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« Hotfoot | Main | Wisdom from My Fortune Cookie #7 »
Tuesday
Sep182012

Is a Vote for a Third Party or Independent Candidate a Wasted Vote?

Ever since I declared that I had decided to vote for neither Obama nor Romney in this year's election, I've received mixed reactions. I should say that most people have been supportive of this decision (at least to my face), but I've also heard a few criticisms as well. Most of them go along the line of one or more of these statements:

"You're wasting your vote."

"A vote for anyone else is really just a vote for _______."

"This election is too important; this is not the time to vote for someone else."

These sentiments are merely evidence of how deeply entrenched the two-party stranglehold on our country has become. These reactions are forms of manipulation to maintain the status quo of the current two-party system. And I don't necessarily mean that anyone making one of these statements is consciously trying to manipulate a vote, but it is reflective of the two-party system's attempt to protect its own position. In other words, these ideas come straight from the top and have been filtered down into the collective conscience of voters throughout our nation.

After reflecting on this, I've come to the conclusion that telling me I'm "wasting my vote" is just about the most un-American statement a person can make. Our ancestors successfully rebelled against Great Britain over two centuries ago because they had neither representation nor any vote in regard to whom their governing authorities would be. The only wasted vote is the vote not cast. To tell me that I have to vote for either this person or that person and no one else is really only one step removed from the kind of totalitarian system we rejected by fighting the Revolutionary War. 

Recently, on his FaceBook page, independent presidential candidate T. J. O'Hara gave the following response to the mindset that a vote for a third party or independent candidate is a wasted vote. I encourage you to seriously consider his words:

We have been conditioned by the Parties to believe that an independent (or third party candidate) cannot possibly "win." The Parties create that belief to preclude the introduction of legitimate competition.

Then, they paint their opposing candidate as nearly satanic to create a sense of fear. Next, they leverage that fear by telling you that you have to protect yourself by voting for the "lesser of two evils" ... that to do anything else would be to "waste" your vote.

Essentially, they are telling you to surrender your vote to them because of a fear THEY created, rather than to vote your conscience for the candidate whom you truly believe offers the best solutions for our country.

Now, ask yourself: "Which is the greater waste?"

The Parties traditionally have depended upon fostering an emotional environment rather than a rational one to control the public's voting behavior. They count on their constituents to passively "do as they're told" and for frustrated independents to ultimately “fall into line.”

Interestingly enough, the United States was given birth by a handful of individuals who went against the odds. By signing the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers were effectively challenging the greatest power on Earth at that time. I, for one, am happy that they had the courage to challenge the political paradigm.

The question for every American on November 6th will be: "Do I have that type of courage, or will I just fall into line and do as I'm told?"

I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein: "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

If you care enough about our country to do something, please visit http://tjohara.com/participate to find out how you can make a difference.

While I don't know if I would ever find a candidate with whom I agree 100% on every issue, that's not actually what I'm looking for. Rather, I'm at a point in my life that I want merely to find a candidate I can support with good conscience as opposed to voting for "the lesser of two evils." I should not be limited to only two choices and neither should you.

Every election will be important. If we were to wait for a time when it would be "okay" to vote for an alternative candidate, we would never end up making a true vote of conscience. But if enough Americans would join in and vote by conscience and not by party loyalty or or for some sake of a strategy just to keep someone else from being elected, we might eventually see a break from the two-party stranglehold that we currently experience and finally have the nation pay attention to a variety of serious and meaningful choices. 

Hopefully...in my lifetime.

As always, your thoughts, questions, comments and/or rebuttals are welcome below.

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Reader Comments (7)

"The Regulatory State", an article by Christopher Demuth in National Affairs no. 12, Summer 2012, pages 70-91, makes it clear that chipping away at the authority of the Constitution is a bipartisan thing; both major parties have betrayed the document. I will quote only one paragraph: "The profusion of [regulatory agencies at the Federal level] is primarily an institutional phenomenon, and only incidentally an ideological one. The regulatory agency - developed in the Progressive and New Deal eras and upgraded in the 1970s - has proved to be the most potent institutional innovation in American government since the Constitution. The Constitution was designed to make lawmaking cumbersome, representative, and consensual; the regulatory agency was a workaround, designed to make lawmaking efficient, specialized and purposeful. It was a way to accommodate growing demands for government intervention in the face of the constitutional bias for limited government." Yuk!

