Why do you vote?
A) To elect a president. You want to vote for someone who has a chance of winning. You feel your vote is useless if you don't vote for a possible winner.
B) To express you political opinion. You want to vote for someone whose views you can wholeheartedly support. You feel your vote is a lie if you vote for anyone else.
In the last two presidential election cycles I've been baffled by the position of some of my conservative/Republican friends. They were all over me, criticizing me for not voting for Romney, and now for not voting for Trump. At first I thought it was a "party" thing; I'd left the Republican Party, but they didn't know that, and they assumed I was still a rah-rah-party-nominee-supporter.
But it goes deeper than that.
I'm finding there are at least two kinds of voters, and you see them at the top of this post, in summary. My friends are "A" voters. Their vote must go into a huge pool with other voters to put a person in the White House. That's THE goal of the election, right? They show their affinity with party politics in this: the goal of a political party is to nominate and elect a candidate. The goal of a political party is NOT to represent their constituency or advance a particular platform. It's important to grasp that. Neither party intends to represent you. They intend to get their man or woman in office, period. Platforms, agendas, opinions -- they will change over time. The Democratic Party today doesn't vaguely resemble the party my blue-collar grandparents loved in the 1940's. Because parties constantly change like this, people often feel their beloved party has "left them behind." Duh. It's not their goal to stick with you! It's their goal to keep you vote if they can. "A" voters understand this and want to participate in this kind of election of their man.
Thus my conservative friends find themselves swallowing candidates that they don't really like, that they wouldn't personally trust their dog with, that they would never choose themselves. But the party chooses the nominee, and they want to vote with the winning side, so they swallow their disgust and tell themselves their votes will count and they will have helped the country. And I understand their thinking. It makes sense to them.
I am not that voter.
And my friends simply don't understand the kind of voter I am. I'm an individual voter, and my vote is precious to me. I don't throw it into a pool of vaguely similar votes hoping to be on the winning team. That doesn't matter to me at all. I want my vote to represent me, and if it happens to align with the winning side, that's a happy consequence, but it's not my goal. In order for my vote to count, I don't have to have voted for a possible winner. I simply cannot convince my friends even of the logic of my position. It is senseless to them because we have fundamentally different view about what it means to vote.
I admit that I didn't understand their position until today. I had a friend write this on facebook. (I hope she forgives me for quoting her. But I found it so enlightening, and I don't fault her at all for holding this view.):
" I do disagree, though, with voting as your conscience demands you. If that were the case, I would vote for Paul Ryan but that would not do the country a bit of good. I think you vote to elect a President and there is no point to going to the voting booth to write a name that means nothing. That makes no sense to me. "
Wow! My eyes were suddenly opened! She actually believes that it's useless to vote according to conscience. I, on the other hand, cannot vote against my conscience. For her, the political arena is not an area where conscience is at play. For her, the point of voting is to elect somebody, rather like the point of eating dinner is to feed yourself. For me the point of dinner is to eat something I find delicious; I want every calorie to count. I might call her the Utilitarian Voter. She votes because it's necessary and practical. I'm a Conscience Voter. I vote to express myself. To vote against my conscience would be the same as to lie.
That's why my Utilitarian Voter friends repeatedly accuse me (and other Conscience Voters) of "staying home," even though we loudly object that we will vote, we will write a name in, we will be heard! But in their minds, our votes are wasted as soon as they're cast because we didn't vote for a potential winner. In their economy of voting, every vote goes to one of the potential winners, and if I don't vote for their winner, then I'm automatically voting for the other side's winner. What kind of logic is that?
So we must truly allow each other to go our own way. I didn't vote for Romney because I could not in good conscience say that I wanted such an idolater as my political representative -- no matter if he's nice and well-spoken and experienced and has good hair. It would be a lie for me to have voted for Romney. I could not swallow Romney anymore than I could swallow a mouthful of brussel sprouts.
I feel even more strongly so about Trump. Voting for Trump would be rather like swallowing a forkful of dog poop. Sorry, buddies, but I just ain't doing it. And if one more ridiculous person tells me that if I don't vote for Trump then I'm voting for Hillary, I'll scream. That's YOUR view of the economy of voting -- every vote is for some type of potential "winner." That doesn't mean it's fact.
Political change and party change occur through Conscience Voters. Utilitarian Voters tend to follow their party because the parties choose the winners, and winning is what's important to them. To us Conscience Voters, they look like lemmings stumbling to the sea. But when enough voters decide they can't swallow the parties' offerings anymore, and a sea change occurs, parties can fall. Parties can cease to be manipulated by unprincipled men. Conscience can again guide the country.