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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Since your ballot won’t matter, why not vote against both Obama and Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on June 25, 2012

Newspapers tell you every election season that your vote counts. I’ve even said so myself in my pre-blog life, including six years ago with a guest opinion in my local newspaper. But at least I noted that people were “least interested in the local issues they could most influence and which usually affect them most. They’re much more likely to vote in national elections, especially if political ads and talk-show spin generate enough heat (though rarely much light) about inflammatory ‘threats’ such as flag burning, homosexuality, immigration and terrorism.”

But here’s a secret that all those folks who keep predicting (probably incorrectly) a close presidential election don’t mention — however close the election is, your vote probably won’t matter at all. “You have a better chance of being killed by a meteorite than you do of having your vote determine the next president,” I heard a political science professor professor say years ago. With that sentence in mind, I’ve since told my students, “If you go to the polls thinking you’ll affect the presidency, make sure you’re looking up as you go.”

Your vote won’t be rendered meaningless by voter fraud, by the way, or probably by voter suppression (though the latter is far more likely, regardless of what conservative jokers may claim). Your vote probably won’t be negated by Republican-controlled electronic voting machines. No, your vote for president — unless you’re a resident of one of a half-dozen to a dozen states — won’t matter because of where you live.

As I noted in a recent post that contained links to several electoral maps, most states are already out of the running unless something dramatic happens between now and November. That’s why, as CNN noted today, a new Barack Obama ad campaign “will run in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Florida.” If you don’t live in one of those states, your vote for president likely won’t matter at all.

But wait, you say. A generally “blue state” like Washington could shift, leaning toward Mitt Romney or a virtual tie. It’s even remotely conceivable to imagine that a state such as Idaho or Texas could move toward the Obama side. But so what? If either of those were to occur, it would mean that the election was about to become a landslide. And the winner would be known long before individual Washington or Idaho votes were counted.

I’ve voted in heavily red states most of my life, and therefore have not voted for either major party candidate in most presidential elections. When I lived in Idaho and Arizona, I knew that the Republican candidate would get all of my state’s electoral votes. And since failing to vote at all might be viewed as simple apathy, instead I’ve voted for independent candidates who were most in line with my views. That is an especially appealing approach to me when we have two conservative candidates both fighting for the same corporate dollars, as we do now.

The so-called Republican “war on women,” Fox News, the economy, a gutless Congress, events abroad, the Supreme Court’s immigration decision today or its health care decision on Thursday may change the outcome of the election — but not the effect of your vote. (By the way, the Court ruling most likely to affect elections in general is another from today that is getting less attention that immigration or health care; it states that the court’s previous abysmal “Citizens United” decision overrides state election laws.)

So here’s what I suggest: Unless you live in one of those very few true battleground states, cast your presidential ballot for anyone other than Obama or Romney. Well, maybe not Ron Paul, because he’s crazy. OK, he’s not the only one, so even him. More importantly, how about reading up on your Congressional and local races? There your vote might actually matter.

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25 Responses to “Since your ballot won’t matter, why not vote against both Obama and Romney?”

  1. josiahe said

    What a pathetic little man you are ….. Where I live, in Oregon, that’s solidly in the leftist camp, it would be appropriate to not vote for the Romnie, …. the one led by the salamander delivered plate to …. never mind …. you wouldn’t stoop that low level of name-calling would you?

    Just like Michelle Obama wouldn’t continue to exploit young married leftists who need the boost from a lot of friends to help provide the numerous little things to get their household begun … The gall of this classless woman …. this friend of Farrakhan’s …. So afraid that when her husband makes the choice to not run after all, they’ll have gathered enough wealth to continue their opulent lifestyle …. What scum …. were did they dredge up these slimeballs from? Probably the same rotten place that professors of Journalism come from!

  2. James McPherson said

    It’s pretty tough to come up with an answer when I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I have the distinct impression you don’t, either. So I’ll just your words speak for themselves and hope you enjoyed the little rant–thanks for responding.

  3. melfamy said

    I heard the Southern Oregon weed crop was especially potent this year, James.

  4. James McPherson said

    That must be it; great point. 🙂 Thanks.

    And I don’t deny that it can be tough for some folks to be surrounded by people they view as being on the “other side.” Some just can’t handlie it, I suppose.

