My vote tomorrow

Monday, November 5th, 2012 · 27 Comments »

Yesterday scott posed this question in the comments:

This is just a question for Violet, if she sees this. I’ve vacillated back and forth this entire year whether or not to vote 3rd party on the principle that Romney is evil, Obama has been sometimes comically bad, and that indicating you don’t like what’s on offer has some value. But, although I don’t like the way “progressives” yell at me when they make this argument, I am sympathetic to the argument that if I do that, maybe in some small way I am letting a douchebag like Romney in. Unlike lots of people who seem very certain about it, I’m not. What say you? I’m also in Virginia, getting harangued by phone and door by OFA types. I’d really appreciate your take (long or short) on this since I’ve liked your site ever since ’08. Either way, thanks!

I decided to answer in a post, since other people have also asked me this question.

I’m a situational voter. My goal is always to move the country towards progressive, feminist, economic enlightenment; that doesn’t change. What changes is the political situation in each election cycle. The question I always ask myself is: What message can I send with my vote? What incremental influence can I have with my vote this time around, given the current state of affairs? What will move the needle to the left? Or, failing that, what will keep the needle from swinging wildly towards Crazytown on the right?

It’s a frustrating proposition, because voting is such a dumb brute way of expressing political goals. It’s like trying to communicate string theory via semaphore while wearing a straitjacket. What I really want to do is submit a 10,000 word essay on political philosophy, with a long list of points on how the Democrats have failed and the Republicans are insane and our entire two-party system is an oligarchy of self-perpetuating evil. But all I get to do is walk into a voting booth and tick off a name.

It’s especially frustrating for liberals like me who are appalled by the conservatism of the modern Democratic party. How do we register that displeasure when the only electable alternative is the GOP, which has gone so far past conservatism that it’s now functionally medieval?

This is why 2008 was such a rare gift (albeit a squandered one). It’s the only time I can remember that Democratic conservatism—sexism, specifically—was the topic of the day. The party’s treatment of Hillary and the behavior of the Obama campaign gave women a precious opportunity to register their displeasure with Democratic sexism. The national media and the political operatives were actually watching to see if women would accept it or not. That was our chance to say, “yes, Republicans are so ridiculous they’re not even worth talking about, but you know what? You Democrats are pretty crappy too. And we demand better.” It’s the only time I can remember that it was at least potentially possible for female voters to reject a Democratic candidate and have that gesture widely understood as a rejection of sexism.

But that was 2008. The situation this year is completely different. Those of us who pay attention know very well that the Obama administration has betrayed women in serious ways, but in the straitjacket semaphore world of voting, that’s not what’s on the table. The only message women get to send this year is whether they will tolerate the Republican War on Women—which is so retrograde it makes Obama look like Andrea Dworkin. Transvaginal probes, yes or no? Rape is a gift from god, yes or no? Expecting your birth control prescription to be covered makes you a slut, yes or no?

You can always vote third-party, of course, and over the years I’ve done that a number of times. If you’re a genuine progressive and a feminist, not to mention a pacifist and an environmentalist, then the Green Party platform is almost certainly far more in line with your convictions than the conservative mess the Democrats have become. It is with mine. But again, voting is a situational issue. And so I ask myself: What message will my vote send this year? What impact will my vote have in this particular election?

In this particular election, I am not seeing any kind of mainstream breakthrough or momentum for the Greens. That’s normal, actually, since in most years the third-party candidates simply have no chance. There have been four presidential elections in my voting life when a third-party candidacy broke through and attracted some mainstream attention: John Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, and Ralph Nader in 2000. But most of the time, third parties are simply not a factor. In the straitjacket semaphore world of voting, the tiny number of votes cast for the Greens or any other third party are dismissed as gestures from the fringe. I’m not saying those votes are wasted or that it’s ever a mistake to vote your conscience; just that most of the time, third-party votes don’t change the main conversation.

And even when third parties do have an impact on the election, they still don’t change the conversation. (Notice that I’m talking about what actually happens, not what should happen or what may happen on some happy day in the distant future.) Consider: Ralph Nader won almost 3% of the popular vote in 2000, but that didn’t lead the Democrats to become more like the Greens. It sure as hell didn’t lead the Republicans to become more like the Greens. If Jill Stein wins 2% of the vote this year, it will possibly cost Obama the election, but will it push the Democrats to become more Green in response? I doubt it.

What will really happen if Obama loses is that the Democrats will mostly chalk it up to the economy. Yes, they’ll be aware that some on the left abandoned Obama because he’s Bush III, but mostly they’ll chalk it up to the economy. They’ll conclude that the Republican War on Women is apparently not so offensive after all—at least not offensive enough to keep Romney out of office. They’ll decide that the basic Republican approach (tax breaks for billionaires, screw the 47%) plays pretty well in Peoria. They’ll decide that the country really doesn’t care that much about healthcare reform, and that what they ought to be doing is talking about the debt and fiscal responsibility. In short, they’ll decide that they really need to be more like Republicans.

