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An Explanation...
Posted by: Jon Henke on Thursday, October 21, 2004

In regards to my plan to vote for "None of the Above", a couple commenters have written what I think can only be described as "You're a Traitor to the Party" comments. Apparently, because Kerry is a bad choice for President, then it is my duty to vote for Bush.

Well, with due respect, that is utter nonsense, and very shortsighted. As of this writing, I've had no response to questions I've posed, and I think they are important:
  • Is there a point at which the betrayal becomes too much?

  • Will you cast your vote for any Republican?

  • Do you vote for Republicans because they are Republicans, or because they work towards goals similar to your own?

  • What would you do to prevent them from abandoning those goals?

Before coming to a decision on my vote, I thought about a hierarchy of outcomes. They are, from 1 (best) to 6 (worst).

  1. Bush wins and recognizes need for fiscal conservatism and libertarianism / GOP retains control of Congress and moves more libertarian. [virtually impossible - if Bush wins and keeps the C/L vote, there's no electoral incentive to move back towards conservatism/libertarianism]

  2. Kerry wins Presidency / GOP wins Congress but sees the fiscal conservatives and libertarians abandon the party, so they move back in a libertarian direction. Gridlocks prevents Kerry from doing much. [likely]

  3. Bush wins Presidency / GOP wins congress and forces fiscal conservatism and libertarianism on Bush. [likely, but only if the C/L voters abandon Bush]

  4. Bush wins Presidency / Democrats win Congress and gridlock Bush. [The gridlock would be [likely, if Democrats could win Congress]

  5. Kerry wins Presidency / Democrats win Congress. [it's unlikely the Democrats would win Congress, but it would probably force another quasi-Gingrich-Revolution on the GOP]

  6. Bush wins Presidency / GOP wins Congress.....both stay on the path on which we're currently going, and the Republican Party abandons any pretense of fiscal conservatism and libertarianism. [If C/L's don't abandon Bush, this is very likely...and very tragic]

Now, I'd love it if Bush and the GOP moved in a libertarian direction, but here's the problem: if the GOP wins this election without being conservative/libertarian at all, then they don't ever have to be conservative/libertarian ever again.

And that is the worst of all possible outcomes: The end of conservatism and libertarianism as a factor in American Politics.

So, what would you do to prevent the Republican Party from becoming the Democratic Party? Me, I'm going to punish them in the Electoral Free Market: the Ballot Box. I don't really care what you do, but I hope you have a strategy beyond playing "Nearer My God to Freedom" as the USS GOP slips beneath the waves.

UPDATE: One more thing that seems to be misunderstood by a great many people: I AM VOTING. Specifically, I am voting for "None of the Above". It's as valid and principled a vote as any other, and I intend to do it to effect a specific kind of change. Just like any other vote cast. So, let's not pretend I'm throwing my hands up and quitting, ok? This "vote for Bush, Kerry, Badnarik or Cobb" or "shut the fuck up" stuff is just willfully dense.

UPDATE II: Douglas Adams once wrote something that seems pretty applicable to this election:
[An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship...]

"I come in peace," it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, "take me to your Lizard."

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

"It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"


"I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"

"I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."

Ford shrugged again.

"Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."
I'm not voting for one of the Lizards. I'm voting in the belief that a conservative/libertarian dissent in this election will increase the odds that the next election will involve a Republican or Libertarian candidate of, less reptilian nature.
Return to Main Blog Page

Previous Comments to this Post 

It's an interesting conundrum, one I find myself considering quite often. I wrote off Libertarian because, as you point out, this years candidate fits the Loony stereotype, and the party endorses an isolationist approach I think is dangerous in the long run - once in a while, you have to project power to secure liberty.

However, I don't believe in voting None of The Above unless no candidate exists that shares a single goal of mine. In this case, I can't say that.

Now I'm no Bush cheerleader: I disliked the steel tariffs, can't understand the need for an amendment defining marriage, and despise the increase in entitlements.

But I do agree on two major principles. First, the only long-term solution to the terrorism problem is to change the source of the problem. That means a long-term commitment to changing the Middle East in order to diminish the recruiting structure of terrorist organizations. Second, tax cuts mean the government never gets my money in the first place, so I dont have to fight to get whats mine by right (of earning it).

