Third Party Candidates and Wasting Your Vote
Doug Mataconis rejects the idea that Bob Barr and other third party candidates should defer to the major party candidate most closely aligned with them ideologically.
If McCain loses, it won’t be Bob Barr’s fault anymore than Al Gore losing Florida in 2000 was Ralph Nader’s fault. It will be because he didn’t convince enough people to vote for him.
Well, “fault” is certainly the wrong word. These oddball candidates have a right to put themselves up for a vote, after all. But their vanity runs have foreseeable consequences and they have some responsibility for helping bring them about.
Splitting the vote results in skewed allocation of preferences. Presumably, most Nader voters would have preferred Gore to Bush in 2000 even though they preferred Nader to Gore. By voting for Nader, though, they got their distant third choice instead of their relatively close second choice. That’s not an ideal outcome, I’d say. (For them, anyway. Those of us who preferred Bush to Gore and Nader were quite pleased.)
Clearly, some sizable portion of the Republican base is less than thrilled with McCain as their nominee. Ironically, in this context, they face this choice partly because the social conservative vote was split among many candidates, most prominently Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, allowing the “moderate” McCain to win.
Regardless, however, only McCain and Obama are plausible winners in November. Barring tragic circumstances, one of them will be our next president. It’s therefore irrelevant if one would actually prefer some third alternative.
The only way it makes sense, then, to vote for a Bob Barr or Alan Keyes or Ralph Nader or some other person who will not be our next president is if you honestly have no preference whatsoever as to whether McCain or Obama prevails. Otherwise, even if it’s a 1 percent, hold-your-nose difference, you should vote for that guy.
(In reality of course, it’s a bit more complicated because most states will be uncompetitive in the Fall, with all its electors preordained for either the Democrat or the Republican. If you vote in one of those states, a “protest vote” is perfectly reasonable. And, of course, this all presumes that thinking your one vote will matter is rational, anyway.)