If the Republicans win, they will see it as a validation of every single thing they’ve done in the past four years, and everything they’ve promised to do. From the Tea Party to the birthers to state-mandated object rape to the Kenyan socialist Muslim conspiracy theory to the 47% to death panels to birth control sluts to Paul Ryan’s grotesque Randian budget to everything. Everything. It’s all good, they will think; this is what the country wants.

So I’m voting for Obama. I’m not happy about it, because I would really rather send a message about how angry I am with him about certain things. I’d rather send a message about predator drones and Plan B. I’d rather tell him that the Grand Bargain he’s cooking up on Social Security and Medicare makes me want to drive to DC and camp on the frigging White House lawn.

But I don’t see a way to do that this year without enabling the Republican apocalypse. As bad as Obama is, Romney is worse. Much, much worse. And Romney and Ryan together represent everything that I reject. They represent everything that I believe the country needs to reject, economically and socially and politically. I do not want these men in office. I do not want the Republican Party in power.

So Obama it is.

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27 Responses to “My vote tomorrow”

  1. purplefinn says:

    Thanks Violet for stating it so well.I’m a reluctant Obama voter too. I live in Republican land. The other races will probably go there. I will write in Jill Stein and Elizabeth Warren where democrats are absent. I hope someone will notice and actually recognize the names.

  2. Unree says:

    Dr. Socks, you do agree that with the Electoral College not going anywhere, voters in solid-color states are freer than Virginians to express themselves? I don’t aspire to influence the national conversation but I don’t need to support a lesser evil.

  3. Violet Socks says:

    Unree, I’m not telling anyone how to vote. I’m just explaining my own thinking.

    If I were in a solid blue state that was sure to go Obama, I might happily vote Green. But like Scott, I’m in Virginia.

  4. Nadai says:

    This expresses my view to a T. I loathe Obama. I refused to vote for him in 2008. I left the Democratic Party after nearly 3 decades of being a member. And gods below help me, but this year I’m voting for the man. It makes me sick, but I’ve got a 16-year-old niece. I’d like to put off the day she’s legally nothing but an incubator as long as I can. Down to a choice between Obama and Romney, I’m going with Obama.

  5. falstaff says:

    I agree — including with the melancholy fact that our chance to reject/correct Obama passed four years ago. Even though I’m in deep blue New York, I want as big a victory for the Dems as possible. I would prefer that there not be an Electoral College victory without a popular-vote victory. I want as many Repugs to lose their House seats as is imaginable. I want the media’s crude story on Nov. 7 and henceforth to be that the people rejected the Tea Party and Ayn Rand and all of it — including the meme that Sandy reminded everyone that we need government. I recognize the small likelihood that we’ll get a Dem wave, and the equally slim chance that even a Dem wave at the polls will produce a progressive wave in government action. But like you, I’m sure the opposite WILL fuel continued drift to the right. And that’s worse.

  6. Chio says:

    Well said. I understand that perspective. I’ll be voting 3rd party and I have to say I’ve never been as unhappy to vote as I am this year. For me, I cannot get over that the 08 nomination was stolen from Hillary. If I vote for Obama is that saying that I can get over an election being stolen from an extremely qualified woman? I’m also praying for a single payer future as opposed to this horrid Obamacare. Gillibrand 2016. Sigh.

  7. Kali says:

    A year ago I would never have imagined voting for Obama after what happened in 2008. Tomorrow I’ll be voting for Obama. The alternative is just too scary. I agree with all the points made by Dr. Socks.

  8. quixote says:

    You know what’s really sad about this paragraph?

    if Obama loses … the Democrats will mostly chalk it up to the economy. Yes, they’ll be aware that some on the left abandoned Obama because he’s Bush III, … They’ll conclude that the Republican War on Women is apparently not so offensive after all [or Obama's for that matter] …. They’ll decide … that what they ought to be doing is talking about the debt and fiscal responsibility. In short, they’ll decide that they really need to be more like Republicans.

    That’s also what the Dems will decide if he wins.

    Politics has turned into a Samuel Beckett play, but without the high art.

  9. lynnerkat says:

    Well, being in a solidly red state, I have no qualms voting Green. But, if I was in a swing state, I would probably vote Obama since I don’t want to be catapulted back to the 1800′s.

