Sean from Boston posted a comment on Paul Krugman’s blog the other day. He said that he had been wavering about voting for Obama, but events at the Democratic convention involving references to God and Jerusalem in the party platform had pushed him over the edge. He was so offended by what happened with the platform that he is now going to vote for a third-party candidate.
Perhaps Sean believes that voting is a sacred act that should reflect his highest ideals. He clearly believes that voting is an opportunity to express his opinion regarding who is the very best candidate.
But those two propositions are not necessarily equivalent. Voting is not an opinion poll. It is not a question of our being asked who, in an ideal world, we would prefer. It is a method for selecting someone to hold office. By voting, we do perform a sacred act. But it is an act with consequences. We should vote for the person whose election would best reflect our highest ideals and who also has a chance of being elected.
In 2012, there are only two people who might be elected President. We already know that Barack Obama will win Massachusetts, so it doesn’t really matter who Sean from Boston votes for, thanks to the disgrace that is the Electoral College.
In 2000, however, a significant number of voters in Florida chose to vote for the candidate who best reflected their ideals. They knew that Ralph Nader wasn’t going to win, but they weren’t sufficiently concerned about that.
As a result of their decision to express their opinion on who the very best President would be, these idealistic voters were treated to a President who trampled all over their highest ideals (peace, truth, justice, etc.).
The fact is that there are other ideals more important than voting for your ideal candidate. Voting is a sacred act that should reflect ALL of your highest ideals.
If you happen to live in Ohio or Florida or one of those other crucial states, therefore, you should consider whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would make the best President, according to your highest ideals. And then vote accordingly.