Monday, July 16, 2012

If you don't vote, you can't complain

The grip that this fallacy has on people is incredible.  I wonder why it isn't questioned more often.
It is false because it is based on the assumption that, among the selection of candidates, there's something for everybody.  The assumption is flawed.  It implies that regardless of one's beliefs, there's a candidate who claims to represent those beliefs rigidly enough that he deserves one's vote.  This is simply untrue.

It wasn't until this election season that I understood the reality of this fallacy.  Usually I vote libertarian, but this year I'm not completely sold on the libertarian candidate.  I will examine my other options between now and November, but if I don't find someone else whom I feel would make a good President, I will write in Ron Paul.  And I will still have two good reasons to complain: 1) because the party I traditionally vote for will have let me down by tinkering with its platform too much, and more importantly 2) the winner of the election will enact policies that are completely against what I believe.

The alternative would be to abandon my principles and vote for for a candidate whom I don't actually want to win.  In so doing, I would forfeit my right to complain- particularly if that candidate won, for I would bear part of the responsibility of his agenda.  Even if he lost, while I couldn't be held responsible for the winner's policies, I still will have registered my support for the belief system of a candidate I did not endorse.  In effect, my vote will have said, "You have my support; better luck next time."

It wouldn't be a big deal if only a handful of people did this, but considering that this is how millions of Americans choose to perform their civic duty, it turns out to be a very dangerous and stupid thing to do.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "Anybody but Obama," as though merely replacing Obama with the most popular alternative won't bring about its own unique set of problems.

It's hard to imagine how so many people can genuinely adopt the "Anybody but [candidate/party]" doctrine and continue to vote that way forever, especially because even when they vote for the winner they still never run out of things to complain about.  But it does happen.

Then again it must be just as hard for most people to see why I vote the way I do, because I'm constantly berated about it.  Here's a short list of things I hear again and again, every election:

You're wasting your vote [if you don't vote Republican or Democrat]
My personal opinion is that voting for something you don't actually support is foolish.  This isn't some ivory tower libertarian philosophizing here- it's a simple observation.  What people who say this don't understand is that neither popular candidate has shown even the slightest sympathy towards anything resembling my values, and so I sincerely believe I would be shooting myself in the foot (or, if you prefer, wasting my vote) were I to have anything to do with electing either one of them.  I care who wins, and I don't want it to be either them.

You'll never win / What do you hope to accomplish by voting third party?
When I do vote, I'm well aware of the staggering improbability of my candidate winning.  I've taken that for granted for years.  But I've never heard a convincing reason as to why I should consider that a factor when deciding whom to vote for.  Yes, I know that my third party vote isn't going to tear down the establishment.  So when given the choice between actively supporting a system that I believe is a disgraceful sham, or not, I will happily opt for the latter in every instance.  There's no incentive not to.

A vote for a third party is a vote for [candidate].
The only people responsible for a candidate winning are the people who voted for that candidate.  It doesn't matter whether your candidate lost by a margin of less than some other candidate's votes.  It might be a bummer, but as someone whose candidates will likely never win an election, I'm just not sympathetic to that claim.  Besides, there are plenty of people who never vote at all- do they all deserve blame as well?

No, they do not deserve the blame.  People who refrain from voting probably do so for reasons similar to why I don't vote for popular candidates I don't like- they don't see the point.  Maybe they noticed after a few election cycles that no matter who wins, nothing substantial changes.  That so many people don't vote is a testament to how little the main candidates bring to the table.

I will end this by saying that if you're putting your faith in either Obama or Romney, you already lost the election.  I predict in another four years we'll all still be in the same boat: we'll still be engaged in pointless open-ended war, we'll be deeper in debt, thousands of people will still be imprisoned unjustly, the government will still have it's boot on the throat of our educational system, unemployment will still be high, the entitlement cans will be kicked a little further down the road, the cost of healthcare (and everything else) will continue to rise, and politicians will still be able to make up the rules as they go along.

Come to think of it, maybe all of our votes are wasted.

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