less of a work police is enticing. We could use a dramatic cut back in our military spending (while still being responsible for the defense of our country) and its influence around the world which often fuels the flames of terrorism that it is supposed to extinguish.
Also, I generally hate the GOP. Today’s Republican party is absolutely a reflection of people like Trump and Ted Cruz. And by voting for Johnson, I could help get their party to the 5% needed to qualify for federal matching funds. Meaning that a vote for Johnson might mean even fewer votes for the GOP candidate in 2020. That’s a long-game spoiler but given the options…
Cons: He’s a libertarian (I can’t wait till some jackass tells me he isn’t a “real” libertarian because a he thinks driver’s licenses are a good idea) which means a host of awful things if put into practice. And as John Oliver recently showed, his fixation with reducing the size of government leaves all sorts of practical implications up in the air (such as his wanting to close the Dept. of Commerce but not realizing that includes the patent office). He doesn’t seem to understand the government he rails against. And can’t convince even 10% of voters that he’s the right guy for the job.
Pros: She would fight hard for a stronger minimum wage. She would fight hard for climate policy. She would fight hard for a number of causes that I do believe in. And like voting for Gary Johnson, my one vote would get the Green Party closer to the 5% needed to help them in future elections.
Cons: Her foreign policy is kind of a disaster. Her stance on Syria is extremely troubling. She doesn’t seem to have concrete plans for her proposals. Also, we live in America where there is a Senate and House of Representatives where she would have exactly ZERO members of her own party to support her. Democrats might be on her side, but do we really think she could get her plans through Congress somehow, even if by some miracle she was elected?
The Green Party has had some minor success in getting down ballot candidates elected. But that’s where their focus needs to be at this point. They need a coalition and strong Congressional support in order to help a green POTUS enact the type of legislation they desire.
Yes, there are a couple of other alternatives, but none of which have even the slightest chance of making it to 2% of the popular vote. And yes, I already understand the duopoly and how our lawmakers and media have rigged the system against outside voices. I get all of that. But my one vote only has so much opportunity to do anything, to mean anything in a country of 300+ million.
And this post isn’t to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you (but really please don’t vote for that fucking asshole Trump). Maybe you live in a swing state and your vote might really help decide if we do or don’t end up with an orange toddler for a president. You have your own choice to make, as do I. These aren’t the options I had hoped for, but they’re the options I have. And I feel that not voting just isn’t a choice that I can willfully make.