The Power of Your Vote

I received this email from the Obama campaign yesterday:

“Brian —

“Tomorrow is the last day to make sure every single voter in Florida is ready to vote.

“So get on our Facebook app right now, and reach out to your friends to make sure they’re ready to cast their ballot.

“It’s a pretty phenomenal power we have as voters — we get the chance to shape the future of our country.

“And, as Floridians, we have a big role to play in deciding the outcome of this election …

I’ve been intrigued by discussions with fellow liberals about third party voting. They say it’s wasting your vote to vote for a third party candidate such as the Green Party’s Jill Stein.  Because it’s impossible for her to win, they say.  And even if you want to try to move the Democratic Party left by voting Green, that effort will fail, they say, because the lesson the Democrat powers-that-be will take is that the Democratic Party must move further right, to capture the middle.  And, by the way, most Americans aren’t liberal — just check out how few votes liberal third parties actually get!  Oh — and you’ll be vilified the way Ralph Nader has been.

So your vote is futile, unless it’s to support Obama.  Then the power is, as the letter from Camp Obama says, “pretty phenomenal.”

Three things: First, if a sufficient number of people voted for a particular candidate, the candidate would win. Isn’t that what voting is about? Second, if the Democrats lost a sizable number of votes to a liberal, they would be fools to think that they’d regain or replace those votes by moving right.  (And isn’t it interesting that the party will change positions to gain voters on the right but not on the left?) Third, the fact that third parties don’t get many votes may be in large part because even people who agree with those parties’ candidates ultimately don’t vote for them — because they’ve been told it’s futile. (To see which candidate most reflects your views, take this quiz.)

My thought is that Democratic Party leaders just don’t want to move left. That would make it harder for them to score corporate money, and raising small amounts from lots of regular people takes lots of work.  Democratic leaders are enjoying  power right now, and they don’t have to bother satisfying any pesky popular base. (They could use that power to advance a liberal agenda, but they’re using it to advance … their own power.)  So they scare (propagandize?) liberals into accepting that the Democratic candidate is as left wing as America can ever possibly get.  If you try to move the party further left — BAM! — you’ll have yourself a right wing president … who will move his party even further right … because, after all, he must satisfy his base. Fear fear fear.

Apparently, the thinking goes, there’s just one direction parties can move in response to voters: right.  Right?

I’m interested in readers’ thoughts on this topic.
UPDATE: I was talking with a libertarian yesterday who said he wants to vote Libertarian but heard that that will take a vote away from Romney — and he’s afraid of four more years of Obama.



  1. crtwining

    Yeah I feel the same way and will probably vote either for a third party candidate or write in a name. If there weren’t local ballot issues in my state that I care about I might not show up to vote at all. I also may decline to vote in the presidential election but still vote for the other issues and candidates. This is an option that many don’t realize they have or how to exercise. But I have been a poll worker before and know you can leave the area blank and if the pollworker ask them you tell them its intentional.
    My thinking is that by not voting at all TPTB assume your apathetic or too confused to see what’s really going on.

    My cousin ( also an attorney) has rationalized voting for Obama based purely upon Supreme Court appointments, fearing what a nother 4 Scalia’s would do to further wreck the country and the constitution. Since in my state ( California) , Obama is unbeatable I feel little qualms in not voting for him. At least my protest will be registered.


  2. Oxman

    While I’m waiting to hear from Brian J. Foley directly, I’ll respond minimally to this very important posting. In general, people should vote their conscience — unquestionably — without any regard to the significant differences between two abominable candidates on the federal level. That’s… in general. That said, one can be more creative, and I beg readers to contact me ASAP for ideas I want to share in depth, in confidence respecting HOW to not have to restrict oneself to permanently marginalized third parties. I have a plan for electoral action which follows a fresh paradigm. I am at In solidarity with people who have their hearts, heads and souls in a healthy place, Oxman


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