The Only Wasted Vote is for the Candidate You Don’t Believe In

Submitted by US Army veteran Tim Shea

In many ways, my initial foray into American democracy was like losing my virginity: brief, awkward, and grossly unsatisfying. I drove down to the Fairfax County Courthouse, waited in line a few moments, and then, holding my nose in disgust, I filled in the small bubble next to “McCain/Palin.” And that was it. There was no glowing sense of civic pride, no predatory urge for my candidates to clobber the opposition. I voted Republican because I didn’t particularly care for Obama. That’s how politics works in America, right?

My decision in 2012 was slightly more palatable; while I had no great love for Romney, I could appreciate that he hadn’t picked a screeching caricature of femininity as his running mate. As we ramp up for the 2016 election though, I’ve found that my growing unease with the GOP has flared into full-blown disillusionment. I no longer want to vote for somebody just because they’re not a Democrat. Honestly, given the cavalcade of cretins and war mongers that is their remaining primary field, I may never vote Republican again.

So where does that leave me? Right now it’s a tossup between Gary Johnson and a write-in for John Oliver (because seriously, that guy is freaking hilarious.) I tend to keep that fact to myself, though. Whenever I do mention it in polite society, I’m inevitably treated to looks of bafflement followed by a flood of platitudes explaining why that’s a bad idea. “You’re wasting your vote,” or “a vote for X is a vote for Hillary,” or “you need to vote for a candidate who has a shot at winning,” and on and on until an aneurism seems like it’d be a pleasant alternative.

Don’t get me wrong, I once put a lot of stock in those arguments. I probably even peddled them myself a time or two. Now that I’m older and wiser, though, I’ve come to recognize that line of thinking for what it is: a scare tactic meant to drive voters to the ballot box in support of the two party cartel. It’s a strategy the politicos will leverage frequently in the coming months. But no matter how often this fear-inducing bluster is tossed around during the campaign season, that doesn’t make it true.

For one, there’s the false notion of the “wasted vote.” Romney’s chances were slim in 2012, and poor ol’ McCain never had a chance. My votes for them were as “wasted” as votes for Carrot Top. When it comes down to it, any vote not cast for the winning candidate is meaningless. That’s how first-past-the-post works.

More important, though, is the fact that even if Romney or McCain had won, I still wouldn’t have been happy. They were never my candidates. I voted for them because they were the (slightly) lesser of two evils, and their victory still would have meant years of gnashing my teeth as bad policy after bad policy was put into effect. Hell, who knows where I would have been deployed if Mr. “Bomb Iran” himself had sat in the oval office.

All kidding aside, my point is this: vote for a candidate you believe in. No, they might not win. They might never win. At the end of the day, though, to vote with your gut is to be honest with yourself. What’s more, you won’t be offering up your tacit support for a system that you have no faith in.

Now if you genuinely believe Hillary is the best person to lead this country, then go for it. If your heart tells you Donald Trump is the key to America’s future, then, well, we’ll disagree until the day we die, but get out and vote for him! But if you’re like the old me—choosing a candidate out of spite or a misplaced sense of obligation—then I ask you to think long and hard about which box you’ll check come Election Day. After all, meaningful change needs to start somewhere; that somewhere just probably isn’t a major party.

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