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Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to know if you should vote: the "Mob Factor"

"What if there's no one good to vote for?" I have had multiple friends and associates ask me this question over the past two weeks and now that we're down to the home stretch, it's time to address a very important question with a very frank answer: Don't vote.

If you don't have anyone good to vote for in your district or state, no one you're excited about, no one who you think will do much to make things better, then it is perfectly acceptable- indeed very rational and prudent- to not vote.

Especially don't be fooled by the conventional "wisdom" that the lackluster candidate in your district will at least be better than the alternative, so you should go out and vote for the lesser of two evils. That's why we keep getting more evil at every level of government.

Voting is usually a waste of time

The truth is that for the most part, it's irrational to vote- that's why so few Americans do it. While pundits and politicians complain about low voter turnout, the fact is that voting is usually a waste of time.

Think about it: what are the odds in any given election that your vote will actually affect the outcome? Can you name any election for a state or national office that you or anyone you know has ever voted in where if they had stayed home that day, the outcome would have been any different?

Furthermore, let's say against all odds that your vote would count in a particular election. That going out and casting your ballot would mean the difference between one or another candidate taking office. In most elections, how different are the two candidates really?

How much would change if one versus the other were to win? Or would public policy mostly stay the same and proceed in the same general direction whichever candidate you happened to choose with your once-in-a-lifetime decisive vote? The fact is, most things stay the same, whichever candidate wins.

There are few candidates who actually stand out from the rest- and make no mistake- this holds true across party lines. Democrats grow government and so do Republicans. Democrats are corrupt and so are Republicans. In most elections, it doesn't matter which candidate wins.

So when should I vote? The "Mob Factor"

Now don't be disheartened! I'm not saying you should never, ever vote. While it is usually irrational for a person to vote, it's not irrational for mobs of people to vote. One person almost never changes the outcome of an election- but mobs of people can and do swing elections all the time. That's how Barack Obama beat out both Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2008.

So here's my simple little rule: the only time I ever go out and vote is if and only if I am willing to vote as part of a mob of people- in other words if I am willing to campaign hard for the candidate to get others to vote with me, if I am willing to knock on doors and grow the candidate's "mob" of voting supporters, if I am willing to give the candidate money (perhaps even more than I can comfortably afford) so that he (or she) can run ads to get more voters... then and only then will I vote. Then and only then is it rational to vote.

The catch: a good candidate

The catch to all this of course is that this candidate would have to be pretty special. It would have to be someone I support very strongly, someone I believe stands apart from most candidates, someone I trust to actually vote and govern differently than most politicians do, and someone who I believe has a reasonable chance of winning (i.e. you will not see me on the campaign trail for a Libertarian Party presidential candidate anytime soon).

If there is no such candidate out there in a district or state that you are able to vote in- if there is no one you support strongly enough that you would be willing to volunteer time and money for their campaign- then do not vote. It is a waste of your valuable time.

So what do I do then?

But don't worry- there's still lots you can do. If you don't have anyone like that in your district or state to vote for, then instead of taking an hour to find your voting location this Tuesday, drive there, wait in line, vote, and drive home use that hour of precious time to help a candidate that you support in another state or district.

If you believe in liberty like me, I can name you at least five solid 2010 midterm candidates in close races that need your help in this home stretch. Just because you don't live in a good candidate's state or district, that doesn't mean that you can't donate to that candidate or volunteer to make phone calls for him/her from the comfort of your own home.

Taking an hour (or two or three) this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to grow a good candidate's "mob" of voters by calling voters in that candidate's district or state and urging them to vote is a MUCH BETTER use of your time than going out and voting alone for a mediocre candidate in your district. If you have the time to waste voting in a scenario like that, stay home (or at the office) on Tuesday and use that time in the weekend before to actually make a real difference in a close race for a candidate that you believe would do some good.

If you are unsure of where to begin, contact me and I can get you a list of names to call and a script to use for any of multiple close races with solid candidates. You can probably even just e-mail the campaign yourself and offer to help. You can also check their website to see if they have anything about how to volunteer for their phonebanking efforts.

Or you can decide to take the hour off altogether and drop a donation on a candidate you support. They can (and will!) use that in the home stretch to buy important ads and pay for expenses in their massive get-out-the-vote efforts. How much is an hour of your time worth? And the gas you would save from driving to and from the voting location in your area? Even $25 makes a difference, especially if every liberty-loving patriot takes the advice in this column.

Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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