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Decker

Yes, and the Whigs have stated that no unelected official has any Constitutional right to create laws, and yet that is exactly what these agencies are doing.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

I reviewed the Whig platform. Sorry, I cannot endorse a party that chooses to take a cop out stand on the issue of abortion. Abortion is murder, plain and simple. To hold a position that allows its practice is not somethign I could endorse. Does this make me a one issue voter? Maybe but at least it is an issue of life and death.

I agree with you about third party options. I simply cannot support this one.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKnight

Brian (Knight), thanks for your comments as well as your convictions.

Since I consider myself pro-life, too, perhaps I can tell you where I'm coming from in my current support of the Modern Whig Party. I'm not writing this in an attempt to convince you, but I would like to at least share my viewpoint.

Let me say up front that I would allow the same exceptions for abortion that Mitt Romney is (currently) holding: rape, incest, and life of the mother. I realize that there are some who call themselves pro-life who would not allow all these exceptions, so I'm trying to be up front. These are the same exceptions that other Christian leaders such as Billy Graham and Chuck Colson have allowed. But from what I understand, abortion for these exceptions only make up about 4-5% of all abortions performed. The vast majority of elective abortions are essentially a convenient, after-the-fact means of birth control. I'm not saying that abortion is always the "right" choice in these exceptions (I have a friend who's very lovingly raised a child of rape), but I believe that allowing for these exceptions would still end the vast majority of elective abortions taking place today.

Now, at the risk of coming across as politically jaded, one thing I've noticed since I've been paying any real attention to politics in our country (sometime around the Reagan era), is that Republicans like to really talk up a pro-life platform around election time, but I have never seen any significant change to the status quo in our country since the original Roe v. Wade decision (more about that in a moment). My feeling is that Republicans feel as if the conservative Christian vote in this country will remain in their pocket if they just say the right words about this and a handful of other issues. But I've yet to ever see the issue become a priority after a Republican is elected to office (I'm certain there are exceptions, but these seem to be few and far between and certainly not from the Executive Office).

So, the Modern Whig Party does not have a specific platform statement on the issue of abortion. This is true and you call it a cop out. Brian, maybe it is. However, the other side of this is the fact that most Americans have been conditioned over the past few decades to expect a platform position or statement on just about every issue affecting the the nation. That has not always been the practice since our nation began or since the rise of political parties (which I'll remind that George Washington warned against). By creating platform statements on every issue, the party member has very little room left for disagreement, and the parties (and the American people) have become further polarized.

The Modern Whig Party, in my understanding, is primarily a pro-Constitution party (with a fairly conservative read on the Constitution at that). Whatever is not addressed by the Constitution, including its amendments, the Modern Whig Party will usually cede to the states. So, you don't see a lot of the "traditional" moral issues being addressed as platform issues by the Whigs. In the Modern Whig Party, you'd find both pro-life and pro-choice members because they tend to be more centrist, but that center can often be pretty wide.

Is refusing to make a platform statement about abortion a copout? Maybe, but look where this would lead if actually carried through. First, Roe v. Wade is extremely shaky law, probably even "bad" law. Roe v. Wade, if I understand it correctly, does not so much directly allow for abortion, but rather keeps procedures between a doctor and the patient private. Second, if a moral issue such as abortion were shifted to a state vote, and if the three main exceptions were allowed, I have a hunch that we'd end up with a lot fewer abortions in this country. I believe that if left up to the people to decide, elective abortion as a convenient means of after-the-fact birth control would not be allowed in most states.

Would this eliminate all abortions? No. But it would significantly reduce the number, and I would welcome any reduction whatsoever. If you want to reduce it further, that's probably not going to happen by legislation, but rather by changed hearts.

Is giving issues like abortion over to the states a better solution than a more specifically stated party platform? I don't know, but I've yet to see the latter option make a significant difference, so I'm willing to give the other option a try.

