Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as “voting your conscience”, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.
I could argue, I suppose, that voting for one of the two major-party psychopaths would “hurt other people,” because no matter which one wins, we lose, but that’s not really what Shirky wants, is it?
None of this creates an obligation to vote, or to vote for one of the two viable candidates. It is, famously, a free country, and you can vote for anyone you like, or for no one. But if you do, don’t kid yourself — and certainly don’t try to kid anyone else — that you are creating some kind of positive political change. Noisily opting out as a way of demonstrating your pique is an understandable human act. It’s just not a political act. It’s an elaborate way of making the rest of us do the work of deciding.
Some of us are persuaded that human acts need not be judged by their political impact. The doofus who came up with “The personal is political” has done more damage to our culture than either of our Officially Nominated Grifters.
(Via Sheila Scarborough.)