You're Wasting Your Vote -- Not

People ask me who I am voting for in the Presidential election this year about five times a day.  I wish they wouldn't.  Asking me about the upcoming election is a bit like having people constantly asking me if I am looking forward to my root canal next week.  I find the whole subject of elections depressing -- these are people competing to exercise power over me that they should not have -- and this feeling only is worse with the horrendous choices we are being offered this year by the major parties.

But I play along, and tell them I am voting for Gary Johnson.  And then I get, about 100% of the time, this retort -- You're wasting your vote!

What the hell does this mean?  Since we keep voting and nothing really changes in the corrupt actions of a power-hungry government, I suppose one could call that a wasted vote, in the same spirit of "doing the same thing over again and expecting different results."  Many libertarians refuse to vote, both for this reason and to avoid giving their sanction to those who seek to exercise power.  But that is now what most people mean when they say I am wasting my vote.

What they mean is that any vote that is not for one of the two main Coke or Pepsi parties is wasted because the system has been structured by these two parties to make third party runs effectively hopeless (in much the same way that Coke and Pepsi coordinate their actions in the retail channel to exclude rivals from shelf space).

This is clearly brilliant marketing by the two major parties to get this phrase so embedded in everyone's head, but it is stupid.  For example, by this same logic, any vote for a losing candidate is wasted, so 47 or 48 percent of people are always wasting their vote.

The two major parties are going to continue producing the same crap candidates by the same process and espousing the same stale statism until people start voting for someone else.

I know a lot of folks fear a Trump presidency so much they are willing to hold their nose and vote for Clinton just to make sure that is avoided.  I can't necessarily argue with that logic.  Clinton is a conventional candidate and at least will suck in conventional and predictable ways.  But I am more confident in the robustness of the American system to withstand bad Presidents, even perhaps as bad as Trump.  I will say I would have been more confident in this statement 16 years ago before the last two Presidents worked so hard to erode Constitutional safeguards and checks on the power of the President.  On this dimension (and really only on this dimension) a Trump presidency might at least have one silver lining, in that it would sure as hell cure the Left of their love for the imperial presidency.

  • http://www.vaslaw.com/ Richard Arrett

    I totally agree with you.

    If you vote for the person you want to win, you are not wasting your vote.

    We have fought wars to protect the right of a person to vote for the person they want to win.

    When a republican or democrat says you are wasting your vote - they are really saying you should vote for the person they are voting for.

    They want to control your vote!

    How unamerican!

  • Dan Wendlick

    I worry that if elected Trump would not be able to accomplish what he is promising.
    I worry that if elected, Clinton will be.
    that is what I am basing my vote on.

  • MJ

    This is clearly brilliant marketing by the two major parties to get this
    phrase so embedded in everyone's head, but it is stupid.

    I don't know if I'd call it "brilliant" -- it only seems to work on low-info voters. Trump has openly embraced low-info voters during his campaign. Hillary and the Democrats are still in denial that those voters make up a sizable share of their base, or at least aren't willing to publicly proclaim it.

    The next time someone ask tells you that you are "wasting your vote" by voting for a third party, ask them who they are voting for. Then, when they predictably rattle off the name of the Team Blue or Team Red candidate, ask them what the likelihood is that they have cast the decisive vote in favor of that candidate. When they give you a quizzical look in response, let them know that they, in fact, are the one who has wasted their vote. This is doubly true if their defense of their candidate is of the "well at least they aren't [fill in the blank]" variety or the "well, I don't want to be responsible for electing [fill in the blank]" variety.

  • MJ

    There is also an odd dynamic at play at this stage in the election. I've heard a number of voters who say that they want to vote for a third-party candidate, but will do so only if Clinton's margin of victory over Trump in their particular state is assured.

    Last night I was watching some CNN coverage of the fallout from Trump's embarrassing comments and the most recent debate. They announced some new poll results which suggested that Clinton holds a double-digit lead over Trump at the national level. If there is a non-trivial amount of voters who would vote third-party assuming that they think the margin between the two major party candidates is large enough that Trump will not be elected, then they may significantly erode the Democrats' base enough that the race may be become close again in a number of states.

    This assumes that these voters did not identify as Clinton voters for the purposes of the most recent poll, and rather identified as "undecided". Guessing at people's latent preferences for candidates is difficult work. But IIRC, the poll results identified four options (Clinton/Trump/Johnson/Stein), which together accounted for about 90% of the responses. That leaves around 10 percent in the "undecided" camp.

  • mlhouse

    It is a waste of a vote to vote for someone who has zero chance of winning.

  • Baelzar

    It's about the Supreme Court. The next President will get 3, likely 4, Supreme Court Justice picks.

    If Clinton gets in, she'll load that court up - Scalia's empty seat immediately, then Ginsburg will retire (she's 83), then Kennedy, then Breyer. THEN, they'll start marching all the cases that were decided by a 5-4 vote up the hill, starting with gun control. District of Columbia vs Heller. McDonald vs Chicago. Then their other causes - Voter ID, immigration, forced union dues, Citizens United....

    So yeah. As a libertarian, I'm suggesting that voting for Johnson is a bad move.

  • J_W_W

    "these are people competing to exercise power over me that they should not have"

    I'm stealing that. Absolutely great line.

