For this gubernatorial election, I would very much like to not vote.
Before you load up, look at our candidates: one, Ken Cuccinelli, a philosophically hypocritical extremist with a throwback social agenda and a grudge against reproductive rights; the other, a spineless, sit-down Democrat named Terry McAuliffe. After spending a solid, wasted hour reviewing both candidates, I bitterly sobbed and circled McAuliffe’s name in my mind, opting for the candidate less likely to reverse the rights of women and the general social progress we’ve made since the mid-1900s.
But I still do so begrudgingly; it’s less that I’m voting “for” McAuliffe, as I’m voting “against” Cuccinelli. For any political party to have “supporters” like me is a sign of no confidence from their constituents and a real cause for concern. Voters aren’t investing or interested in supporting the party or its platform, so much as we are concerned with maintaining whatever dysfunctional status quo exists.
I vote out of fear, not out of inspiration or hope or whatever other platitudes politicians would yak from their mouths to seal disingenuous deals. I vote out of fear of the Republican party’s strength, instead supporting the lesser of two evils and siding with a team that’s too ineffectual to actually accomplish anything worthwhile.
The greatest example of this truth can be found at the beginning of President Obama’s presidency, when Democrats had control of both houses of Congress, the presidency and every Hollywood celebrity under the age of 40, but still managed to accomplish absolutely none of their original plans. Republicans are so skilled at political maneuvering, sleight-of-hand and general effectiveness that, just weeks after pundits of every stripe began to predict their demise after losing the 2012 presidential election, they managed to derail their opponent party’s entire agenda.
Every time that I’ve voted in a political race has risen out of the knowledge that Republicans are dishearteningly much more effective at legislating and governing (or mis-governing) the issues that matter to them and their financial supports (and sometimes even the issues that matter to their constituents).
The fact that a milquetoast man like McAuliffe is the Virginia Democratic Party’s best bet for the governorship further exemplifies how weak Democrats and the political left in Virginia are.
It’s bad enough that we’re forced into a de facto two-party system, in which the third party candidates function as the political caesar salad at McDonald’s, providing constituents with the voting option they need, but not the one they’ll invest in because no one orders a salad at McDonald’s.
In the most economic sense, voting for the third-party Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis is an uninvested vote, a vote supporting a dream, but not a realistic participant in the gubernatorial conversation, at least in this particular race.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call voting for Sarvis a “waste,” it’s important to acknowledge that there are real, life-altering issues on the line here. Cuccinelli has a record of supporting legislation that states life begins at fertilization (in 2007, with H.B. 2797 and in 2012, with H.B. 1). I’d rather vote for a candidate who, while doing nothing to overturn the state’s Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws implemented by governor Bob McDonnell, won’t passively, actively or at least successfully do anything to revert reproductive rights.
As much as pundits and analysts discuss voting as an individual activity, a civil service and a matter of supporting one’s self-interest, I find it more rewarding and satisfying to think of voting as a communal activity and a societal service. Although I don’t usually accrue any substantial benefits or losses from elections, whether they be local, state or national, my demographic and my economic class level does.
I give my vote to the candidate that will be most supportive or least destructive toward that group. It’s unfortunate, however, that I’m not actually voting “for” a candidate.