Throwing Your Vote Away


In the shadow of a presidential election that has yet to even begin, I have already had enough.  I can barely stand turning on the television and listening to the pundits and daily opinion polls.    I grow disgusted  when I become witness to a reporter capturing thirty seconds of mindless and random on the street thoughts from strangers. Too frequently I am left shaking my head, and asking if this is really the best we can do?

Each time we cycle to this moment, I face the same moral dilemma.   How can I vote for either side when both are equally as disappointing?    Is it once again a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils?   Can there be a better choice…?

At a luncheon during the most recent wave of senatorial elections a friend declared matter of factly that he refused to vote.   As you can imagine, there were tremors felt across the table.   Did he really suggest not heading to the voting booth on Election Day?   After the ripple of his declaration faded, eyebrows went up.   We started to ask if throwing your vote away can be both a Christian and political act and the proper thing to do.

Many today will argue quite passionately that if you don’t vote you are committing the most grievous of civil offenses.   If you don’t vote you lose your right to complain.  If you don’t vote veterans roll over in their grave.   If you don’t vote you lose the right to call yourself American.

The questions at the table that afternoon lingered much longer than the coffee did.  Each of us considered how  one can vote in good conscience when faced with the choices we had before us.   Four years later, the situation is even worse.  Today’s candidates seem to pander to their base and point fingers at the other.   Both seem to preach holiness while secretly bedding with political ugliness.    They claim the higher ground but whore themselves off to corporations and contributors.   They claim superiority but vomit back nothing more than sound bites and party slogans.      

I long for the day that we have a candidate that embraces the responsibility of fiscal conservatism but not at the price of the hurting, impoverished, or the marginalized.   I long for the candidate that truly embraces a faith that doesn’t require he legislate his own version of it back to others or regulate women back to the dark ages.     I long for a candidate that believes in the principals of life, liberty, and happiness but would be willing to point at their fellow Democrats and say you can’t spend your way back to wealth and prosperity, or to their fellow Republicans and say that you can’t regulate Jesus back into people’s hearts.

I long for the day when our solutions for civil rights, insurance care for all, and economic health are not forged in thirty second sound bites from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Rachel Maddow.   Until that time, am I forced to settle?   What if I want more than the status quo?

There is a very clear ugliness in US politics, and I can’t help but believe that if I was to throw a bumper sticker on my car, sign on my lawn, or even put my vote in the ballot box, I would be adding my less than silent endorsement to that which makes my stomach churn.    How can I vote for either side, when both sides repel me so strongly?  Can I – or should I – throw my vote away?

Some look at both candidates and come to the conclusion that voting for one over the other equates to choosing the lesser of two evils.  In frustration, they stand with millions of others who hope that someday we will find a way to welcome additional choices into the mix.    They stand disgusted at the behavior of both parties and long for a viable and influential third party at some time in the future.

They argue the best way to do this is to not vote.   In the 2008 elections we started to get the sense that in order to win an office you not only had to win the hearts of your party, but the millions of disenchanted as well.   As that number grows, people will someday realize that there is power and potential in the disenfranchised.   Perhaps that power and potential can be rallied, unified, and leveraged.  One day, if that number continues to grow, someone will appear on the scene that captures the imagination and hope of the disenfranchised.

If we add our endorsement to politics as usual, it can be argued that we delay that day.

As I have tossed this idea back and forth among friends,  the response has been the same;   “You can’t throw your vote away, because you lose the right to complain!”  

Do we really?

For the majority of the strangers around me, the sum total of their civil engagement is three phased;  1.) a Vote 2.)  complain on facebook and 3.) listen and echo the radio blowhard.    Perhaps some take it further and scream Muslim, Birth Certificate, Tax Returns, and Mormonism while paying zero attention to real issues.  Is the expectation that a vote is all that is required of us?    Can I vote,  put my feet up, snuggle in my “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag, and glibly declare my full participation in our great civil discourse. 

What do we say to the person who throws their vote away as part of both civil disobedience and a statement of faith, but devotes themselves fully to changing the world around them?   What do we say to the person who throws their vote away  but who stands up week in and week out for what he or she believes?   What do we say to the person who throws their vote away but in light of the challenges around them listens, learns, and researches rather than accepting simple dime store solutions to complex issues?  What about those who take the quest for acquiring and sharing knowledge seriously?  What about the letters and phone calls sent to representatives?   What about these people?

Are we patting the back of the couch surfer and really telling them that they are on lesser footing than the person who simply votes one day –every four years?

In the end, there is a gulf between the two parties on four key issues for me;   1.) the desire for a society that fights for and insures the fullest and most complete civil rights for ALL individuals 2.) the desire that all individuals in this country have full, complete, and affordable health insurance 3.) the belief that we need to protect against the legislation of one faith system into the lives of others and 4.) that we need to return to solid fiscal management of our government and economy.   Because of those four things, I will make a real assessment come election day, and the candidate that will offer the best odds to supporting, achieving, or insuring those things will likely get my vote.   Early indicators already seem to point to one candidate over the other, but my options will remain open until the last moment.

I will likely cast that vote, but I will do so with the most sour of tastes in my gut.

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2 Comments

  1. Arnie

     /  August 30, 2012

    I totally agree, Scott! Both Parties/Candidates bother me. I have considered inserting a Write-In, but that still does not fix the problems in our country and legislature, because the “Write-In” would most certainly not win unless millions and millions of other disenchanted voters did the same thing with the same person. And, I don’t see that happening. Voting for either of the major candidates will not fix our country’s problems. I’m afraid that one way or the other. we will have four years of the same, maybe even worse! Lots of prayer coming in the next weeks and days for a clear-cut champion for our country!

  2. I have gotten into the practice of writing in a candidate or voting on a third party. There is no reason to waste a vote by abstaining. Someone still gets elected. If you, I, and others feel the same way putting a vote in for a Green Party, Libertarian, or Independent candidate would at least pull some numbers to begin a process of being taken seriously. Maybe never getting elected, but adoption of some of the platform possibly. That is my hope at least.

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