The Weakness of the Wasted Vote

Most of my friends voted for Bernie Sanders in the California primary. Most of them are voting for Hillary Clinton in the General Election. But there are a handful who are voting for Jill Stein or who are sitting this one out. Their argument is admirably summarized in D.M. Andre’s post “Power of the Wasted Vote.”

According to Andre:

Aside from the condescension inherent in telling another their vote is wasted, this logic lacks a basic understanding of what voting means. Voting is more than a simple act of math; voting is people actively taking responsibility for choosing their leaders and representatives. Therefore, you do not vote for who you think will win, you vote for who you think should win. The reality is the “wasted” vote has value, it wields power; it is intrinsically the same as the vote cast for the winner.

For me, Andre’s analysis invokes the memorable line repeated by The Borg Collective from Star Trek: Next Generation: “Resistance is futile: you will be assimilated.” And, yet, against all odds, Jean Luc and his crew resist and, in the end, they prevail.

But is this really how resistance works? Does resistance wield this power?

Let me tip my cards ever so slightly here at the outset. I think that individuals who vote for Jill or who stay home, who vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton, are guilty of nothing worse, but also nothing better, nothing more noble, than radical individualism bordering on solipsism. Radical individualism because they mistake (and fault) circumspection for logical fallacy; solipsism because they mistake the absence of constraint for freedom. There is something decidedly Dionysian, even Nietzschean to their liberating decision. But, absent a strategic judgment — by choosing Jill I am pushing us closer to freedom — their choice is no better, but also no worse, than Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, or von Mises’ radical economic individualism. It does not contribute to the end of domination so much as it evinces a wholly private, personal, individual act of will and defiance.

Now, I would be the first to admit that such acts can be personally liberating. They may even serve to empower individuals in our immediate proximity. But this should not be mistaken for a reasoned political or social theoretical calculus whose aim might be to identify the mechanisms and actions we have reason to believe might actually liberate, as opposed to merely empowering us, individually, personally, privately.

This is not to inveigh against political opposition. But November 8? Really? This is where the opposition will mount its stand? This is where it will flex its muscles? Good luck with that.

No. Everything is about November 9. Forget November 8. Fivethirtyeight.com will tell us about November 8 in advance. No. November 9 is the date. It is on November 9 that citizens need to flex their muscles; from November 9 through November 10, 2020. Work, fight, organize, and plan.

To narrow down power to a day, to narrow it down to my heroic choice to select A or B, to narrow it down to choice. Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Carl Menger could not have put it better. It’s all about your personal freedom. Right?

Get over it. November 9 is coming. On November 8, vote Hillary Clinton.

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