Monday, May 19, 2008

I Threw My Vote Away

“Don’t throw away your vote” is a mantra often heard around election time, usually from a supporter of a major-party candidate, to dissuade you from voting for a third-party or write-in candidate. The philosophy behind that statement is that it’s wrong to vote for a candidate who has no chance to win.

I agree that voting for a fringe candidate is usually futile. While I don’t agree with everything the major parties propose, I have found that most third parties are on the fringe for good reason. Their ideas range from impractical to insane. Check out the platform for this party—or this party—if you don’t believe me.

Another problem with third parties and write-in candidates is that they can take votes away from viable candidates who, while they may not agree with you on everything, are by far the lesser of two evils. I can’t help but think of what the last eight years might have been like if not for Ralph Nader.

But there was one recent contest where a write-in vote was justifiable.

Pennsylvania’s recent Democratic Presidential primary was hailed as one of the most crucial primaries in the state’s history. The state’s primary is usually meaningless because it’s so late in the season. Not this year.

The contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama means a lot to many. People are excited by the prospect of a woman or black President. Others see the election as a struggle for the future of the Democratic Party—the old guard, represented by Clinton, against the youthful Obama.

To me, it was Coke vs. Pepsi. I couldn’t find much difference between their positions on major issues. I don’t think that being a woman or black is, by itself, a good reason to vote, or to not vote, for anyone. I know that, in November, I will vote for whichever candidate receives the Democratic nomination, because that person is preferable to Bush Light.

While I generally like both candidates, I am not happy with either’s stand on environmental issues. Both appear to be too close to the oil and coal industries, and neither is promoting alternative energy sources strongly.

My attempt at a tiebreaker involved trying to determine which candidate was more electable. I studied political websites with the same scrutiny I once reserved for the Racing Form, but all the articles I read were inconclusive. Mostly say hooray for our side.

Meanwhile, I began to be disappointed at the childish bickering between the two candidates. As the crucial day grew nearer, the race grew to look more like a high school election. When I found out that Clinton, Obama and McCain were going to appear on WWE Raw, I had finally had enough.

My wife had toyed with the idea of writing in Al Gore. I’d written in candidates before (back in my college days, I actually wrote this guy in for Governor of Ohio), usually from disgust with the candidates on the ballot.

This time, it was not disgust but hope for something better. While Gore has said, time and again, that he is not interested in running for President (and I don’t blame him for not wanting the job), there is a bit of a movement to draft him, and talk of nominating him should the convention be deadlocked. Which got me to thinking…if there’s enough support…and enough write-in votes…just maybe…

At least Pennsylvania makes it easy to write in a candidate. Just choose the write-in option and a keyboard appears on the screen. So it was that I typed in A-L-B-E-R-T-space-G-O-R-E-,-space-J-R-.

How did it feel to throw my vote away?

Not bad.

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