Yesterday, I voted in the Republican presidential primary. And I voted for Jon Huntsman.
Way to throw away your vote.
I don't think I threw away my vote though. Sure, Huntsman has absolutely zero chance of winning the race. Hell, he's not even in the race any more. He's just still on the ballot because the ballots are decided early on, and names aren't taken off if a candidate drops out.
But, thinking that you threw away your vote by casting it for someone who has no chance of winning is to presume that there is no value to voting other than affecting the ultimate decision in the election. I guess in a way that's true.
Not that casting it to affect the outcome of the election has any more value. Most of us live in states that are already predetermined to go for either Obama or the eventual GOP nominee (read: Romney). Among the battleground states, few will turn out to actually be close.
129 million people voted in 2008, and Obama won by a comfortable 10 million vote margin. Whoever you voted for in that election (I didn't), your vote didn't count.
That's not to say I don't believe in the value of democracy and that political participation is unimportant. It's that voting for the President is the lowest form of political participation. 1 out of 129 million. Best case scenario, you were in Missouri, where the difference was a mere 4,000 votes. But even then, Obama won 28 states and DC. Missouri ain't Florida in 2000.
I was living in New York City at the time, having graduated from law school a few months earlier. I knew several people there who were freaking out over the election. Seriously losing their shit at the mere thought that McCain might win, a scenario that they were certain would plummet the world into immediate disaster.
And I do mean they were literally quite disturbed by the prospect. You could see it in their faces whenever the election was brought up. Genuine fear. A few people admitted to becoming sick if they thought about it for too long. Exactly the type of people we need voting, folks who grossly over estimate the role the President has in the future of the country, and who are, by their own admission, incapable of rational thought on the issue.
I'd ask them what they thought would happen if McCain won.
Four more years of Bush.
Whatever that means.
I asked people what that meant. They'd say something vague about more foreign wars.
What was Obama's policy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan?
Bring the troops home as soon as we can.
And McCain's policy?
Leave the troops there as long as we have to.
The "evening star" is the first one visible as the sun sets. The "morning star" is the last one visible as the sun rises. Both are Venus. Somehow one of these options was desperately needed, the other was certain doom. I never heard anyone articulate a meaningful distinction between the two. Not that there weren't differences between McCain and Obama, just that the typical voter had no idea what they were. It was nothing more than a bunch of hype, hysteria, and the continuation of the endless battle between Red and Blue.
Then the election came, Obama won, was sworn in, and immediately began breaking promises for a more honest, transparent, and responsive government.
During his campaign, Obama promised that there would be a period of 5 days for public comment before he would sign any non-emergency bill in to law. On January 27, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act made its way out of Congress. On January 29th, Obama signed it. It was the very first bill to cross his desk, and with his first signature, he began breaking campaign promises. The second bill to reach President Obama, an expansion of SCHIP, was signed hours after leaving Congress.
I asked some of the die hard Obama supporters how they felt about him already going back on his promise to be something other than business as usual. They had no idea what I was talking about. His promise for a 5 day comment period? They'd never heard of it. Weren't they concerned that within a week of taking office, Obama already began breaking promises?
No. They were exhausted from the election, it'd been over for two months, they didn't care anymore. They were in fits over who would win in November. What that person did for the next four years? Meh. That's not really what matters.
My vote for Huntsman won't make any difference. But, I voted for him because he's the candidate I preferred. Not that I think he was merely the lesser of nine-or-so evils, but after watching the debates, reading campaign platforms, and having some form of rational thought on the matter, I thought he actually would make a good President.
Going to the poll and voting for someone "because he can beat Obama," only to make the exact same decisions as Obama, or checking off the straight party ticket without a clue who you're even voting for, even if all your guys win, you've thrown away your vote. My vote might not have mattered, but at least it meant something.