  10. Alison says:

    Dr. Socks, I love your blog. I’ve been home with the flu and have been enjoying it all weekend and today. I’m a young Gen-X, younger than some of you, so 1992 was my “gold standard” (no allusion to Randian monetary system fantasies intended) for a Presidential election. I’d like to see 3 or 4 parties at minimum debating on the national stage. I’ve grown tired of angry white male bullying, mostly from the GOP, but also from the Deocrats. This spring, I was shouted down and told I supported the Constitution Party (and racism!) by a male Democratic party worker because I stood by my ongoing tradition of registering independent/no party, presidential primary years excepted. I don’t owe the Dems – and especially not their street teams, like that guy who shouted at me – my allegiance. I have been registered independent/no party for years, and I will register Democrat if and ONLY if the party’s platform moves, at minimum, to where Dwight Eisenhower’s platform was in 1952 – and not a moment before.

    My state is purple, leaning blue. It looks to be safely in Obama’s corner at this point, but the instances of voter fraud and ballot tampering have me scared. 2000 was not that long ago, and while Rove sat 2008 out thanks to his deep personal hatred of John McCain, he’s clearly in it to win it for Romney. And the idea of Paul Ryan being one heartbeat away from the Presidency is scarier than the thought of Dan Quayle running the country was 20 years ago. It’s just too bad that the other option is a weakly pro-choice version of Ronald Reagan, and that Jill Stein can’t be be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party. Yet if I vote Green, and my state goes to the GOP, I feel I’ll tacitly approve destruction of the middle class and the social safety net, misogyny, racism and homophobia, and the “othering” of non-wealthy white males to the degree that Speaker Pelosi’s voice and President Obama’s father are fair game. The GOP, as far as I can tell, is now the party that says rape is a gift from God, slavery was awesome, and truant or disobedient 12-year-olds should be subjected to capital punishment. The grotesque depths to which wealthy white males will sink to assert the dominance they already have, and lord, over women, children, and the LGBT community never ceases to amaze me.

  11. Gayle says:

    I’m splitting my vote: A Democrat for the Senate; a (moderate) Republican for my House seat (before anyone jumps on me for that, if you knew the candidates in question, I’m pretty sure you’d vote the same way.)

    I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about the Presidential election, maybe nothing. Maybe I’ll vote Green as I’m in the bluest of blue states anyway and can safely make that statement. We can’t write in candidates here, which is so wrong!

    What I’m really interested in is the questions this year: we have assisted suicide on the ballot here. And I few others I’m excited to vote on too.

  12. scott says:

    Thanks, Violet. You put way better than I could the f’ing unsatisfying conclusion I was coming to in the past weeks. As much as I have really come to loathe “progressives” telling me that Obama is either the Best President Evah! or the Best in the Best of All Possible Worlds, I hate their opponents more. Not something you can put on a Hallmark card, but enough to be going on with. Thanks!

  13. Dandelion says:

    I’m in deep blue California and I refuse to vote for Obama, plain and simple, realizing of course that I have the luxury of that refusal. But I just can’t give my consent to a president who has arrogated to himself the right to kill at will without due process and yet is supposedly powerless to do anything serious to improve the lot of of the 99 percent.

    Everyone has their own lines in the sand. Mine ‘s been crossed. Nor do I at all trust Obama or the democratics to do anything significant to protect women’s rights to choose or anything else except with lip service and small gestures that cloak the erosion embodied in Obama’s plan b decision, his codification of the Hyde amendment, his endless crowing over Ledbetter, which did not raise pay for woman by one cent.

    In other words, while I appreciate the cultural markers Obama represents relative to Romney (form) I can’t be satisfied anymore with less than actual content.

    Everyone’s mileage varies. This is mine now.

  14. albrt says:

    Short version of how I look at this: I’m not going to support a war criminal, period. I’m voting for Jill Stein.

    Long version: Obama’s disposition matrix puts us very close to the point where the technofascists have both the technology and the bureaucracy to find and kill anybody who opposes them.

    If Romney takes over the death squad machinery, there is a chance the Democrats will be willing and able to oppose him effectively in 2016.

    If the Democrats control the death squad machinery for four more years, there won’t be anyone opposing it in 2016. After that there won’t be anyone opposing it probably ever.

  15. Cyn says:

    I am voting for Jill Stein. If a third party gets 5% of the vote they’ll get 20 million for the next campaign. I cannot continue to vote for the lessor of two evils. There is no difference in Obama and Romney. They are both beholden to corporate greed. The icing on the cake is that I am voting for two women. And, if we can get a viable 3rd party in these races, we have a chance at putting our country back together again.

  16. Chio says:

    Albrt, Yes Obama’s techno war is scary. I wonder how Pakistani families who are terrified of drone warfare and bombs would vote? There’s certainly no easy answer in this election.

  17. robynsu says:

    What albrt says. Today’s Washington Post features a letter from Medea Benjamin of Code Pink describing the mass psychological terror caused by the daily drone bombings. The Black Agenda Report says Obama is NOT the lesser evil, he’s the more effective evil, and I agree. I’m voting Jill Stein, and it’s the right message to send no matter where one lives.

