For years I have talked about voting for candidates who are not the Democrat or Republican front runners in the race. “You are wasting your vote” is the response I get without fail. Am I really? Why am I wasting my vote? Given that response, it would seem that if I don't vote for the Democrat front runner or Republican front runner my vote does not count, it is unimportant, it does not matter.
The only truth this statement holds is in reference to itself. When we perpetuate the idea that a vote for a candidate you believe in is a wasted vote we give that statement all of its power. In my opinion, the only true waste of a vote is the nonchalant denial of the democratic process by which we choose a president in the first place. If this phenomenon of vote wasting is true, then that means what we have is not a true democracy. Instead we have only a partial democracy, a democracy that only allows for one of two candidates, or as we call it today a two party system. Despite the constant bombardment of this idea as a fundamental truth, it is simply put not how our government is shaped. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
The second President, First Vice President, and founding father of the United States John Adams once wrote:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
Here we find ourselves in exactly the predicament that John Adams spoke of. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center the current approval rate for Republicans is 37% and for Democrats it is 45% (as of 10/4/2015).
If the majority of the country is so disapproving of what our “two party system” has done, why do we continue to vote for them? More baffling still, why do we continue to perpetuate this idea that a vote for someone else is a wasted vote?
In my opinion, one of the more disconcerting reasons why people vote this way is fear. We vote not for who we think would represent us best but rather against the candidate who we do not want representing us. Additionally, someone will inevitably tell you “if you don't vote for ‘A’ then you are responsible for the election of ‘B’.” This is a fallacious argument as far as I am concerned. The people responsible for the election of a candidate are the majority who voted for that candidate, not the people who chose to exercise their right to democracy. Voting against a candidate instead of for a candidate is just another function of fear voting.
You will recall the words of the journalist Edward R. Murrow during the Mccarthy period:
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
Yet, we find ourselves voting as fearful men and women from election to election. We find ourselves preaching fear and making decisions based on fear. I urge you, nay I beg you, come November please waste your vote. Choose a candidate from any party or any school of thought that you support and vote for that person. Do not fall into a pattern of fear and stagnation that disallows from movement and growth. Next time someone tells you you are wasting your vote for supporting a candidate you believe in, feel confident in telling them, “It is you, my friend, who are wasting your vote by voting for a candidate you do not believe in”.
In this election it has been made clear that on all sides there is a level of anger against the so-called establishment. Let's today not recoil in fear and vote against any candidate. Let's instead come together to vote for those who we believe in. I don't care who it is, that part I leave to you to decide. If you have to write someone in then write someone in. Perhaps then, some time soon, for the first time in a very long time, we will have a president that the people have chosen, instead of one of two who was chosen for the people. It is true that change can be bad, as are all things with potential for good. One thing that is clear is that stagnation leads nowhere, and in this country our government is nothing if not stagnant. You can call me an idealist if you want but do not forget that idealism has changed the course of history more times than so-called pragmatism ever will. When you go to vote this November, and every election after that, please remember to waste your vote.