[Sidebar: The historical Whigs and the slavery issue. There is a fair question to be asked whether such a lack of platform on a significant issue is feasible. In fact, the original 19th century Whig party essentially imploded over the issue of slavery. You had northern Whigs who were abolitionists and southern Whigs who were pro-slavery. Most will point to this lack of consensus as the undoing of the Whigs, and although the history itself is more complicated, slavery was certainly the primary issue that ended the Whig Party as a national influence.

And Henry Clay (perhaps the most prominent of the original Whigs) himself to modern eyes is a bit of an enigma. Here is a man who very early on declares slavery to be an institution doomed to failure, believed in eventual emancipation, but at the same time held slaves. What Clay believed in was a gradual form of emancipation. At first that sounds horrid to us, but Clay wanted to see the current generation of slaves become educated (remember that in the early 1800s, educating a slave was illegal) before emancipation so that afterwards, they would be able to integrate into society and earn a fair living. The other part of Clay's plan had been to create an industrial and commercial infrastructure in the south so that the economy would not be so dependent upon slave labor.Compare that with what actually happened. Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation (a move that was rooted in politics as much as it was rooted in civil rights) a year or two into the Civil War, and very little immediately changed. And even after the war, many slaves who had now been freed had no real change of status because they were still dependent upon their former landowners. And the inhuman conditions of slavery continued on for "free" persons well into the 20th century in many places.

So, did the 19th century Whig Party accomplish anything in regard to slavery? Well, they probably can be credited through their attempts at compromise to prolong the Civil War for about ten years. And yet, ultimately, we had a Civil War anyway; and contrary to Clay's plans, the slaves had not become educated to any significant extent before emancipation and no infrastructure was created to make the south less dependent upon slave labor, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty and lack of real independence upon those who had been former slaves. At the very least, Clay freed his own slaves when he died in 1852, but in hindsight, he should have done so much sooner. End of sidebar.]

For the first half of my voting life, I was a Republican. For the second half, I was an independent who mostly, but not always, voted Republican. Overall, I don't care for parties that much, but I do appreciate independent thought and critical thinking, which is something that attracts me to the Whigs. And ultimately, that's mostly what the Whigs seem to be--people who are really kind of independent, but have come together to see if they can make a difference in a group rather than individually. Again, that approach is attractive to me.

Would the issue of abortion split the Modern Whig Party as slavery did? I don't know. Abortion is an issue that can be "conveniently" ignored, regardless of one's stance--as opposed to slavery, which was very difficult to avoid because it was a part of the visible everyday life at the time. But if the Modern Whig Party ever became an explicitly-stated pro-choice party, I'd go back to being an independent (and scrape the pro-MWP stickers off my bumper).

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Rick,
I respect you opinion and I did not intend my comment to come across as an attack against you or the party in question. Please understand that. Nor did I intend it to be an endorsement of the GOP or Romney. (Though I am a registered Republican however my position with the party is currently in a state of flux.)

Abortion is not an issue that can be swept aside. If you believe that life begins at conception then abortion is murder (in the moral sense if not the legal sense.) This is true regardless of the origin of the conception. (Yes, I am one of those "extremists" who thinks it is wrong to kill the child for the crimes of the parent.) Granted that issues of rape and incest represent a small percentage.

I grant that the Whigs are not clearly Pro-Choice but neither are they Pro-Life. I am all for changing peoples hearts and allowing the individual states to decide matters (though some of them are every bit as kooky as the federal government) but when do we as a society stop legalizing murder?

You make many good points and I cannot even attempt to respond to all of them. I read much of the Whig positions that I would wholeheartedly agree with. However, this issue is very serious and should not be left open.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKnight

Yes I agree the Republicans haven't done away with abortion during the time they have been in, but it can't be done with a flick of the wrist. However, they don't mandate abortion the way the administration has done for the last four years OR made it an important edict in their platform.

November 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Unfortunately, the Modern Whigs are not on the ballot in KY.....you'll have to cast a write-in vote.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersquibbon

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