This is the season when well-meaning people tell us to get out and vote. Our local newspapers, the League of Women Voters—all sorts of voices pick up the chant. They trumpet the message that it’s our civic duty to vote.
It’s not my purpose here to tell you whether you should be a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal. My purpose here is to discuss the importance of understanding what your vote means.
Whether you’re a rabid right-winger or a big-government leftist, many voices urge you to vote. Whether you believe an individual has a right to save or spend his own money or that the government knows better than the people and should take as much money as possible and spend it according to the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats, you should be sure to vote. Whether you’ve prepared yourself by education or carefully following the issues and knowing who stands for what or paid no attention at all and have no clue what you’re voting for, they want you to cast your ballot.
This is insanity to me. Why should we encourage people to cast unintelligent ballots?
Back in 1968 I served as a poll-watcher in a certain area of town which had a very effective precinct chairman. Almost every person who came into the voting site had a postcard in his or her hand sent out by this precinct chairman listing all the candidates he wanted people to vote for. One after another people would come up to the voting booth and ask one of the election officials how to vote for those people.
Were these people casting intelligent votes? Did they have any idea what the issues in the election really were? Why should we encourage people like this to offset the votes of people who truly knew and cared about the issues.
One of the popular sayings around election time is, “I vote for the person, not the party.” I’m probably about to become very unpopular, but that is about the most ignorant statement a person can make about our political system. It is impossible to vote for an individual without voting for his or her party.
If I vote for a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of how capable or incapable that individual is, my vote is helping Nancy Pelosi come back to power and helping Barack Obama implement his agenda. If it’s a Senate candidate, I’m helping Harry Reid hold his power, along with helping Barack Obama. If these represent my intent, then I should by all means vote for the Democrat—whether or not he is the best candidate.
On the other hand, a vote for a Republican says I’d rather have John Boehner in charge of the House than Nancy Pelosi and I’d like to replace Harry Reid with Mitch McConnell and I’d like to stop Barack Obama’s agenda. If that’s my desire, then I should vote only for Republican candidates.
Of course, it’s possible that the nominee of the party you prefer may not be that good as an individual. If so, the time to try to replace him or her is in the primary election when you can get a better candidate to represent your party, not in the general election when you vote against that candidate ends up helping the other party.
Milton Capehart served as a Republican Senator from Indiana from 1944 to 1962. During that time, Indiana was a dependably Republican state. An Indiana man who was a leader of Young Americans for Freedom at the time didn’t like Capehart and actively campaigned for his Democratic opponent, Birch Bayh. With the help and influence of this very conservative young man, Bayh won the election, and Indiana has never been a Republican stronghold since that time.
This is the sort of thing that happens when you vote for the man instead of the party. The young conservative involved in this campaign certainly didn’t intend to make his home state a stronghold for the Democratic party, but that’s exactly what he did.
We need to think before we vote. We need to understand not only a candidate’s qualifications and platform—we also need to understand how voting for that individual will affect the balance of political power in our city, state, and nation. If you understand all these things, you probably don’t need me or any organization to tell you to go vote. You’ll vote precisely because you do understand.
If, on the other hand, you don’t understand all these things, please stay home. Please don’t vote. Your vote could have far-reaching unintended effects.
For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.
For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.
Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.