Lee Wrights: The Wasted Vote Lie

by R. Lee Wrights

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”
– Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781

BURNET, Texas (July 12) – Every election Libertarians are invariably confronted with the charge that a vote for a Libertarian candidate is a wasted vote. The accuser claims that if you really wanted limited government you should vote for the candidate who has a chance of winning — the Republican. In some rare cases, the assertion may be that if you really wanted to protect civil liberties you’d vote for the candidate who has a chance of winning — the Democrat. And yet, our liberty goes unprotected as government grows unimpeded.

To my utter astonishment, this bogus argument invariably causes some genuine freedom-loving people to betray their stated beliefs. Why do they leap from the Ship of Principle into the stormy Sea of Compromise at the very moment their strength, courage and resolve are needed the most? Only one thing makes a person abandon everything they’ve ever believed in and fought for — desperation, the feeling that all is lost and the best one can do is choose the lesser of two evils. Even telling them that voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil doesn’t seem to dissuade them from their decision.

Little do they realize that they have once again been duped by the Wasted Vote Lie. It is a deliberate, carefully crafted fable concocted and perpetrated by the Democratic and Republican duopoly to maintain their stranglehold on power. They cleverly employ the propaganda trick of tyrants throughout the ages; if you repeat a lie loud enough and often enough eventually people will believe it.

The worst thing about voting for the “lesser of two evils” is that it actually has the opposite effect of what it’s intended to do. Winning candidates don’t know, they don’t want to know — and frankly don’t care — why people vote for them. They certainly don’t know and don’t care how many of the votes they got were so-called protest votes. All they want is enough votes to win. They’ll consider all the votes they get as an endorsement of their campaign promises or past performance to claim a “mandate from the people.”

The news media aid and abet in this subterfuge when, with a Cheshire cat smile, they ask Libertarian candidates, “You know you can’t win, so why are you running?” They don’t want a meaningful response because their intent is to divert the conversation away from any discussion of substantive issues. Their purpose is to marginalize the Libertarian so they can justify treating the campaign as a sideshow to be covered only for the entertainment value.

The Wasted Vote Lie is often accompanied by another big lie, that your vote for a Libertarian candidate “takes away” votes from the Republican or Democrat. Let’s call this allegation what it is — pure and unadulterated arrogance. The ruling elites believe your vote belongs to them and that you’re too ignorant, or too stupid, or too uninformed to use it wisely. The Wasted Vote Lie and all its variations is an obvious and clear symptom of the condition Republicans and Democrats fear the most — an independent, thinking voter.

Let me be clear: there is no such thing as a wasted vote. Your vote belongs to you, and no one else. It doesn’t belong to the Republican or Democratic Party, or any party or candidate for that matter. Your vote is your voice; it is one of your unnamed, inalienable rights, the ultimate expression of your right to free speech and self-government. Your vote is the most precious and meaningful gift you can give to any candidate. Your vote is worth more than any amount of money or any number of volunteer hours you may give, which is why politicians lust after it so hungrily. Your vote cannot be wasted, or stolen, or lost – unless you make a decision to do so.

There is no such thing as a wasted vote; even a vote you refuse to cast is not wasted. Restrictive ballot access laws are another device created by the reigning political parties to stifle competition and maintain their grip on power. Your decision not to give the gift of your vote to either of the “two evils” you’re given to choose from is in effect casting a vote for free choice. Just as millions of people fled Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe following World War II, many people who choose to stay home on Election Day are “voting with their feet.”

Win or lose, voting isn’t about picking a winner. Voting is about exercising your conscience. Elections aren’t generally decided by one vote. Giving your vote to a candidate you don’t agree with in the hope that he will do something you like, just because you like his opponent even less, is like giving money to a drunk on the street who asks for money for something to eat. You know he’s just going to buy more booze; he can’t help himself.

While one vote usually won’t decide an election, if enough people vote for a principle the effect will be much greater and will be cumulative election after election. One person can’t clean up the environment, or even clean up a highway alone. But if a number of people each pick up one piece of trash along the road, they can make that highway, a small portion of the larger environment, significantly cleaner.

In the same way, if enough people vote for a candidate on principle they can make a difference even if their candidate doesn’t win. They can send a clear message to the establishment, to the ruling elite, that “Enough is enough.” In the 1984 presidential election, Libertarian presidential candidate David Bergland gave this response to the “wasted vote” question, “If everyone who is fed up with what the Democrats and Republicans have been doing to them for the past several decades were to vote for me, I would win in a landslide.” The same can be said about every Libertarian presidential candidate since.

