Inspired by Evan Puschak’s comments on his first voting experience, I thought I’d share my own.
— Evan Puschak (@TheeNerdwriter) September 30, 2016
My experience was a strange mix of education, campaigning and hypocrisy.
It was the 2012 election. I was a student at the time. I found myself volunteering for the Tim Kaine senate campaign, and, eventually, the Barack Obama reelection campaign. I cast votes, however, for Tim Kaine and Jill Stein (Green Party).
I won’t offer an apologia. I think in politics, one has to allow for change. When the facts change, as John Maynard Keynes was fond of saying, my opinions follow. (And your opinions?)
Anyways, my opinion was then, and remains now, that third party voting is not wasting a vote so much as establishing a record of discontent. One of the best probable outcomes of this election cycle would be one of the third parties reaching five percent of the vote, the established threshold for federal campaign grants. This funding could provide the boost needed to get a third party candidate on ballots in all fifty states, which may in turn pave the way towards a more serious third party alternative in the next few election cycles.
In a representative system, voting for someone is the equivalent of, explicitly or tacitly, acknowledging them as your political proponent.
Ideally: voting is a form of direct process learning, the more you vote the better you get at identifying and voting for the candidate who will speak for your interests. However, mitigating factors intervene, notably: the fact voting is done with imbalanced information (if not an outright absence of information), as well as general confusion about interests. And so on.
So I am not optimistic about the prospects of learning through voting, or even the prospects of most people correctly identifying the connection between voting and policy, which, after all, takes a lot of time and effort and specialized knowledge.
Moreover, there are very interesting arguments to be made that voting is not always in your best interests, or in the best interests of the country. (Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to restate or review them here. However, I will happily do so in a later post if asked.)
Despite all that, I think voting can send a cultural message. This is why, in part, I think voting along your perceived interests is worthwhile. Though not necessarily, I reiterate, a responsibility.
But if you’re convinced it’s your civic duty to vote, or that you know enough about policy and politics to cast an intelligent ballot, then by all means.