  18. Chio says:

    The dangerous thing about Obama is that he has made drone attacks, illegal surveillance, the Patriot Act, etc. completely acceptable to good liberals. It’s appalling.

  19. Nell says:

    There is not enough air freshener on the planet to cleanse the stench from my nostrils if I were to hold my nose and vote for Obama in this election. I simply cannot mark my ballot for this fraud who lied and cheated his way into the White House.

    This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first presidential election in which I was old enough to vote. I proudly (and idealistically) voted for George McGovern – the only time I haven’t voted for the lesser of two evils. For years I displayed a “Don’t Blame Me, I’m from Massachusetts” bumper sticker on the first new car I ever owned (a VW Dasher, I think?).

    I will never again vote for a LOTE candidate. I doubt I will ever vote for a male candidate again since the male candidate does not exist who truly has women’s interests at heart.

    I went to the polls today to vote for two women candidates – Jill Stein and Elizabeth Warren – and to vote in favor of two ballot questions (medical marijuana and physician assisted suicide). I could just as easily have stayed home and it wouldn’t have weighed on my conscience at all. And I’m someone who has never missed an election in her life. The 2008 election has left me that cynical. Sad, but true.

  20. sam says:

    Basically what Nell said except the 2000 (s)election was my tipping point.

  21. scott says:

    I look at this as vote of conscience, what you can stand and what you can’t. That varies even for liberals, and I totally respect folks who are going to vote for Jill Stein (the alternative I would have gone with) or Rocky Anderson. What I like about this site is that we can all talk about this without a lot of finger-pointing. As an aside, I would have loved to have voted for Elizabeth Warren if I was in Mass – the only Dem this cycle that I really admired…..

  22. DarthVelma says:

    Those of you who got to vote for Jill Stein, I envy you. I was not given that option. Not only was her name not on the ballot in North Carolina, she wasn’t an officially approved write-in candidate. So even if I wrote her in, the vote would not be counted at all. *sigh*

    It gets worse, the only approved write-in candidate was a whack-a-loon from the Constitution Party. So my available countable options were: said whack-a-loon, the Libertarian, Romney, and Obama. *double sigh*

    I knew that they never count votes for Mickey Mouse. But you’d think, given that Jill Stein in on the actual ballot in something like 80-85% of the country, that they would at least count write-in votes for her. No dice. Same thing if you wanted to vote for the Justice Party, the Socialist Party, or Roseanne. NC wouldn’t even bother with counting your vote.

    Some days it just isn’t worth chewing through the restraints.

  23. tinfoil hattie says:

    What a great and eloquent post – one which explains my last-minute defection from Green to Obama.

    Sigh, sigh, SIGH.

    I just couldn’t. Not in Virginia. Son tried to console me with, “You didn’t vote ‘for’ Obama; you voted ‘against’ Romney.” Well, he’s only 16 and probably thinks that’s a new event. (laughs bitterly)

    Really, up until Sunday I was going to vote Green.

    I still want to, someday.

    I also voted for Tim Kaine for Senate, because unlike certain other Christian people I could name, he did not try to change any abortion laws in VA when he was governor. And I’ll be damned if that asshole George Allen (PROUD RACIST) would get into the Senate with any help from me.

  24. Toonces says:

    I also was back and forth until the last minute but voted for Obama. I am in CO and I couldn’t live with the idea of CO going for Romney by ONE vote (mine! OMG!). I voted for Obama in 2008 and have never felt good about it… oh well…

    At least I got to vote to legalize pot here, even though I don’t smoke. Hopefully it will pick up some slack for the horrendous job we do funding schools.

  25. Val says:

    Beautifully eloquent post, Violet.
    But I’m with Dandelion, albrt & Cyn – my vote went to Stein. Our only hope is to get a viable 3rd party established; in the meantime I’ll vote for anything female just to try & balance the scales.
    Word, Nell!

  26. JeanLouise says:

    I live in Ohio, the queen of swing states, and I wrote in Rocky Anderson. I’m not sure how I would have felt if Romney/Ryan had won here but I haven’t gotten over 2008 either. I will never forget Obama giving Hillary the finger the day after she whipped his ass in the Pennsylvania debate or accepting her delegates on May 31, 2008..

    So, Ohio won Obama without me and I can only hope that the Democrats stand up to Obama when he tries to cut Social Security and continues his every other Tuesday morning “kill” meetings.

  27. Dee says:

    Thank goodness my dog’s hip surgeon led me to this site. I’m in a swing state so couldn’t lend my vote to a third party. Obama took our new state. While men think this was all about young voters and latinos, I believe it was really about women. Republicans say no sex-ed, no premarital sex and no abortions even after a “legitimate” rape. I say we have rights.