Saturday, February 20, 2016

Don't Vote. It's Your Right.

It's Primary election season, and in particular it's election day in South Carolina if you're voting in the Republican Primary.

South Carolina's primary is interesting in that it is an open primary. This is the day when Democrats turn out in force to vote for the Republican candidate that they think will perform the worst against a Democrat in a general election.

Or perhaps it's a good time to just jump the fence. Trump's campaign is counting on it. He knows that up to 20% of Democrats can be made to defect. Those include Democrats that can't endorse Clinton's baggage or Sanders' socialism. He has no intention of winning with Republican votes alone. And that's OK... you expect to appeal to more than just your party in the general election.

Photo by Stacy Mae via Facebook
Where Trump differs is that he's actively targeting Democrats in the Republican primary. Click to "embiggen" the photo above and note the "Open Primary" on the campaign sign.

We might see a little more of that next week during the Democratic primary, which is also open. Bernie Sanders is actively courting Rand Paul voters, and that's perfectly fine, too, even though I think Sanders is mistaken in the belief that their support of legal marijuana is based on a desire for marijuana vs. a desire for Liberty. (In fact if you talk to them, you'll find out that they have very little interest in "legalizing" marijuana. They want to repeal the laws that criminalize it in the first place. It's not really a subtle difference.)


And this brings up a point... it's a common tactic during elections to drum up votes by shaming people into voting. They tell you how much it's your duty to vote, that "you can't complain" if you don't vote, etc.
99.44% of the time they have no interest in you going to just cast a vote. Rather, they want you to cast a vote in their direction. 
If that doesn't describe you... then you're part of the 0.56%. Congrats.
That's really visible in the case of an open primary where people can "tactically vote" for the other side. If they were voting honestly and fairly, the "correct" thing to do in the case of another party's primary would be to not vote at all. To abstain, and then vote in their own primary.

But that's not the only time when it makes sense not to vote.

Look... you're not doing anyone any favors if you're voting just to vote. The American electoral system is based on the idea that people will vote in their interest... and it being a republic, that they will vote for people to represent those interests. Lacking that, they should stand for election and represent their own interests. This has long since been perverted into a party system, and for many reasons (for instance, lack of money or political talent) an individual may not be able to represent their own interests politically. The system that we have actively discourages participation by any but Republicans and Democrats, neither of which may represent you at all. It's not to your advantage to compromise your interests just to go through the motions of pushing a button or pulling a lever when you're told.

Here are completely valid reasons not to vote:
  1. There is no candidate with whom you agree. For instance, a die-hard Rand Paul fan might find himself without a voice now that his candidate has dropped out of the race. In this primary election he may be completely without representation, and thus may choose to abstain. This is reasonable.
  2. You may be ignorant of the candidates' views. Sure, you should have done your homework long before election day, but you didn't and it's water under the bridge. The fact remains that you can't make an informed decision, and your "duty" as a voter is not to "cast a vote"... it's to cast an informed one. You're not going to satisfy that duty by cramming on election day. Rather than let the alphabet, or pure chance decide for you, you abstain. This allows the decision to be made by informed minds. This is reasonable. 
  3. Same as 2, but you're being guilt-tripped into it by people who are trying to steal your voice. They want you cast a proxy vote for them. In other words, they want to cheat. Typically they'll send a bus 'round to take you to the polls and "educate" you as to who to vote for on the way. They don't see it as cheating, because they're all wrapped up in the larger cause that they're pursuing. It's vitally important to them that "Candidate Jones" gets elected, and they don't even think about whether you vote for a candidate of your free, unfettered, and informed choice. Should you push back because you're feeling manipulated or imposed upon, then it's because you are. This is reasonable.
Basically, if you don't want to vote, it is your right to abstain. You no more have to give your reasons than they have to tell you who they voted for.


So what about the people who tell you that you've forfeited your right to complain if you don't vote?

Well basically, they're full of shit, and I won't tell you that without explanation:
  1. Your First Amendment right to free speech and more especially to petition the government for the redress of grievances is not constrained by whether or not you cast a vote. Ever. It is an unalienable right which may not be abridged. So "Mr. You-can't-complain" is simply full of shit, as he's suggesting an unconstitutional penalty for your choice to abstain, and therefore has neither the business nor the wisdom to coach you on election politics. This trumps any other excuse he may throw at you, without any exception whatsoever.
That's it. A list of one.

I actually had a long list of reasons; but basically, they're unnecessary.
  • the fact that you had no viable candidate for whom to vote; 
  • the fact that you may have already participated in the electoral system by financially or otherwise supporting a candidate who didn't survive to be on your ballot;
  • the fact that the "informed voters" chose so poorly in not only the general election, but in a succession of primary elections leading up to yours that you were faced with this non-choice; 
  • the fact that we have a plurality election system that allows a candidate to "win" an election despite having two thirds of the vote cast in favor of anyone but that candidate (instead of a vastly more reasonable instant run-off system)
... all of these are valid reasons to complain, whether you voted or not. But be assured that they are all eclipsed by the fact that free speech is your right.

If anything, the person who does vote has no business complaining. He's the one who willingly took part in a system that by many objective standards is completely broken. If he casts a vote and the majority wins, whether he's a part of that majority or not, then he has agreed to take part in and accept the results of this broken system.

So he's the one who should STFU and stop bitching.


If you really want to see less post-election complaining, then don't guilt-trip citizens out of their First Amendment right to air grievances. Rather, you should advocate a switch to a system that's not broken.

You might not get your favorite candidate, but under this system the voters will always elect a candidate that the maximum number of citizens can best live with.

And by the way... you'll note that this is not the kind of positive change that can ever be effected by telling they have no say because they didn't endorse the system they want to replace.


Someone already disagrees... can't say I'm surprised. The gist of it:
If you're not informed, then its your fault. If your favorite candidate isn't there, then vote against your least favorite or spoil your vote. But not voting at all makes you a "lazy shit".
In response, I should mention this... if you're abstaining just because you're lazy, then I don't like that at all. But your rights are not determined by what I like.

It's still your right to abstain, and you still have the right to complain. Keep in mind that I'm primarily blogging against telling people they can't complain, which is just plain false. I'm not advocating not voting... but I don't endorse elections that are decided by uninformed voters. So I encourage you to inform yourself or don't vote. If you're ignorant, and you want to stay home, do it. It's the best thing you can do. Furthermore, I don't encourage people to be forced to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. That's a false dichotomy. You have other choices, one of which is to abstain. Sure, you could write in "Porky Pig", but that's a different message than "I'm not going to participate in this process". You have that Constitutional right to abstain whether some bully wants you to exercise it or not.

But if someone abstains because it's their choice not to vote... because their interests are not represented, or are best expressed by actively abstaining... that's the complete opposite of being a "lazy shit", and you would do well to recognize the difference.

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