How to Vote If Both Candidates Suck

Photo by Elena Lagaria

Here’s how I vote.

I don’t get invested in the candidates, not personally. And neither should you.

Some people view their vote as an expression of their conscience. If they can’t trust either main candidate, they can’t stand voting for them. They need to be passionate about a candidate, or bust. That leads to bad decision making.

Elections are not like dating. Your candidate will not love you back. Maybe in some abstract sense they love their supporters, but they don’t care about you personally, or your neighborhood.

Accepting this makes voting easier. Your candidate breaks a promise, has an affair or makes deals with the other side; you shrug. We knew we couldn’t trust them. Politics isn’t about trust. It’s a business proposition.

The candidates may lie, but there are reliable indicators of how they’ll act on your issues. They’ll make some decisions that hurt you, and some that will help you. And you can vote to maximize the good-for-you decisions.

How to Tell

The only way to maximize your gain is to be informed. Sometimes that seems hard. Where do you get reliable information about the candidates? Isn’t it all biased?

The news is. But it’s actually pretty easy to figure out what a candidate’s behavior is on an issue. They each have a voting record that shows how they’ve acted time and time again. This is a very reliable predictor of what they’ll do next.

They also have plans on certain issues published in black and white. They may not live up to them 100% but there are a lot of indicators there in how they’d like to run things.

For instance, let’s look at the economy. The economy affects everyone. But it’s frustrating, for two reasons:

  • Both candidates say similar things
  • Neither candidate gets very specific

If you’re nodding your head, you may have listened to too many soundbites. The candidates are worlds apart on the economy.

Here’s how.

When Should You Vote For Romney?

Romney’s plan to fix the economy involves tax cuts. He wants to give us all a 20% tax break across the board, which sounds pretty good, except he plans to offset it by getting rid of certain deductions that most of us currently take.

This involves algebra, folks.

Fortunately Marcus Sanborn has laid the data out in a simple chart. Go and look up your income bracket. The less money you make, the more Romney hurts you. Look for yourself, but basically:

If you make less than $200,000 per year, Romney wants to raise your taxes.

That doesn’t sound like what he says on TV, but that’s why we look at his actual tax plan and not his jingle.

So, if you make $200,000 or more, Romney might maximize your net gain, but with one caveat: as the same article points out, eliminating those deductions won’t actually offset the tax cut, so Romney will bankrupt the US government.

So if you make over $200,000 and you don’t want the American economy to recover, then you should vote for Romney. Otherwise vote for Obama.

Voting By the Issues

Most of us have certain issues we care about. It’s not just the tax rate. If you’re looking to maximize your personal gain, you need to choose two or three key issues you care about the most. Then vote for the candidate who does best on those issues. Here are some suggestions.

If you’re unemployed—

Unemployment has gone down under Obama; Romney’s approach to unemployment and the economy is so scattered that it cost him The Economist’s nomination. If you’re unemployed, vote for Obama.

If you love the environment—

Obama has been mediocre on the environment; Romney would be a swing back to Bush era policies. If you love the environment, I suggest Obama.

If you’re Christian—

If you’re Christian, both candidates have your back. This is a non-issue.

If you aren’t Christian—

Romney repeatedly changes his stances to please extreme conservatives who don’t want you to practice your religion (or lack of religion, atheists). Obama is uncomfortably close to some of these same conservatives, but has never voted against religious freedom. Vote for Obama.

About abortion—

Neither candidate will crusade for women’s right to choose. Romney actively crusades against that right. If you are pro-life, stop reading this blog (forever, thanks) and then go vote for Romney. If you’re pro-choice, you do the least harm to yourself and womankind by voting for Obama.

If you’re gay or trans—

You already know the answer to this. If you, your child, a friend, or anyone you love is gay or trans, neither candidate is great on key issues affecting you but Obama is better, and will at least give you a lot of moral support while not actually fighting for you. Grudgingly vote for Obama.

These are just a few of the issues. To learn more about how candidates will actually vote on your issues, check out iSideWith.

What About the Other Guy?

Voting this way is relaxing. In exchange for fifteen minutes of my life spent reading a few websites, I can sit back and let all the election hub-bub pass me by, confident that my vote will actually contribute to my wellbeing.


This also means I won’t vote for a third party candidate in a high level election. I know they would lose, so my net gain would be zero. (Don’t give me the 5% talk; when we have a runoff election system I will be voting third, fourth and fifth party like crazy. That’s a change that no third party candidate can offer right now.)

Again, a vote is not a moral statement on abstract principles. It is a small token you get to spend in a very large machine to try to make it do what you want, some of the time. That’s a lot less powerful than we wish it would be, yet still one of the most powerful things you will ever hold.

A vote is a tiny slice of kingship.

You can be cynical about politics, but refusing to vote (or voting for someone guaranteed to lose) is an unintelligent decision. It’s a decision to do active harm. If a bus crashes and you can save only one person, save one person. Don’t just walk away cursing the unfair universe. Save that shit for happy hour.

My Boy

I don’t really think both candidates suck. I actually think Obama is a pretty swell candidate. That’s because of how I vote. (Plus Barack reads this blog religiously, and I’d hate to offend a friend.) It’s a low-stress way of voting. It makes election night easier, and the hangover isn’t as bad if your candidate loses.

Split the difference between cynicism and zeal. Vote to maximize your gain. Which, unless you are a Baptist misogynist with a $200,000 salary, means vote for Obama.


