US presidential elections: The practical effect of voting your conscience
Sunday July 01st 2012, 9:39 am

The two-party US electoral system is rubbish. It does not afford minority representation as does a Parliamentary system. Voting for a 3rd party candidate in US presidential elections is, in the most generous of estimations, the same as not voting at all.

Some of Obama’s policies are morally indefensible, specifically the use of drones in Pakistan etc, where pretty much anyone killed beyond the predetermined targets is counted by the US military/CIA as an ‘enemy combatant’ anyway.  I’m no happier about this than any other progressive voter.

However, if one’s intent by voting for a mathematically unelectable yet progressive/left 3rd party candidate is to drive the political landscape further to the left than Obama, know that the practical effect of such a wasted 3rd party vote is a vote for Romney. Your ineffective protest vote simply puts Romney one vote closer to victory.

Romney is unlikely to change the drone usage policy- if anything, given how beholden Romney is to big money interests such as the military industrial complex, such a program will be stepped up.  It’s equally likely that Romney will follow his puppetmasters’ desires for more war in general, with boots on the ground, likely in Iran.  At that point, your 3rd-party vote not only didn’t support your idealistic aims, it will be directly responsible for even more death and destruction, but now including US armed forces personnel.

Further to that, there’s no small likelihood that there will be some US Supreme Court retirements during the next 4 years:

Justice Ginsburg, a stalwart of the court’s liberal bloc, has been treated for pancreatic cancer. Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s most visible conservative, is 76. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, frequently the swing vote, is 75. And Justice Stephen G. Breyer, like Justice Ginsburg a Democratic appointee, is about to turn 74.

The median age for retirement of Supreme Court justices is 78.4 years.

When you consider the extremely narrow escape for the Affordable Care Act and the wrack and ruin of the US political landscape- the outright legitimisation of political corruption- wrought by the Citizens United decision on party lines by conservative SCOTUS appointees, the importance of as many as four potential Obama appointments to the top court cannot be understated.

Idealism is wonderful. You should be idealistic. However, you must consider the practical effect of your idealism, given the fetterment of the US electoral system. Your idealism may well have the precisely opposite effect to your intent- if not worse.


3 Comments so far
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I’m curious – do you think this holds true for a preferential system like ours where voting is compulsory? Since Kim Beasley sold out the Labour Party back in 2001 I’ve always voted for the third contender on the hypothesis that if the votes to the Democrats/Greens/whatever started to mount, both parties would start to analyze exactly why that was happening and modify their behaviour accordingly. It seems to have held true a little, at least, over the last decade.

Comment by anaglyph 10.07.12 @ 5:54 pm

No, a Parliamentary system, coupled with preferential voting, does facilitate representation of more of the electorate than does the US 2-party system. The US Republican and Democratic parties have for too long been competing for the real estate on the side of one coin in a race to the bottom in screwing the average person, and we could probably put up the worst example of that as Clinton signing NAFTA.

Conversely, a Parliamentary system facilitates the participation of minor parties, which, while they may not be able to form government in their own right, at least get their voices heard. In the recent case of the hung parliament at the federal level in Australia, the Greens have managed to inject some of their values into national policy, which I find to be a very good thing. Such is inconceivable in US federal level politics.

Comment by weez 10.07.12 @ 6:48 pm

Every time I’ve voted for the lesser of two evils I’ve been disappointed and regretted it. Now I vote my conscience (if there’s someone for whom I can vote at all), and feel much better about it.

Prometheus Award-winning libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith refers to the Democratic and Republican parties as actually the Mommy and Daddy wings, respectively, of the same Boot-on-Your-Neck Party. He has an excellent point.

Comment by David K. M. Klaus 01.21.13 @ 9:07 am

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