Is It OK To Vote For…?

Yes. Yes it is. Next question.

Not satisfied? OK; let me break this down for you:

For the majority of Americans, who you vote for in the presidential race doesn’t matter. The biggest long-term impact is going to be whether you get counted among the hundred million Americans that won’t vote this time around; if you do, you’ll be blamed in 2024 for everything that’s gone wrong in the past four years, just as though the parties choosing the least qualified, least electable candidates in no way impacts voter turnout.

(Honestly: Wouldn’t you prefer a contest between Marianne Williamson and Joe Walsh? And they’re only the next-worst two candidates. Imagine Andrew Yang versus Bill Weld.)

Yes, this is because of the Electoral College; no, I don’t think we should “get rid of it”. We should increase the number of Representatives in the House fairly drastically in order to increase granularity in the E.C., as well as making it possible for the average American to potentially know their Congressman — as opposed to now, when odds are you’ll never meet them except possibly in passing at an organized event somewhere. But how are they supposed to represent us if they don’t know who we are, far less how we feel about the issues? It was originally designed with far more members per citizen, and we should either return to that model or stop complaining that the new version doesn’t work.

But that’s a side note. We don’t deal here with what ought to be but instead what is; there’s a system in place, and until it’s changed, we work within that system. So, sure, gripe about it all you want — but don’t fool yourself into thinking that’ll change reality. And the reality is, unless you live in a battleground state, your vote is meaningless — either because it’s swamped by other Democrats, other Republicans, or other people who don’t like either party but pick a candidate anyway.

This time around, there are quite a few places that wouldn’t normally be considered “battleground states” but which can impact this election. North Carolina narrowly went for Obama instead of McCain, and this time around it might just possibly not support Trump. We’re used to Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Arizona dominating our results, but this year we’re seeing a Georgia that might swing Blue and a Minnesota that might go Red.

So it’s possible that, for as many as perhaps fifty million American voters, their choice may actually matter this time around. Except, again, it won’t. What’ll happen is what always happens: Some news item will swing the election, and we won’t even notice at the time. Maybe Trump will get trounced at the debate; maybe Biden will collapse into incoherent babble. Who knows? But whatever the event is, it’ll swing the election, and the eventual winner will owe their victory to something minor that nevertheless resonates with a few hundred thousand key voters. In 2016, it was Comey and the emails; in 2008 it was some complete idiot choosing Sarah Palin as running mate; in 1968 it was the revelation that V.P. candidate Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy.

Whatever happens, it’ll change the course of history, and then the election will be over and we’ll have to live with the results.

We are, in a sense, at the mercy of events, and there’s no way to change that. What’s worse, it’s evident the events themselves are often carefully arranged and coordinated — releases of information carefully timed to impact election results. In 2016, Comey was forced into untimely action, the leaked Podesta emails came out when they did for a reason, the Wasserman Schultz revelations were likewise timed, and so on. Now in September 2020, we’re seeing regular anti-Trump releases once a week and more, starting with “losers and suckers”, the “heat ray” disclosure, moving to the Woodward publication, thence the ICE hysterectomy whistleblower, now the tax returns, and so on.

In the face of this realization, it may be difficult to imagine why it would be worth bothering to vote at all; if we’re governed by external forces, why even pretend to participate in what will inevitably be a pointless plebiscite? But to my mind, it’s precisely at times like this that individual action is the most important, the most meaningful.

So is it all right if you vote for Biden, even though his selection in the primaries was carefully staged, the timing of drops and endorsements orchestrated to defeat Sanders in a concerted campaign? Of course it is. If we’re to judge politicians for participating in a rigged game, we’ll have to condemn them all — even those loudly protesting. Besides, despite his many faults and aggressive mediocrity, Joe Biden is a decent man — perhaps unprincipled as a candidate, but by any objective moral judgment far and away a better man than his principal opponent.

And is it okay if you choose instead to vote third party, as a way to protest the endemic corruption of the partisan system, the electoral process, and the deliberate selection of the worst electable candidate instead of the best? Certainly. In point of fact, if you’re not in a battleground state, it may be the only truly ethical choice you can make — and if you are, and your protest is sincere, it’s even more valid.

Which leaves us Trump: Is it all right to vote for him? Absolutely. Those who name him an existential threat or a tyrant seem to have no obstacle to so doing; those who protest his presidency quite evidently retain their right to peaceably assemble. There are no American death camps and we’re quite clearly not in a fascist dictatorship if we have the chance to vote against him. The mere absence of validity of the severest accusations is hardly compelling; I won’t vote for the man — but there’s nothing saying you can’t if he’s your guy.

The question boils down to what it is you’re voting for. If the politics and policies of Donald Trump reflect your own, that’s your answer, and far be it from me, or anyone, to tell you otherwise. If Biden’s are your cup of tea, again, you have a simple choice. If you don’t like either and don’t much care… well, I’d have to wonder what you’re doing here in the first place, to be honest. It’s pretty obvious there’s something wrong. Failing to act to fix it is tacit endorsement; I figure the very least you can do is vote third party. But that’s me.

What you choose to do about it? That’s up to you.


2020’s Battleground States include: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, plus arguably (though not likely) Texas, Ohio, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Maine’s second district.

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