I. Intro – Voting Third Party Is Not Throwing Your Vote Away
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One of the biggest reasons why many are afraid to vote for Nader is the idea that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. Or maybe a vote for Kerry. Since Nader can’t win, and one of these candidates can, many argue that voting for Nader is equivalent to voting for a candidate who cannot win.
One problem with this argument is that it assumes that you might care about who wins. If you agree with Bush on Foreign Policy but Kerry on the Environment, you might be indifferent between the two. If so, voting for Nader will not harm your interest.
If voting your conscience gives you happiness, there can be a subsequent situation where you could vote for a third party candidate – if the overall differences between the candidates is small the happiness you receive from voting third party could outweigh the unhappiness you would receive if your slightly-preferred-major-party candidate loses. Realize this is not the differences on each issue, rather the OVERALL differences when your preferences on all the issues are summed together. Still, many would urge you to take caution – because it is easy to underestimate the differences between the candidates.
Even if you underestimate the differences between the candidates, you can only blame yourself if your vote will decide the election, which is highly unlikely. First, since the election is decided by states, and many states are not contested, there is a better than even chance that result of your state is preordained, and your vote will not come close to affecting the outcome. Second, even if you live in a state that is in contention, the chance that the election will come down to your single vote is infinitesimally small. Third, in the event that the election does come down to only your vote, there will be a recount anyway, taking the onus off you.
This analysis can be critiqued in two ways. First, if you convince enough other people to vote for Nader, your vote might matter. Second, if everybody thought this way, then not enough people would vote for your preferred candidate to win. The first argument is strong, but only applies to a very few number of people that have sway over the votes of over 100 people, so I will not attack it. The second argument quickly falls apart – at the moment you cast your vote, you don’t have control how other people think, only how you will think. Even if you could control how other people think, this would not be a problem for you, because making everybody vote their conscience is your desired long-run goal anyway.
Other Good Discussions From the Blogsphere and Web on this Issue
With Parties, Three's A Crowd
TechCentral Column (well, its sort of the blogsphere)
A letter to Nader urging him not to run
A website with links against the Nader Candidacy