Yes. With Election Day less than 12 hours away, I’m not going to try to change your vote through a seriously in-depth, highly-theory-based discourse on the purpose of government, the proper role of the state, and the numerous benefits of working towards a purely libertarian America.
But what I do (and I hope you do) have time for, are a few practical suggestions for the ballot box that can help America work better, and you vote more effectively.
In such a close, polarized election cycle, every pundit who’s any pundit who has any memory of Ralph Nader has said something about the spoiler effect in the election. Republicans have tried to limit Gary Johnson’s ballot access in a handful of states, and succeeded in a few. Democrats are scared, because he’s actually taking away more votes from Obama than Romney in Colorado, and could legitimately cause some Electoral College problems there. And though many people on the left like Jill Stein’s message of a Green New Deal and many on the right like Johnson’s Fair Tax plan, not many of either are comfortable enough to stray from their parties for fear that the ‘other guy’ would be much worse and must be kept out at all costs.
Here are a few reasons to drop that kind of thinking and vote your conscience.
First: It’s your conscience. Consciences are pretty awesome. If you truly believe in a candidate, there’s something inherently good about voting for them, even if you think Obama’s better than Romney or vice versa.
Second: 5% is the number to watch. Surprisingly unrelated to some metric of social stratification, it’s the percentage of the popular vote that a third party candidate needs to qualify for Federal Election Campaign Funding (which would, even in the richest third party’s case, quadruple its resources). It would basically guarantee ballot access in all 50 states for any candidate who got it, instiate them as a legitimate third party option in our two party system, and Gary Johnson is definitely within reach. So if you are in a non-swing state or in any way are on the fence about voting for a third party candidate, realize that getting Gary Johnson this 5% right now, or getting Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, and others on their way towards it, is definitely a fight worth fighting. Because, let’s face it. Even Democrats and Republicans can agree that the two party system sucks.
Third: Choice. And I mean real choice. This is what these third parties are offering. Have you realized that there are a couple of core issues that haven’t entirely been brought up this election cycle in any meaningful way? Like, the drug war? Civil liberties? Climate change? Ending the foreign wars and drone strikes, rather than jockeying around to see who can expand the military more? Limiting oil drilling rather than seeing who can increase it more on public land during their tenure? These are not only important issues, but some of the most important issues our country faces, and they get little-to-no mention in the media, the debates or the speeches.
The oft-repeated assertion I’ve heard against this argument is that, yeah, I mean, I hate the fact that Obama has prosecuted more military whistleblowers than every other President ever, combined, but Romney/Ryan is pro-life. Or the opposite argument for Republicans who actually care about the fiscal deficit, but loathe Obama’s pro-choice stance.
Well, I think approaching the argument from one side is sufficient. For all the Democrats out there, let’s say both parties suddenly decided to be pro-life. Would you vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ of two pro-life parties (let’s say, the one who wanted to tax the rich more), or vote for the third party pro-choice candidate, even if he/she had no chance of winning?
I would hope the third-party pro-choicer (as I would). For the third party voters in today’s world, we have a choice between two parties who, with an equal fecklessness, trample the lives of foreigners, our civil liberties, our environment, and a host of other issues which we hold near and dear. If you value any of these (along with the value of pro-choice-ness, which both Johnson and Stein share), I would suggest looking beyond the singularity of one wedge issue, to these countless other equally important ones that are not getting their fair share of attention.
Now, on to the not voting part
Clearly there aren’t very many convincing arguments to not voting. You should be making time to vote. You should care. You shouldn’t be choosing ‘or Die’.
Some people just plain old don’t recognize the authority of the federal government. I respect that.
But the reason I’m bringing this up is, the kind of voting I’m discouraging is the voting in ignorance.
If you step in to the voting booth and don’t recognize any names in an election, don’t vote in that election.
It’s that simple.
You might be a Democrat. You might be a Republican, a Tea Partier, a Libertarian, a Rent-is-Too-Damn-High-er, or a Scientologist. But you don’t know who the person under that party category is. In Rhode Island, many of the Democrats are social conservatives. In New York, our Republican mayor just endorsed Obama.
So just voting down the party line doesn’t guarantee you any ideological purity. It can allow corrupt politicians in areas with highly concentrated party affiliations to pass through without scrutiny. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on your ballot beforehand, using the League of Women Voters for finding out who’s on your ballot, RopeProbe for finding out what’s up with your judicial candidates, and just Googling the names of the rest of your candidates to look at their platforms.
If it were earlier than 10PM the night before Election Day, I’d say you could e-mail your representatives with questions about certain positions, but you’ll just have to go with online information at this point. Cram, cram, cram!
And if you can’t find any information on any of the candidates (which, believe me, happens sometimes), feel free to write in Ron Paul (like I did), or the color of your favorite Power Ranger. Remember: you’re doing it for America.
All in all, have fun out there at the polls. Enjoy your freedom and your democratic rights. Vote third party if you feel so inclined (and specifically Gary Johnson if you really want to make me happy), and try to avoid just voting straight down the party line, blind.
Happy Election Day, Friends!