The Halloween Election

Life in the swing states must have been mad last weekend, with canvassers tripping over trick-or-treaters and Halloween pranksters doing their best to mess with the pollsters’ heads. Is that man just *dressed* as a zombie, or is he ringing doorbells for Bush? Do those kids want me to give them candy tonight, or to authorize Kerry’s federal candy plan? And are those guys decked out as Frankenstein and Chucky, each trailed by an Invisible Man? Or are they the candidates?

The evening was less chaotic here in Baltimore, where Kerry will surely carry our state. The presidential election is an empty formality in Maryland, like the “trick or” that precedes the “treat.” Still, I plan to go to the polls today, and there I will vote for the incumbent.

No, not George Bush. I would never vote for Bush. I’m voting for Ed Reisinger, my pugilistic councilman, who owns a bar a few blocks from my home. I can’t say I agree with all the man’s politics, and there’s talk of some funny business involving him and a council “expense account”; but he’s good at constituent services, which is not a small point when you’re dealing with Baltimore’s unresponsive bureaucracy. He’s going to win no matter what I do–in this city, the Democrat always wins–but I’m going to the polls anyway, to vote against a bunch of bond issues and charter amendments, so I might as well give him my ballot as well.

I mention this to show that I am actually capable of making compromises, weighing trade-offs, and not letting the perfect be the enemy of the acceptable–all the accusations I hear when America picks a president and I refuse to back either the Democrat or the Republican. Now, if this were a council primary and my choice could conceivably make a difference, I might hold my nose and vote for the lesser evil. But it’s a national election, not a neighborhood election. The chances of one single ballot affecting the outcome are microscopic, especially for those of us who live in solidly red or blue states. I might cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate or write in something absurd, on the theory that if I’m going to make a futile gesture, it might as well be for something I believe in. But why on earth should I add my voice to the Bush or Kerry choruses? I’m simply not egocentric enough to believe that my vote is going to affect the outcome. And since I strongly disagree with both candidates’ platforms anyway, I’m not going to turn out for them just out of civic duty. I don’t owe my support to anybody.

Tomorrow, barring another recount mess, we will have a president-elect. I can’t tell you his name, but I can tell you a few things about him. He wanted George Bush to have the authority to launch a war in Iraq, and he probably would have invaded whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction there. He thinks the Federal Election Commission should strictly regulate political speech, and he thinks the Federal Communications Commission should strictly regulate non-political speech. He supported the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, and he will not be parsimonious with the public purse. He’s a child of privilege who acquired great wealth without earning it in the marketplace. And I didn’t vote for him.

JESSE WALKER is an editor at Reason magazine, where this column originally appeared.


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