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.
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.
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.
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.