Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Train of Thought Guide To Voting

JN's post from a few weeks back made me want to write something explaining my thinking towards the coming presidential election. Presenting:


Whatever your thoughts, and no matter how fucked our system is, not voting isn't the answer. Vote Obama, Green, Romney, or if you're truly undecided, at least vote in all the down ballot elections. Republicans are not playing around when it comes to attacking our democracy and the right to vote. This isn't something to be taken lightly. They are literally attempting to make our country less democratic, because they know in the long term they're losing. The country is becoming more tolerant and less white, two things the Republican party is freaking out over because their it means their voting base of neanderthals is moving further and further into america's fringes. Their only option is attacking our democracy. If you don't vote you're doing their work for them.

Obama Vs. Romney

Our two party system, broken government institutions and the influence of money in our electoral system have basically ensured that we will have a Romney vs. Obama type choice in presidential election for some time. As people who read this blog know, I have quite a long list of grievances with Obama and his administration, far too lengthy to get into here. The main question here is: What would be solved by voting for Mitt Romney, voting third party or not voting at all?

First let's address the third party question. Our system now is set up to make it as difficult as possible for third parties to gain any political power. This is awful, and once of the worst things about our political system. With that said, voting for one of these parties during a presidential election does not seem to be an effective ways of changing our predicament . Spending time supporting things such as fusion voting in New York or other projects that make third parties more viable at the state level seems like a much better way of changing this paradigm. No clue if I'll feel the same way in 4 years, the landscape might have changed, but right now it seems like the only third party candidates with any real support come from places like the plutocracy now movement and other self funded billionaire vanity projects. This isn't to say there isn't value in movements to try and reach the 5% federal funding threshold for third parties, but until we can change the structure of this process, a third party vote at the presidential level does not strike me as particularly useful.

People who have made arguments to not vote for Obama (Glenn Ford of the Black Agenda Report comes to mind) do so by game theory-ing out a future where a Mitt Romney presidency has done something to reinvigorate a "real" left or something along those lines. Personally, I just have much less faith in my predictive powers to base my vote on that type of forecasting. That's not to say that it isn't possible that Obama could continue to do terrible things that wouldn't be possible under President Mitt Romney, it's just that I think it's really hard to predict what will happen with any kind of certainty that far down the road.

Additionally, a Romney Administration + Republican House and Senate could easily be worse than the Bush administration. That isn't to say that we won't see horrible things from the second term of the Obama Administration + Republican House and Senate. We will most likely see them push cuts to social security and medicare, the TPP, and I'm sure more yemen bombings, with potentially the extrajudicial killing of an american citizen thrown in for good measure. With Romney we could see the Ryan budget, national right to work, Israel bombing Iran, maybe even a land war for old times' sake! While this is all guess work (especially cause Romney has held opposing views on most issues at various times), but I'm decently confident that a Romney Administration gives us a much higher potential for evil.

As awful as spending the second Obama term fighting a worse trade agreement than NAFTA and cuts to our social safety net, it's worth my vote to prevent the second set of alternatives. I really do believe (well, hope at least) we are heading to a war for the future of the Democratic party, but I don't think the election will have an effect on that one way other the other.

As noted centrist sellout Noam Chomsky said: "Choosing the lesser of two evils isn't a bad thing. The cliché makes it sound bad, but it's a good thing. You get less evil."

Sometimes it really is that simple.

Giving Money

First and most important rule: Don't give to money to the presidential race. I'm pretty sure no one reading this blog has enough money to make a difference in the Presidential race, and bragging someone  has x number of donors literally does nothing. You have limited resources, so give to places where it might actually make an impact. Obama will sink or swim without or without you. (Seriously, he will. Their goal is to raise a billion dollars. Your $20 is what percent of that? There is a better candidate somewhere who needs it more)

The best place to give money is to primary challengers, but it's too late for that this cycle. Give money to house and or important senate races. For an even greater impact, give to local races further down the ballot.


I've done a decent bit of canvasing and phone banking over the years, and the 2009 I reached my breaking point. A friend/co-worker of mine was rounding up people to canvas for Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Governor's race. Deeds had just spent the previous month claiming he would op Virginia out of health care reform, cap and trade, EFCA and would strongly defend their right to work laws. The conversation went like this:
Friend: Help us canvas for Creigh Deeds, he needs our help!

Me: Did you hear what he's said about literally every issue we care about over the last month?

Friend: Are you aware of how terrible Bob McDonald is?

Me: I honestly don't care. If I lived in Virginia, I'd hold my nose and vote for Deeds, but I sure as hell am not wasting my free time helping his sorry ass.
Ever since 2009, I've felt better and better about that decision, and it's now my rule. Go all in for people who have your back, or where the race is really, really important. Fuck everyone else. I worked my ass off for the Donna Edwards campaign, and would do so again in a heartbeat. The same goes for  Kweisi Mfume in the Maryland Senate primary and others. It may not seem like it, but there are plenty of people out there like them around the country who a really worthy of your free time and political activism. But fuck people who aren't on our side. Hold your nose and vote for them, but don't waste your time and energy helping them in the slightest. They just aren't worth it.

Anyhow, just my thoughts, feel free to print out this concise list of recommendations and carry it into the booth with you!


  1. And the Referendums in Maryland! For the first time in our voting life they really matter!! Well One does, maybe 2-3 others depending.

    Even if you hate every person running - the ballot still has important questions! Like Maryland Question 6.

    Ballot Language for Marriage Equality Am:

    Question 6

    "Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs."

  2. I have only two words for those who are seriously considering NOT voting for
    Barack Obama. SUPREME COURT.

  3. Just a little thought on what a potential Republican run House, Senate, and Romney administration would mean for the poor, people of color, and women:
    1. anti-labor legislation being back by Congress and the HW
    2. the continued attempts to disenfranchise the poor, people of color, and the elderly
    3. the repeal of Health Care Reform, and for its short comings 1.4 million people are newly insured because of it and coverage previously denied to women for preexisting conditions
    4. full attacks on women's reproductive rights on the state level, but also the potential for federal level too, Ryan did back the let women die bill

    While I would love to be for a third party candidate, and I live in a place where I can, I know many idealist who think they can stick it to the man by voting third party in Ohio. Democrats in the WH are moderates, but I have concerns that Romney won't come as far center as to not try for a least a few of the things on our lists.