Is My Vote Wasted?

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The purpose of this Reflection is not to argue for or against any specific position but merely to articulate and clarify various arguments. The issue is simple: if I vote for the Libertarian Party candidate, is my vote wasted?

Here are 25 responses to that question.

(1) If I vote Libertarian and the Republican candidate loses to the Democrat then my vote was indeed wasted and could have made a difference if cast for the Republican.

(2) But virtually no elections are decided by exactly one vote, so my vote was wasted either way.

(3) But if everyone who voted Libertarian had voted Republican, or Democratic, that could have made a difference.

(4) But I am only responsible for myself individually, not for the entire "libertarian voting bloc," so I shouldn't think like a collectivist.

(5) But that is a realistic way to think.

(6) One vote almost never decides an election, so shouldn’t I vote for the best candidate with the purest principles, as a personal statement?

(7) But voter turnout rates are low, so every vote counts, if only as a measure of opinion. In fact a lot of effort and money goes into getting every last voter available.

(8) Wouldn’t it be most idealistic to cast a vote that could make a real difference for real people? Which means . . .

(A) voting for a candidate who can win; or

(B) voting for a Libertarian, because this will force the GOP closer to libertarianism, because it will need to try to get our votes.

(9) If everyone like me voted for the LP, then couldn’t the LP win?

(10) The LP fundamentally does not care about winning elections, but the GOP does, so how can the LP win anything?

(11) Aren’t Republican candidates better that Libertarians, because they really enact laws? And aren’t most Republicans sympathetic to libertarianism, anyway?

(12) But aren’t Republicans really no better than Democrats? They support big government when it suits them; they are conservatives, not libertarians, so a vote for the GOP is a wasted vote.

(13) If I cast a vote for anyone, am I not giving my consent to and endorsing the big government state and its taxes, wars, regulations, plans for gun control, etc.?

(14) Won’t the big government machine steamroll on, regardless of whether I cast a vote? So I might as well try to vote for a politician who will fight to slow it down.

(15) It costs practically nothing to vote, and the marginal impact I might have is wasted if I don't.

(16) But actually going to the polls and taking an hour off from work to cast a vote is too much trouble, relative to how little my own vote matters.

(17) Politics is a dirty business, so I don't want to get involved by voting.

(18) Politics is a dirty business, and the only way to clean it up is for people like me to get involved. So I have to vote. Even if my vote is wasted today, it starts the process of moving toward a tomorrow when my vote will not be wasted.

(19) If a Republican runs against a Democrat, and the Libertarian gets 4% of the vote and the Republican loses by 2% and I voted Libertarian and the Democrats achieve world domination, then I am to blame.

(20) But if the other 96% had voted with me, then the Libertarian would have won, so they are to blame. And if the Republican candidate had been very libertarian-leaning he would have taken half the LP vote anyway, so he is to blame.

(21) My vote is my own; it belongs to me. So I owe no duty to do anything other than vote my conscience and my values, which are Libertarian.

(22) Libertarian Party candidates often disagree with voters on important issues, such as abortion or immigration or privatization. If I vote along Libertarian Party lines, I may be voting for individuals who differ substantially from me or the party, or both.

(23) As a member of the American experiment in democracy, initiated by Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and other brave men, I owe a duty to my nation to act as a member of the body politic, which includes a duty to research the candidates and cast a vote that is intelligently designed to do the most good for the country by maximizing support for the most electable candidate who would also be competent, sane, and reasonable in his policies, which most often means the Republican candidate.

(24) The real war in American politics is between Democrats and Republicans, so any vote outside that system is a wasted vote.

(25) The establishment sells the idea that it is a two-party system, but if the public became aware of the nation's third largest political party the system would become a three-party competition and the LP could realistically go from 4% to 30% of the vote. The reason we don't get votes is because nobody knows who we are and what we stand for, not because voters don't like us.

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I leave my readers with a question: which of these positions do you agree or disagree with, and why?




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Comments

Paul Thiel

I am fortunate to live in a state and congressional district that has libertarian enough congressmen worth voting for. It seems to me that a vote only encourages Republicans to run more libertarian-ish candidates and to vote more libertarian-ish if libertarians are willing to vote Republican if the candidate is sufficiently libertarian-ish. If a Republican cannot win over libertarian voters, then why should he even try to appeal to them? Since the anti-war McCarthy wing of the Democrat Party seems to have disappeared along with the party's support for free speech, I do not ever consider Democrats vote-worthy.

Johnimo

I want to deprive the major parties from getting 50% of the vote, as was the case in the recent election, with Hillary getting about 48%, Trump 46%, and the remaining 6% going to Libertarians and others. As such, I've been accomplishing this goal on a more regular basis with each succeeding election. I simply think our ideas carry more weight when we can point to the relative unpopularity of Democratic and Republican Presidents.

Luther Jett

Well, what I disagree with, and find utterly perplexing, is the notion, still espoused by too many libertarians, that the Republican party and its candidates are in any sense allies of the libertarian movement and that a vote for a Libertarian is, by definition, a vote lost to a (presumably more viable) Republican candidate.

We are watching the GOP drift, after all, ever and ever closer to abject Authoritarianism.

Just because they give lip service to some distant semblance of free-market economics does not make them friends of liberty.

One might as easily contend that it is the Democratic Party, with its supposed allegiance to civil liberties (I said supposed), which is the true ally of libertarianism.

I don't contend, or pretend, that is the case, but it's curious that it is rarely, if ever, considered.

Visitor

No. Your vote is not wasted. But neither does it do any good. Because no matter who wins, citizen taxpayers always lose.

Dick G

While I don't like a lot of what the Republicans actually do once in office, with the Dems now moving to outright socialism, I want Repubs to win. When a conservative 3rd party candidate causes a Republican to lose, I believe that's BAD, as it could have been avoided. It has happened here in Nevada several times to friends of mine.
More importantly, Libertarians by taking votes that probably would have gone to the Repubs, become the enemy. If we did not run candidates and instead invited the Repubs to our conventions to solicit our votes, we would have real bargaining power before the election and real lobbying power after they won.
So, we actually lose by running.
I have run as a Libertarian three times...once for Governor of Nevada in 2002, so I have standing to speak on this subject.

Robert K Stock

I continue to vote Libertarian according to the reasoning of #12. I have never considered my vote for the Libertarian party wasted. A pox on both the Democratic and Republican parties.

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