    In my personal life I have made the decision that I am going to exercise my natural rights regardless of any government regulations over them.

  • slocum

    "For example, by this same logic, any vote for a losing candidate is wasted, so 47 or 48 percent of people are always wasting their vote."

    But the same is true of anybody who who voted for the winning candidate, since their individual vote was not needed and the outcome would have been just the same if they'd been stuck in bed all day with the flu on election day.

  • Q

    I also used to think of the two parties as Coke and Pepsi (when I actually preferred 7-Up), but I've come to the conclusion it's actually Coke and New Coke ... not sure which is which though ...

  • MikeS

    The way I see is that I could vote for the crony capitalist who is a warmonger, hates the constitution, and has pre-sold her presidency to Goldman-Sachs or I could vote for the crony capitalist who is an economic ignoramus, wanna be strongman, and stare adoringly at the Putin posters decorating his bedroom. No thanks! I think I'll "waste" my vote on Gary Johnson.

  • John Moore

    Nonsense. This isn't about the right to vote for whom you wish. It is about which choice is the most prudent.

    To me, that is a vote for the candidate most likely to produce good results, or least likely to produce bad ones.

    For that reason, I expect to vote for Trump if there is the slightest chance my vote will matter, and currently the polls put Arizona as a toss-up state.

    Why Trump? As another commenter mentioned, the Supreme Court. Beyond that, Trump's worst instincts are likely to be checked by a hostile Congress and a viciously hostile media. Hillary's worst will be cheered on by the media, and the current Republican congress has shown that they won't check a progressive.

  • John Moore

    Wow - pretty insulting to those of us who through this through and consider this to be a binary election!

    "Low info voters" - yeah, sure.

    How about voters who care about the actual consequences, and who know that their vote is not just for the personality, but for the expected outcomes.

    People who talk about "low information voters" are one of the causes of the Trump revolt. Sorry, but elitism is past its sell-by date in America.

  • herdgadfly

    If Trump gets in he will ruin the economy through increased tariffs and bailing from NAFTA and more regulation and more stupid spending like we could never imagine. Besides that, a septaugenarian with the arrested development of a 13 year old cannot run our country. His nefareous past is catching up in this October of Surprises and it took #pussygate and his dealings with Jeffrey Epstein and the possibility of his raping a 13 year old girl at an Epstein event in 1994 to make me think this old guy is sick and totally immoral. A civil lawsuit will be heard in a federal court in New York shortly after the election - and there is a witness.

    So there is nobody but Gary Johnson.

  • Baelzar

    Can you do math?

  • Kurt Droffe

    "..in that it would sure as hell cure the Left of their love for the imperial presidency."
    Are you kidding? Well, yes, they would hate it as long as Trump is in charge, but nevertheless they would love it if one of them would succeed. It is only libertarians who hate "imperial" out of principle, not out of disappointment of not being in charge themselves.

  • ano333

    Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the two alien twins took over the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. When they were unmasked, one said it didn't matter because "you have to vote for one of us!" When a guy yelled back "maybe I will just vote for a third party," the alien responded "What, and throw your vote away?"

  • MJ

    Why yes, I can. So can these guys

    It looks like Trump is rapidly approaching the point of being mathematically eliminated. Nobody has ever recovered from a double-digit deficit in the polls this close to election day. I guess that means all of the Trump voters should just abstain, since they're wasting their vote anyway. Or throw their vote behind Clinton, since she seems likely to win. It is about winning, isn't it?

  • MJ

    How about voters who care about the actual consequences, and who know that their vote is not just for the personality, but for the expected outcomes.

    Okay, let's take that statement at face value. Name one policy favored by Trump that you think is good for this country. Note that Supreme Court appointments don't count as policy.

    People who talk about "low information voters" are one of the causes of the Trump revolt. Sorry, but elitism is past its sell-by date in America.

    If insisting on integrity, character, and a rudimentary understanding of the issues in our elected representatives makes me elitist, then I plead guilty as charged. By the way, the Trump "revolt" has fractured the Republican Party in a way that almost certainly will cost it the presidency and likely at least one house of Congress.

  • MJ

    Nonsense. This isn't about the right to vote for whom you wish. It is about which choice is the most prudent.

    Okay, Kommissar. That's a pretty inspiring message to send to undecided voters. I'm sure that will tip the scales in favor of Trump.

  • Baelzar

    In this case, it's about not losing. So, your math assumes all Trump voters throw their votes to Johnson? Which of the pollsters show Johnson winning?

  • Baelzar

    Corporate tax rate reduction. Repealing the Death Tax. Regulation reduction.

  • NemesisII

    "If Trump gets in he will ruin the economy through increased tariffs and
    bailing from NAFTA and more regulation and more stupid spending like we
    could never imagine."

    Not unless Paul Ryan lets him. Congress makes the laws.

  • MJ

    Vote for whomever you think best represents you. That's the point. But don't pretend that people who announce their support for Johnson (or Stein, for that matter) need to justify their decision any more than Trump voters do.

  • Paul Moroni

    Warren has never provided a serious argument for why Trump would be a worse president than the usual Coke or Pepsi.

  • Clare Steen

    My two cents: If a person argues that I should vote for their candidate because I would "waste my vote" if I voted for my candidate, it means that person lacks even one solid reason for me to vote for their candidate. Today, I pushed the button for Johnson.