  5. William Gates said

    I just refuse to vote for either for a different reason. Romney is no different than Obama. He just says things differently, now. He couldn’t event beat McCain in the last presidential primary and his record isn’t as conservative as his mouth says he is. I understand the challenges that Obama faced. I think he could have done things a bit differently handling certain situations. At this point, I don’t think I’ll cast my vote for either since Obama has been an extension of Bush and Romney would probably be worst than both of them.

    Having a lot of money does not a good president make. At this point, that’s all he has going for him and that’s why he says he’s only gonna focus on the economy. How about focusing on leaving it alone and letting it correct itself? He cannot “fix” it. Cutting taxes when there’s already less revenue coming in from people out of work will do nothing but increase deficits. Until the middle class gets back on it’s feet, and consumer confidence is restored, the economy will continue to creep. In hard times, the wealthy’s lifestyle doesn’t change very much. But the middle class does. We tend to hold on to our money. We stop going out to restaurants, movies, and shopping. That slows the economy.The middle class makes the upper class rich, not the other way around. We buy their products, use their services, and work in their establishments. There are many more of us than them. So killing the middle class topples the country.

    Romeny doesn’t see this. He has a grand idea of cutting capital gains. Whoooo Hoooo. Won’t help the middle class. Won’t help the economy. Again, less coming in. How is he gonna pay for that? What is he going to cut to offset that? We know not the military budget. So what then?

  6. I can’t believe that A) I missed this post and B) You’re dissin my boy Ron Paul!

    I think Wills is crazy, because at least with a Republican Executive branch, you have the opportunity of not having vetoes on good legislation.(If they get the majority……Hmmm…. I think they’ll at least pass a budget!) Who knows, though, right? I was reading the other day on Rangel and I was surprised. I reckon it’s somethin like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_e7lJ6LdAo

  7. Here’s my dedication to you, pal Joey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a58X2lB_3z4

    (I’m in the giving vain.)

  8. James McPherson said

    A Republican majority might pass a budget. But keep in mind, even if Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they won’t have a filibuster-proof majority, and I can’t imagine that Dems won’t use it as a hammer in the same way that Republicans have the past couple of years. Besides, the Senate is so screwed up that ONE senator can block legislation: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rand-paul-grabs-the-chance-to-dictate-to-local-government/2012/06/27/gJQAmRqi7V_story.html

  9. William Gates said

    I could roll with that Kells…..if I hadn’t seen it before. The Bush administration had many budgets passed. None included the financing of the wars we were in and they all included deficit spending so what’s the use of having a budget?

    The “at least” part is what gets me so much. The willingness of the republicans to not follow the principles that they say are their core values. Only thing they worry about is what they consider being just a bit better than democrats. So they can say, “Yeah, we overspent by a trillion but at least we didn’t overspend by 2 trillion like the Dems”. As if either is good. That phony signing of contracts with America that Norquist punked them into doing is nothing but show(Boehner needs to good and take Pelosi with him since they are one in the same). We know about tax and spend democrats. They don’t try to hide what they do. But the phoniness of the Republican party is what I can’t handle. Why have members in your party if they on speak of the core principles of the party but not adhere to them? Romney conservative? When? Ahh….when he paid a bit extra to be a “lifetime member of the NRA” after lying about being an avid hunter just to admit his only fired a weapon a few times. Like all of that matters! If that is a prerequisite for being a conservative then I guess he is. Over than that, his record as governor speaks differently.

    Good legislation? You mean the stuff the gets recycled every administration change and the minority always blocks? Like the Cap and Trade the was introduced by Republicans or the healthcare individual mandate, that they hate now, but loved when they introduced it? Or maybe the Bush “amnesty” program that couldn’t pass that’s now the Dream Act that’s going no where? How about Social Security Privatization? That went over well.

    BTW, when Boehner and Pelosi go they can take Rangel and a host of others with them. I’ll miss seeing Boehner crying though.

  10. Mike Ingram said

    So let us abandon the Electoral College and send it back to the 1700s, and have a national election. Most votes wins. Probably still see candidates campaign more in big cities but it least my red vote could count in WA and Jim’s blue vote could count if he ever returns to Idaho.

  11. James McPherson said

    A blue vote counting in Idaho? Now there’s a dream. 🙂 But maybe by the time I retire and move to a lake place in Idaho, they’ll have done away with the stupid EC and more of our votes will matter. Another plus, for folks in current swing states–if we kill the EC, they won’t have to put up with as many political commercials or visits from candidates.

  12. Wills, you’re sounding like B. (Sorry, I’m still giggling at James and Mikes’ comments….the EC could be its own post, professor.)