The goal of this campaign is to offer people the opportunity to cast their vote for something, not against something; to vote for what they want, not against what they don’t want. We want to give people the chance to present the gift of their vote to a party and a candidate who represents their principles, their ideals, their aspirations and their hopes. We want to empower people to send a clear and simple message to Democrats and Republicans that they will no longer tolerate deception and deceit, arrogance and power-grabbing. This campaign is dedicated to the goal that in 2012 every person who sincerely believes in liberty and freedom, and who is outraged by the perpetual and infinite wars fabricated by Republicans and Democrats for the sole purpose of instilling fear and expanding their power, will reject the Wasted Vote Lie and send a loud, clear and unequivocal message to both parties to stop all war.

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
– John Quincy Adams

R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.

Lee Wrights for President
Contact: Brian Irving, press secretary
press@wrights2012.com

919.538.4548

14 thoughts on “Lee Wrights: The Wasted Vote Lie

  1. Melty

    The best Libertarian presidential candidate we’ve got thusfar is Wrights. When the primaries come to my state, he’s got my vote
    …unless somebody even better comes along, but that seems unlikely.

  2. Robert Capozzi

    LW: Why do they leap from the Ship of Principle into the stormy Sea of Compromise at the very moment their strength, courage and resolve are needed the most? Only one thing makes a person abandon everything they’ve ever believed in and fought for — desperation, the feeling that all is lost and the best one can do is choose the lesser of two evils.

    Me: I agree with this sentiment, but the challenge is that “principle” involves “compromise.” No two even Ls agree on everything, so when an L votes L, he or she is ALSO compromising. This concept needs a rethink, methinks.

    LW: Little do they realize that they have once again been duped by the Wasted Vote Lie. It is a deliberate, carefully crafted fable concocted and perpetrated by the Democratic and Republican duopoly to maintain their stranglehold on power.

    ME: News to me. Who crafted it, and when did they craft it?

    LW: Winning candidates don’t know, they don’t want to know — and frankly don’t care — why people vote for them.

    ME: I’d like to see evidence for this assertion. Pols spend a lot on pollsters and focus groups to craft winning messages, so I’m skeptical.

    LW: “You know you can’t win, so why are you running?” They don’t want a meaningful response because their intent is to divert the conversation away from any discussion of substantive issues. Their purpose is to marginalize the Libertarian so they can justify treating the campaign as a sideshow to be covered only for the entertainment value.

    ME: It’s actually true that L candidates are almost always highly unlikely to win, based on past performance. An effective L candidate should come up with a soundbite to turn it around. Here’s my swing at one: “Look, is there any doubt that the voters are fed up with the Rs and Ds? All the corruption. All the special-interest pandering. Our politics is broken. We need a fresh approach, one that puts the power in the hands of the people, not the politicians. I run to give voters an opportunity to vote FOR freedom and liberty, not just against the “greater evil.”

    LW: There is no such thing as a wasted vote;

    Me: Yes, this can’t be said enough. I like LW’s sentence a bit later: “Voting is about exercising your conscience.” And this, although I find Bergland a bit overstated: “David Bergland gave this response to the “wasted vote” question, “If everyone who is fed up with what the Democrats and Republicans have been doing to them for the past several decades were to vote for me, I would win in a landslide.”

    LW: The goal of this campaign is to offer people the opportunity to cast their vote for something, not against something;

    ME: Excellent. My question is whether the fed up voters really would vote FOR a “radical” L agenda. They may well be fed up, but if we offer them fringy alternatives, they may continue to stay home or vote R or D strategically, with less concern for their conscience. People pick what they perceive to be their best option in all walks of life, not just politics. With $5 in your pocket, you look at your lunch options…McDonalds, Burger King, chicken nuggets in the 7-11…none great, but it’ll have to do, most seem to say as they rationalize their choice.

  3. R. Lee Wrights

    Mr. Capozzi asserts: “I agree with this sentiment, but the challenge is that “principle” involves “compromise.”

    I disagree because there is no such challenge. Politics involves compromise, principle does not. Once you compromise a principle, that principle ceases to exist.

    “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson

  4. Tom Blanton

    While I consider voting in general to be a waste of time, a vote for a Republican or Democrat is far worse than merely a wasted vote, it is a vote for evil.

