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Does it matter who we elect November 8? Before you answer, note these comparisons:

  • Compare George W.’s foreign policy with Barack’s foreign policy.
  • Compare George W.’s version of favoring insiders with Barack’s version of favoring insiders.
  • Compare outcomes for normal, everyday people in the way government protects privacy and other civil rights.
  • Compare promotion of job growth for people who are unemployed.
  • Compare the ability to reduce taxes for people who have to pay forty percent or more of their income in total taxes, then provide for their families with what’s left.
  • Compare the ability to purchase basic health care at a reasonable price, in a transparent market.
  • Compare the care of our veterans.
  • Compare behavior of the major political parties, no matter which party holds the White House, Senate, and House.
  • Compare surveillance practices.
  • Compare general levels of honesty, integrity, and basic competence between George W.’s administration and Barack’s administration.

You be the judge. Do you see important differences in the way the two major parties govern?

After you make these comparisons and think about their implications, visit these two campaign sites for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

Now let’s rephrase the original question: does it matter who you vote for on November 8? Well, it’s going to matter to you, and you – not the candidate elected to office through aggregated preferences – are the most important actor in this exercise of public choice. These two definitions suggest reasons voters ought to set aside the first definition’s specious reasoning about the significance of one’s vote, in favor of a more  definition that emphasizes independence and individual choice:

Spoiler – third-party candidate regarded by Democrats or Republicans as a threat to their own candidate’s victory. Example argument: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000 cost Democrat Al Gore the presidency. The outcome in 2000 teaches that a third-party vote is worse than a wasted vote – it actually helps to elect the candidate you favor least.

Independent voter – Citizen who has one vote to cast for one candidate, and who casts that vote based only on the candidate’s qualifications for office, and other qualities the voter considers important. Example argument: I select Candidate A, because Candidate A is the person I would like to see in that office. No other factors ought to affect my selection.

Major parties – and minor ones as well – have one overriding goal: to see their candidate win. Many arguments you hear from Democrats and Republicans are efforts to recruit independent voters to one side or the other. Independent voters recognize these arguments for what they are: voter recruitment efforts. They have nothing to do with the reasons people vote in the first place: to express a preference for one candidate over all others. If our method of aggregating preferences results in two major parties, that does not alter the fundamental nature of each individual’s vote.

If you do not belong to one of the major parties – or even if you do – vote your conscience.