Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Purpose of Voting

I can’t tell you how many times lately I have read words to the effect of “I loathe Hillary Clinton, but if she wins the nomination I will hold my nose and vote for her.” That sentiment has troubled me every time I’ve read it and, no, this post is not about Senator Clinton or any other candidate. It’s about the act of voting.

I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, and I watched the war unfold with no enjoyment at all. The pleasure that much of the media seemed to take in the destruction of another country appalled me. It seemed to me that, even if this was necessary, it was unseemly to take pleasure in doing it.

The one moment when there seemed to be some goodness was when we saw pictures of Iraqis smiling as they held up an ink-stained finger on election day. Why were they happy? Because they had picked a winner? No, they did not know who had won at that point; they had only that moment cast their votes. They were happy because they had been given the opportunity to express their choice in their own government; quite simply, they were allowed to vote.

But there had been elections under Saddam Hussein, too. Not free elections, only one name was on the ballot. The Iraqis had to “hold their noses and vote for Saddam Hussein.”

No, I am not comparing our election to the sham elections of yesteryear
in Iraq, nor am I comparing Senator Clinton to Saddam Hussein. Either comparison is utterly absurd; beyond absurd.

But think for a moment. Do you really want to “hold your nose and vote” for someone whom you actually do not want as the leader of your nation?

Granted, that person will have been selected in a democratic primary election process, but two things to think about when it comes to that moment in the voting booth. First, to what degree was that primary selection process corrupted by money? Second, what is the meaning, to me, of my vote?

Why is Chris Dodd no longer a candidate for president? He ran out of money. Six months ago we had almost two dozen candidates for our nation’s highest office, today it is down to three. What narrowed the field? All but three ran out of money.

We send a commission to other countries to monitor their elections, to assure that they are held properly and fairly. That commission does not monitor our elections and, according to Jimmy Carter who is a member of that commission, “would have trouble certifying” our elections because candidates with large amounts of money have greater access to the media and publicity than do those with little or no money.

Right now, according to the 2008 presidential election has gone through $685 Million, and we have not even reached the end of the primaries yet. Add the House and Senate, and federal elections have burned $1.2 Billion so far. Lobbyist money controls our government, and it corrupts our elections as well.

To what extent, then, do the three remaining candidates truly represent the choice of the voters in the booth?

I am by no means a fan of “bumper sticker politics,” but I saw a bumper sticker once that I might have put on my car. It read, “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy.” Yeah, it was funny, but…

I have to live with my vote afterwards. I can live with a choice that turns out badly if it really is my choice, but not if it was just a case of me “going along.” Voting is not about going along with the consensus, or aligning myself with the polls, or picking a winner.

My vote is my statement of my own personal choice.

My vote is my statement of what I believe in. It is an expression of my hopes and dreams for my country. It says what I want my nation to be. If my choice is not on the ballot, then I will write it in. If my choice does not emerge victorious it does not matter; I will have expressed my choice and that is the purpose of my vote. I will leave the voting booth knowing that what I did was right.

One vote may or may not matter in the outcome of an election, but it will matter deeply to the person who casts the vote.

If I vote because a political party tells me that this is the vote I must cast, then I am breaking faith with the founders of this country. They staked “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to give me that vote. They gave that vote to me, not to a political party.

Keep the faith, vote your conscience.


  1. That there was a "primary process" is not sufficient justification for holding one's nose and voting for Hillary Clinton. We already know that in states with open primaries, Republican voters turned out in droves to vote for Clinton and prevent an early Obama victory. In these states, Republicans were gaming the Democratic primary process, and if she ends up managing to wrest this thing away from Obama, you'll have Rush Limbaugh and his band of mindless, grinning morons to blame.

    First item to take care of after this election: Stop the open primaries. If you're independent, you declare a party when you vote, but then you have to go through a process to change party afterwards. None of this cross-party primary voting.

  2. Anonymous11:01 PM

    I very much agree that voting is what it's all about. So many countries past & present (& future) have no vote or no effective vote (like the communist & Saddam system). We have a choice. Yes, two party system dominates the system, but there are other choices. If you are not happy with the two (main party) slates, then you have the option of not voting for them, but you have to vote for it to be effective.

    The problem I have with primaries is one party has open the other is closed. I think you ought to have all open or all closed.