If voters really want an alternative to the same old bad choices, they have to vote it in.
When it comes to elections, Lila has been around long enough to recognize the voter strategies… or voter despair. In too many elections, I have felt that I was reduced to voting for the least awful of two very flawed candidates; in a very real sense, my vote has too often felt like a vote against the worst option, rather than a vote in favor of a candidate that I felt good about.
But what can one do? The smaller parties can’t get a fair shake, right? I recall the 1992 Presidential election, when H. Ross Perot ran as an Independent candidate. Incumbent George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton that year. Some observers concluded that Ross had taken Republican votes away from Bush and enabled the Clinton win, breaking a long Republican winning streak. One can re-analyze the campaign and the voter data to argue that point, but the lesson many voters drew was that the only votes that count are the ones cast for the two major parties. Casting one’s vote for any other candidate is just “throwing your vote away,” or worse, taking votes away from the preferable major-party candidate (or the least horrible one, anyway).
Fast-forward to the Virginia gubernatorial race this year. The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is seen by many as a shady businessman with sleazy ethics. The Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, is seen by many as too conservative, too right-wing, too divisive. As a Republican, his appeal is also tainted somewhat by the federal government shutdown on Capitol Hill. Like many other Virginia voters, I find myself with a toss-up: do I want the guy whose fundamental beliefs are actively, directly opposed to mine, or do I want the guy with the ethics that are arguably not up to my minimum expectations? Hmmm, right-wing, or sleazy… what to do, what to do?
There is another option. Robert Sarvis, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, is running, has the support of 8% of the voters in the most recent survey, and has ranged as high as 10%.
Lila is tired of choosing the least horrible of two horrible choices. I really, truthfully cannot choose either one of these major-party gubernatorial candidates in good conscience. A vote for either one would actually bother me. So on 5 November, I will be casting my ballot for Sarvis, the Libertarian. It will be the first time I have voted for a party other than the two major ones. I know the chances of a Sarvis victory are slim, but I don’t consider this “throwing my vote away.” So long as voters maintain the notion that only the two major parties can win, so long as voters cast their votes for two major parties that turn their stomachs, those same voters will take away their own choices and perpetuate the very situation they have come to detest. At some point, if voters really want change, they have to vote that change in. If they really can’t put their moral backing behind a candidate, they shouldn’t. I’m voting my conscience. If others don’t, so be it. I can’t make their choices for them.
You know what they say: every nation has the government it deserves. I don’t think Virginia deserves either one of the two major candidates in the Governor’s Mansion, so I’m doing something about it: I’m voting Libertarian. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.