    That said, I admire Mr. Wrights for articulating a message designed to move the LP and society in a more libertarian direction. In the event he is nominated by the LP, I may not vote for him, or anyone else, but I would consider sending him a few bucks to promote his message. He is addressing the number one issue that generally affects peace, prosperity and freedom in profound ways.

    I would also remind hungry voters that Burger King, McDonalds and 7-11 aren’t the only options for a $5 lunch. There is always the grocery store where you can buy some fruit or a small salad and have cash left over. Another option would be to just skip lunch and eat an early dinner.

    Likewise, one can skip voting which serves to delegitimize government to the same extent that one vote matters.

  5. Catholic Trotskyist

    This argument is true for hardcore libertarians, but not for Greens and constitutionalists, and libertarians who have certain issue priorities.

    The lesser of two evils is still a lesser evil. Voting is not about what you want; it’s really about what you most fear. Utopian morons need to get over themselves.

  6. Steven Wilson

    Lee Wrights will remain cosistent in the war on __________.

    For the first time since Aaron Russo, the Libertarians will have someone who is clear.

  7. Michael Seebeck

    I must respectfully and with tongue-in-cheek disagree with my friend and preferred candidate Lee.

    There is such a thing as a wasted vote.

    It is a vote for any major party candidate not named Paul or Johnson, or for any minor party candidate not a Libertarian.

    Why? As Mr. Blanton said, a vote for statism is a vote for evil.

    Plus, one has to be really wasted to vote that way in the first place.

  8. Carl Milsted

    What’s next? A Green rant against the conservation of energy? “Why do people persist in polluting the air with fossil fuels whes we could be using Zero Point Energy!”

    The Lesser of Two Evils Dilemma is simply the mathematical result of a first past the post voting system, a system which almost invariably results in two major parties. I have found some potential loopholes, but treating election science as the result of a mass delusion or sinister conspiracy isn’t one of them.

  9. Robert Capozzi

    3 lw: Politics involves compromise, principle does not. Once you compromise a principle, that principle ceases to exist.

    Me: It appears I was not clear. The point is that “politics” always involves SOME compromise. I do assert that no two people, including Ls, agree on everything. If they do, I’d like to be made aware of an example. In that sense, supporting or voting for another person violates “principle,” since one is compromising by supporting/voting for someone who holds views contrary to one’s own.

    If we accept the idea that no two people agree on everything, the “principle” becomes a relative idea. Principle is not absolute, except, perhaps, among the Borg.

    Technically, principles don’t “exist.” Principles are ideas in one’s head.

    IMO.

  10. Robert Capozzi

    4 tb: Another option would be to just skip lunch and eat an early dinner. Likewise, one can skip voting which serves to delegitimize government to the same extent that one vote matters.

    me: True. But skipping lunch is also a sub-optimal choice, especially if one’s hungry. Non-voting (something I’ve done many times) may in one’s mind “delegitimize government,” but it thus far has no discernible effect in political discourse. Neither does voting, of course! When I vote, I vote to express my views. When I don’t vote, I don’t vote because I can’t be bothered to use my time in that manner. I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m making some grand statement to others; I’m just being honest with myself.

  11. Tom Blanton

    I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m making some grand statement to others

    Oh, did I somehow imply that by not voting I think I am making a grand statement?

    What I actually did say was:

    Likewise, one can skip voting which serves to delegitimize government to the same extent that one vote matters.

    Now, if millions of voters decided not to vote, it would serve to delegitimize government to the extent that millions of votes matter. That might constitute a grand statement. No single vote or non-vote will ever constitute a grand statement, Capozzi.

    I resent your implication that I am a delusional idiot that thinks that not voting is making a grand statement.

    Your statement:

    I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m making some grand statement to others

    is ironic because it often seems that you think you are making a grand statement to others each time you post on this site. Your mind might be playing tricks on you. You might want to look into that.

  12. Robert Capozzi

    13 tb, actually, millions of voters don’t vote already. Whether that has the cumulative effect of “delegitimizing government,” I see no evidence that it’s an effective tactic.

    But, sure, I often make what I consider the grandest statement I can make. Don’t you as well? It appears that you don’t agree with my statements of opinion, but that’s why we all love you so much! 😉

    I don’t expect any outcome from my opinions, but I don’t really care. Some may find my opinions helpful, others not so much.

    As a practice, that’s the spirit I offer my opinions with. You may have other motives, like “winning.” If so, hoping that’s working out for you.

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