    I understand the evils of both sides, and so I must weigh in how folks were faring with the lesser of two evils. Numbers, baby. And I hate math….

  13. William Gates said

    Kells, impossible. You should be caned 20 lashes for saying that. Anyways—

    I’ve said it all along. B is the one that flip-flopped from Santorum to no one to Romney now I guess back to no one. I said no one from the start. To me it only means that we’re willing to settle. Would you pay your money for something that is less that what you want? I wouldn’t. So should I vote for Obama since I don’t like Romney just because someone says I should? Nope. You can go ahead and toe the party line, but the party line got us into this mess and keeps us there. People have been saying the lessor of two evils since I’ve know what a presidential election was. Vote for whomever demonstrates the same values and principles that you agree are most important. Not say, demonstrate. So if you take a look at both evils, why don’t you see the same thing?

  14. Wills, what if he takes on my boy, Ron Paul? I’m quite fond of Allen West as well, (He was my favourite Batman.) You surely must know that a third-party candidate stands no chance. You must choose a side.

  15. William Gates said

    I could vote for Ron Paul but not Allen West. West is no more than a loudmouth that offers no solutions. What plans has he introduced or endorsed? He’s the typical congressman that is just against anything the other party is for.

    If Romney wins, you’ll only see the flip side. Dems that’ll remember how republicans wouldn’t work with them. Or wasting time with this contempt nonsense. Or you could always wish for a total majority and then get what? 2 wars and Medicare D. Which do you prefer sweetheart? There’s your 2 evils.

  16. You know my preference, luv. I like Rubio too…..could be I’m a bit bias …..conservative, Floridian, intelligent, young, handsome, Latin.

  17. James McPherson said

    I agree with you about West, William, and couldn’t go for Paul–though he’s much more pleasant than West, he’s proven himself unable to accomplish anything as a Congressman, so I can’t imagine that he’d be an effective leader. Kells, with your permission I went ahead and made the minor edits. Thanks to you both.

  18. William Gates said

    My biggest problem with Paul is that he’s 187 years old. If I had to vote out of the 3 I think that would be my vote. Rubio? Impossible. Don’t care for his record in the Florida Congress. He was in that credit card scandal too.

    I’m for the person that gets us out of these wars and starts paying down the debt. You can have social programs but you have to pay for them. If we can afford them, great. If not, they must be eliminated. Being fiscally conservative is the most important issue today. If you have that, many of the other problems go away.

  19. Thanks, James. I remembered I musn’t be naughty here. 😉

    Wills, RP is younger than my dad, and my dad whips my tail in tennis! (Daddy was born in ’32)
    I agree that I wasn’t too fond of Rubio pushin for the Taj Mahal courthouse….oh, brother…..but I think he learned some valuable lessons in FL that have paid off. Obviously, you are not for Obama as he is the antithesis of the issues to which you speak.

  20. James McPherson said

    No problem, kells; I appreciate your insights, and your willingness to restrain yourself here. I may come across as a prude, and perhaps I am in some ways. Mostly I recognize different standards for different audiences, and I’d prefer to write in such a way that even youngsters can read it and learn something. But even profanity can be appropriate. For a better picture of my views, you might check out the post that ended up being quoted in the New York Times (and which then had folks attacking me as a right-winger). 🙂

    You can see that here: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/newsweek-opts-for-immature-profanity-over-depth/

    This was the follow-up, after some of the weird feedback: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/now-im-part-of-profanity-police/

  21. William Gates said

    So your dad is 188?

    Obama, to me, is an extension of Bush. This has been Bush’s 3rd term. Obama hasn’t gone for to the left as many liberals wanted. He hasn’t gone far enough to the right as republicans want. I just don’t like some of his decisions. I didn’t like the removal of GM’s CEO. That was a bit too much.

  22. I’m giggling now, James. I just read your post and the comments. I grew up having my mouth washed out with soap (yes, I know what every brand tastes like) for cursing. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to curb my little habit. Wills can also attest to me being a naughty flirt. I will behave here. (I don’t want my mouth washed out with soap.)

    Wills, I’m about kick your a double-crooked letter! (Couldn’t resist being naughty….. 😉 )

  23. William Gates said

    You wish.

  24. […] lack of a great choice is why I wouldn’t bother to vote for either the Democratic or the Republican ticket unless I lived in a swing state. Maybe I’ll vote for one of the candidates […]

  25. […] Your vote. I’ve discussed this at length elsewhere, so won’t go into detail here. But your presidential ballot has virtually no chance of […]

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