22 thoughts on “How to Vote If Both Candidates Suck

  1. Pingback: The Straight Man’s Vote «   Rogue Priest

  2. I’m not American, but I’d vote for Obama. But I’m not sure you’re accurate in saying that if you’re Christian, don’t worry, Obama’s got your back too. My inlaws think he’s the anti-Chirst, or at least evil. I am serious. I might not like Romeny, but I don’t think he’s “evil.” I don’t get it. On a happier note, Obama is one of many signs that the world will end soon. Based on what my sister-in-law writes on Facebook, this is a good thing. So in the end, who wins doens’t matter:)

    Sorry, I’m in a weird mood. I really American’s elect Obama. Happy voting.

    • Thanks Grace.

      I’d suggest that your relatives feel that way precisely because they aren’t informing themselves. Obama and Romney are both extremely devout Christians, both attend church regularly and neither has ever voted in a way that infringes on Christians’ right to practice their religion.

      There are specific social issues that some (not all) Christian churches champion, and others oppose, which is why I broke out gay rights and abortion as separate issues from Christianity.

      • I, of course, agree with you, but much more complicated than that. They would say Obama is not a real Christian. Catholics are not real Christians. Mormoms are not real Christians (but they would have supported Mitt b/c of his stronger stance on gay rights and abortion). I’m just glad my parents are more open-minded in this regard, phew! Glad American’s voted Obama back in in the end. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Jen.

      When I started this blog I considered abstaining from political commentary, since that’s not really my topic. But once you have a platform with 1100 readers it seems reckless not to at least make an effort to use it for good. I suspect most of my readers were already going to vote (and vote wisely), but even turning out a few extra votes matters.

  3. FW says:

    Admirably well thought-out in general; though I think it’s very important to be able to work together with and be friends even with people you disagree with on an important issue; some are still good people in general.

  4. Meh, I voted for Captain America. Both candidates suck (no offense to you RP) as much “good ” as obama is supposed to have done, it’s really dropped the ball in important areas, or promised one thing and delivered it in such a way as to be something else, while staying technically true to his word.

    As far as I was concerned, it was better to vote for what I dream a candidate would be, rather than choosing the lesser of several evils.

    • Lucius, how does your Path of Power view the idea of throwing away a small amount of power (voting for a candidate who’s at least marginally better on your issues) in order to do something with no power at all (make a statement that is entirely private and will be disregarded)?

      • it works a little something like this:

        In democracy, each person has x amount of power in the form of a vote. In a popular election, each vote counts for something, and enough piled up can swing things one way or the other. In an electoral college, things get a little more complicated, but it does tend to go by majority rule. So perhaps a one vote can go one way or the other, but even the small margins tend to be in the thousands.

        So how does “Throwing away” my vote match with the path of power I walk? Easy. Each vote is a bit of power. I simply refused to give away my “power” to either of the candidates. Neither Obama nor Romney have my support, mentally, spiritually, and now, politically. Rather, I voted my heart. I kept my power.

        And I think that while it is a private and disregarded statement by the populace, when the time comes and we face what Gods there are and they ask “What did you do in life, what did you use the power you had for?” I can look at them and say, with honor and honesty, “I lived as I saw fit, and gave my power and loyalty to none who were not worthy. I lived a dream, and found in it life worth living.”

        It is my hope that they not only understand, but are proud of their kinsman for such a deed, no matter how small.

  5. Pingback: Will Obama Leave Me Out? «   Rogue Priest

  6. I would like to note that if everyone “threw their vote away” on a third party candidate. He/She would win! There have been times in our history that such things have happened and I think we should remember that. I also agree with Lucius to an extent. I also think even if they don’t win this time maybe in my life time a candidate that actually stands for what I believe in would be heard.

    I also think we spend so much time on major league sport team playoffs. Why not do a playoff style race for the final presidential debate? Hell I would have been happy if one independent party candidate was on that stage and was able to participate. At least then people would really get to know them and make a much more informed decision.

    Independent parties don’t get nearly the recognition as the main two because they don’t get nearly the same funding. So I think a playoff style debate system would at least level the playing field. It would be great if not only rich people could run for an office and win. Giving the little guy a chance, I think would greatly affect the future of our country in a positive way.

    • I would like to note that if everyone “threw their vote away” on a third party candidate. He/She would win!

      No, because there are at least four “third parties” in the US; if everyone (100% of the electorate) voted for a candidate from one of those parties, then a majority of voters would see their candidate lose.

      I also think even if they don’t win this time maybe in my life time a candidate that actually stands for what I believe in would be heard.

      I agree. I think there’s a reasonable chance that the Republican party, which currently straddles two main groups — social conservatives (fundamentalists) and fiscal conservatives — could split or fail, leading to at least one new major party.

      My question for you is: until then, why not vote for a winnable candidate?

      • I won’t vote for someone to stand for me if they don’t actually stand for me. It’s like paying someone to do a job they can choose to do or not do but either way I have to pay them. At least I can voice my opinion that I don’t like what is going on. And stand for the guy who I feel should have a voice. That’s also why most of my attention focuses on local politics in which every vote matters.

        Plus whatever third party you vote for usually gets more funding for the next election based on it’s popularity. Giving it a bigger chance next election of making some noise.

        What do you think of my debate playoff idea?

        • I like the debate playoff idea. I wish we had a runoff electoral system and that’s something I hope gains traction. Voting for that as a ballot initiative (or likely a Constitutional amendment) is something that seems light years off yet still more believable than a third party actually accomplishing anything in a Presidential race under the current system.

          I do vote for the Green Party in winnable local elections, sometimes.

          We just have very different views on how to vote. I don’t view it as voting for someone to “stand for me” for all the reasons I gave – no politician, not even a third party one, is going to do that for me. They don’t reciprocate that emotion. That’s not what voting is about, to me; it’s more about benefit calculus than it is about expressing my conscience.

          Also, tell me if I’m wrong – don’t third parties only get more funding if they cross the 5% threshold? For instance, whether they get 3.5% or 0.5% of the vote makes no difference in their funding, correct?

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