Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How Not to Vote

I realize the inconsistency in writing about the primary elections simply to say that you're sick of hearing about them, but I feel like I need to get something off my chest about this election season.

Although it's not an empirical fact, the pundits, candidates and news services have speculated that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have been splitting the anti-John McCain conservative vote, meaning that either would be able to defeat him if the other would bow out of the race. Some have used this scenario as justification for their supporting one candidate over the other, reasoning that if they don't want McCain, they shouldn't "waste" their vote on someone with "no chance" to beat him.

It seems that most often, this scenario has hurt Huckabee, whom the media has painted as unelectable, possibly because of his heritage as a Baptist pastor. Romney, who has already spent loads of cash and has a magazine-full of monetary weapons at his disposal, at least before today has been seen as a more viable option for voters who see themselves as ideologically right of McCain and hoping to block his ascension. In fact, Romney was quoted as smugly saying, "In a two-person race, I like my chances," apparently totally ignoring Huckabee's strong support among evangelicals in the South.

My point is to say that especially in this accelerated primary season, the crazy whirlwind of media coverage threatens to have a inappropriate impact on the race. Like it or not, visibility is a big deal in deciding how people vote. A New York Times blog entry today said that John McCain had gotten 75 percent more news coverage than Mitt Romney in a week where 51 percent of total news coverage had to do with the elections. If Romney's coverage was that low, think of where Huckabee's must have been.

Although it's next to impossible to totally insulate ourselves from the media, we need to be smarter and more patriotic than to let it, or the candidates' manipulation of it, decide our vote for us. I have to admit that I was almost swayed by such political posturing, but I made a firm decision to vote for the person who I thought was the better candidate, regardless of empty projections about my vote's implications for the race as a whole. Ideally, I hope I would take this approach to the next level, voting for a candidate that had virtually no chance of winning if I truly thought he was the best person out of the available choices.

What I'm saying is that votes made only to block a certain candidate are unfounded if you believe there's someone better for the job. Casting such a vote means the pundits have convinced you to sacrifice your beliefs for their projections and that your voice isn't important for what it is.

Granted, in the general election, it may be necessary to vote for someone who wasn't your ideal candidate. But in that case, though you may not have voted for that person in the primary, you'll at least be voting on the principle that this person is better for the job than the alternative.

It can be confusing, and voting often comes down to the lesser of two evils. Just make sure that you don't vote for an intermediate evil to block a great evil when you could have put your support behind an underdog you don't think is an evil at all. Don't shortchange your voice. However twisted our democratic process is, it's all we've got. And hey, we could live in Russia.

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