Alston: Waste Your Vote
This year, I'm going to waste my vote.
Normally, I am inclined to accept part of what the dominant political machines spit out at me, as candidates often distinguish themselves greatly from each other, leading to one candidate being clearly superior to the other in my assessment. Rep. Charlie Bass '74, for example, is a pro-choice, environmentally conscious Republican who opposes amendments to ban gay marriage but is also committed to fiscal responsibility and is willing to accept entitlement cuts something Annie Kuster strongly opposes. Maggie Hassan, candidate for New Hampshire governor, is a Democrat, but she opposes creating a state income or sales tax and is neither anti-gay nor in favor of teaching creationism in public schools, both qualities that can be ascribed to her main opponent, Ovide LaMontagne.
The presidential election, however, offers candidates far more defined by their similarities than their differences.
I've decided to vote for Gary Johnson, candidate for the Libertarian party, for two reasons. One, he is the candidate that best represents my views on civil liberties and foreign, social and economic policy. And two, no "major" candidate is worth voting for. It's unfortunate that the latter is a serious matter when considering whether to vote for a certain candidate, but nonetheless I have put some thought into the matter.
Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney propose fiscally irresponsible income/payroll tax cuts, or the extensions thereof as a form of economic stimulus, and neither offers a plan to radically simplify the tax code. On a related note, neither candidate offers a plan for large spending cuts that would bring the budget near balance by the end of the decade. Both candidates plan to kick the can down the road on Social Security. Neither candidate supports a full audit of the Federal Reserve, and both fully support its current policy of monetary inflation. Both candidates support extending economic lifelines to politically favored industries. Neither believes they must ask Congress to go to war. Both wish to augment the Iranian people's lack of political freedom with poverty through economic sanctions. Both support the continuation of drone warfare against innocent civilians, plan to continue interventionist foreign policy, and pledge to maintain a stream of foreign aid, even to repressive dictators. Both top dogs offer very similar health-care reform policies Romney's even served as a model for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Both major candidates plan to keep millions of people in prison for victimless drug crimes. And both Obama and Romney support the unconstitutional NDAA and Patriot Acts.
I could certainly go on. Feel free to pick at my list all you like the overall theme remains the same.
Regarding social issues: I recognize that abortion and gay rights are extremely important issues, and the removal of unwarranted government intrusions in these matters is paramount. However, I also recognize that this will not be an issue decided on the federal level, with the possible exception of the replacement of one Supreme Court justice with another.
On the issues, Gary Johnson offers a real contrast to all of what I mentioned above and in a way that I like. He wants to implement a revenue-neutral alteration and simplification of the tax code, end foreign interventionism, respect constitutional rights and cut both corporate and individual welfare, including our unsustainable entitlement programs. This is a man who stands for what I stand for, a man whom I can honestly support.
I concede that he has no chance of winning a national election. Whether that means that a vote for him is a "waste" or not is something up for discussion. While it's not a waste of time to raise attention to important causes, it may well be when your vote has no impact in determining the course of our nation after the election. That's exactly why your vote for Obama or Romney is a waste since they are so similar, it won't have much impact on the future of this country.
If you genuinely agree with the Obama-Romney agenda on most issues, then pick one of them based on one the few things that actually differentiate them, but there are other candidates out there. Find a candidate with whom you can identify, whose message resonates with you and with whom you can make the most common ground. Then go out there and waste your vote on them.