Friday, May 13, 2016

Why the 'spoiler' and 'wasted vote' smears are so resented

"The reality of Washington, D.C., today is that we have one party, the Republican Party, completely dominated by big money and right wing folks. And you have another party, the Democratic Party, too much controlled by corporate money...” –Sen. Bernie Sanders. This is presumably why he himself is not a registered Democrat. This is definitely why I am not one.

A lot of mainstream Democrats and Republicans do not understand why phrases like 'spoiler' and 'wasted vote' are so resented by smaller party and independent voters. The reason is simple: it profoundly offends our notions of fair play and of what democracy is supposed to be about.

I think voting is supposed to be an expression of your values and priorities. If you vote this way, you, by definition, cannot spoil democracy because this IS democracy. If you honestly believe that a Democrat or Republican better corresponds with your values and priorities than a smaller party opponent, then by all means vote for him or her.

Somebody saying, "[Democrat/Republican] is the best choice because of positions on x, y and z and is superior to [smaller party candidate] because of a, b and c" is not only fair game but exactly how democracy is supposed to work.

Whereas, somebody saying, "Vote for [smaller party candidate] is a wasted vote" or "... is only running to feed his ego" is offensive. It's saying that ideas are irrelevant to how one should vote.

(Incidentally, you don't subject yourself to the grind and expense of an electoral campaign as a smaller party candidate with no money because of the glory. It's a fairly absurd implication)


In the last Congressional race in my area, nearly 20,000 citizens voted for the Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello. Everyone did so because they thought he reflected their values and beliefs better than his Democratic and Republican opponents. If you want to those citizens and told them to their face that they only cast their votes that way to 'spoil' the race, I suspect you'd get some unpleasant reactions.

Smaller party members are going against so-called conventional wisdom simply by joining a smaller party. Most do so because they still think elections should be governed by ideas, not polls, analysis, speculation and punditry. Telling them otherwise is usually going to be counterproductive. Make the case based on ideas or don't bother.

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