Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Primary Elections, General Elections, and Heart and Head Votes

As we officially enter the 2016 Presidential election season (and it can’t be over soon enough for many of us), there are a few things that need to be addressed.

Someone once said…and it might even have been me…I can’t remember, that what we really need are two elections: a heart election and a head election. Either that or the ballot should have spots for your heart choice and your head choice. This way people could still vote for their heart choice without feeling that they wasted a vote on someone who wouldn’t win anyway. Perhaps if people were able to make a heart choice without feeling that they’d wasted a vote, more people would vote for their heart choice, and the heart choice would actually have a chance of winning (or maybe that person still wouldn’t have a chance). Because, you see, in the heart/head system, whoever won between heart and head would be the overall winner.

And then I realized that we already have heart and head elections, but don’t realize it. They’re called the primary and general elections.

Let me explain.

The primary elections are all about voting with your heart. They’re all about voting for your ideals. Which candidate in the crowded field of your party best fits your beliefs? It doesn’t matter whether or not that person has a snowball’s chance of winning; you vote for them in the hope that they’ll win your party’s nomination for the big one in November.

Let me say this again: A vote cast for your ideal candidate in the primaries is not a vote wasted…not even if your candidate gets trounced. And that’s because all that was at stake was who got to run in the big one.

The national general election in November, on the other hand, is most definitely about voting with your head. You are given two, and only two viable choices. And the key word here is viable. There are only two people who have any chance of winning. Third parties have never won an election, write-in candidates have never won an election. The best (or worst) they can do is siphon off votes from the viable candidate that you actually would’ve have preferred to win in a close election.

Case in point, Ralph Nader in 2000. Had the people who voted with their hearts for Nader then, voted for Gore, Bush II wouldn’t have been president.

And this is the mistake that many people make when it comes to the general election. They still think that it’s about voting with their heart. They still think it’s about voting for what they believe in. They still think it’s about making a “principled stand.”

Let me break it down for you. In a theoretical election there are three candidates. Candidates A and B each have a 47% chance of winning, while Candidate C has only a 6% chance. On the other hand, you agree with 95% of what Candidate C stands for, you only agree with 60% of what Candidate B stands for, and you totally disagree with a whopping 95% of what Candidate A stands for.

What do you do?

Believe it or not, there are people who still believe that they should vote for Candidate C, because Candidate C most perfectly represents what they believe in.

Even though they would absolutely hate to see Candidate A win.

They can’t let go of their ideals enough to realize that throwing their votes to Candidate B would give them most of what they wanted. And so, instead Candidate A wins by a hair, and the “Six Percent Club” starts immediately complaining about the election results and the “broken system”, instead of admitting that by being pigheadedly idealistic, they handed the election over to Candidate A.

So let me repeat this, because I have friends who voted for Nader in 2000: You get to vote with your heart in the primaries, but when it comes to the general election, you only have two viable choices. Don’t waste you vote and end up giving the advantage to the candidate you absolutely hate, because you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the one who wasn’t perfect. Don’t waste your vote and give the advantage to the candidate you hate by writing in the name of your “perfect” candidate who can’t win. Look at your two viable choices, and vote for the one that you’d prefer.

Because if you write in the name of, or otherwise vote for, a candidate who absolutely cannot win, and the person you totally despise wins…

You have no one to blame but yourself.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that a greater danger than a head-heart decision is a habit decision. Voting out of habit leads to more manipulation than voting out of passion. There may at least be some critical thinking in a passion vote but none in a habit vote. Far too many people opt for the all purpose button in a voting booth in the hope that the usual promises will suddenly come true. Now that is a wasted vote.