Some have suggested here that the correct strategy this November is to vote for the “major-party” candidate you find least offensive. If you people keep making suggestions like this, I’m going to have to revoke your commenting privileges, or at least institute the comment-review option allowed by Blogger and now being used for home run calls in Major League Baseball. (Sixty-forty.)
I first hated this suggestion in 2001 when we voted in the California recall election. There were three main candidates: Cruz “Bust A Move” Bustamante, Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger, and Tom “Too Serious For Nicknames” McClintock. As the election neared, nearly everyone I talked to had this to say: “I like McClintock best, but he can’t win, so I’m voting for Schwarzenegger.”
What makes a candidate win? Getting more votes. (Yes, this is true even of the presidential election, which is really 51 simultaneous elections. I’ll be voting in the Kansas presidential election, and the winner will be the candidate who gets the most popular votes.) When a candidate is ahead in the polls, all that means is that a sample of other voters favor him. Casting your vote based on what the sample wants transfers your vote to them.
Let’s say there are ten people voting for something and you’re one of them. Before going to vote you check the latest polls. It turns out Zogby talked to the other nine voters (they all have land-lines and you don’t), and the polls show Candidate A is leading, five to four. You say, “Well, I preferred Candidate B, but he’s behind in the polls,” so you go vote for Candidate A.
“Bu-bu-but that’s different! I’m not the deciding vote in this election!” Why not? How do you know until the votes are counted? Why vote at all if you only take your choice seriously under threat of being the “deciding vote”? No presidential election in history has been decided by one vote, so we should all phone it in and allow the other voters to pick for us.
If we all phone it in, there are no other voters. Keeping a vote from Candidate A is not voting for Candidate B; it’s nothing more than not voting for Candidate A. I don’t know if I can support Obama, but I know I cannot support McCain, and that’s not a contradiction.
The two major parties have a lot invested in convincing you they are the only choices (like car companies want you to think they’re the only viable transportation option, or Middle Eastern countries want you to think they’re the only viable energy source). The Republican Party was a third party that began when both the Democrats and the Whigs refused to properly address the slavery issue. In a few years, however, when the Republicans finish their transition from being pro-life to being “open-minded,” they will tell you that you have to hold your nose and vote for them.
If McCain wanted my trust to “protect and defend the Constitution,” he should have protected and defended it when he had the chance in the past. His campaign finance reform law is the largest infringement on the First Amendment since the Alien and Sedition Acts (also the work of an old man named John).
Tune in tomorrow when I discuss why fear of Supreme Court appointments is not a sufficient reason to vote for or against a presidential candidate. (Although I probably won’t, because tomorrow is Saturday and I’ll be busy.)