On the other hand, I dont see any connection on any issue with John Kerry. Sure, I think hes tried to slide into some positions that could be seen as coinciding with mine. But the more he talks, the more I get the sense that his real position is not nearly so similar to mine. Let me be clearer: I dont think he believes in the use of American Power, raw Power, to secure my rights; I dont think hed hesitate to raise my taxes the moment he takes office. Worse, I find many of his positions antithetical to mine so much so that I find his election too concerning to not vote against him. Expanding the role of government in health insurance, not taking some measure to privatize (or in any way address) Social Security; these are just a couple of examples that I think are far too much to ignore.

So in the end, though I am libertarian in nature, I will vote for Bush. The troubling question that remains to be answered is how to limit the spending increase under the professed fiscal conservative Republicans.
Written By: Jim Skach
I don't like many things the current GOP does, I would rather the class of 1994 and the likes of Scarborough had their way, but the thought of what a Kerry cabinet would look like is enough for me to overcome anything I dislike about the GOP. The thought of JFK as COC and the effect that would have on the military makes me shudder. The thought of Madeline Albright as SOS, Wes Clark as SOD, and people with views like Rev Sharpton and Jackson having influence is appaling. The thought of who JFK would appoint not only to the supreme court but to many lower courts is devastating. Those appointees of Clinton are the ones who overturn states election laws now in Michigan, and rules that the pledge of allegance is unconstitutional. They thing anyone shall have the right not the priveledge to vote. They think that you should not have to prove citizenship or even have identification or even register to vote, just show up. I think this election is more pivotal than any I can remember, and I will vote for W just as much to support what I do agree with in the GOP and equally for what I see that terrifies me in the Democratic party.
But I do understand and respect your opinion though not agreeing with the voting methodology.
Written By: vanderwall7
URL: http://
An honest conclusion, honestly arrived at. You identified the issue most important to you- in this case, moving the Repubs back to where you want to see them go.
However, in your pros and cons, I see zero mention of the Supreme court (of which the next administration will be probably making multiple selections to)

Given that, does it sway you or cause you to reconsider your position at all?
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
[i]Bush now favors a Gay Marriage Ammendment to the Constitution, which is an insult to the States and to individual rights[/i]

Can you expand on this? Because given the procedure for ammending the constitution, it seems to me that the states certainly get a chance to weigh in on the issue
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
Jim Skach: I agree with a lot of what you write, though I would point out that I think John Kerry's worst foreign policy impulses will be restrained by existing realities. We just *can't* engage in an Iraq-like war, at this point. So, I don't think it will be the problem that it could be.

Where we differ is this: you see your options as the lesser of 3 "evils". I see a fourth option, which is to influence Parties by removing my consent.

Vanderwall/Shark: Agree or not, I thank you for accepting the conclusions as the result of an honest contemplation. It's not a conclusion at which I arrived easily or quickly.

Yeah, I did forget the include the Supreme Court aspect. It was a part of my thinking, but it's just not enough, at this point. The appointment of SC judges is, I think, an ever-present issue. To be honest, it is perhaps the best of all arguments for Bush. I'll add it to the previous post.
Written By: Jon Henke
I would be willing to endorse your plan to "force" the idealogical shift you wish to advance if the events in the world were static.
However, I don't plan to gamble the lives of my family and friends on Mr. Kerrys version of cops and robbers national security policy. Nor do I think the I or possibly my children will live long enough to reverse the potential damage done by allowing Mr. Kerry and his global outreach program to infect the Supreme Court, the idea that the laws of the United States are to be judged with an eye to how Europe might think about it's judgements is honestly repulsive. If I were to want to be judged by European laws and standards, I would move there.
Your point is not without some reason and validity, however I don't think events in the world today allow for the luxury standing on principle alone.
If nothing else you have people thinking and talking- Best wishes, Kevin
Written By: Kevin
URL: http://
I agree with your statements. But if you are registered to vote, I'd encourage you to choose a candidate that you feel best meets your requirements.

No one is perfect Jon.

And, though the 1st Amendment gives you the right to say or write as you choose, with all due respect, if you don't vote, then shut the fuck up.
Written By: Mr. K
URL: http://
Again, welcome to a Republic.

Not voting for someone will not send the message. It's like a store that doesn't sell an item because a midget couldn't reach the shelf and just left. If he doesn't tell the store owner why he is unhappy, it will have no effect except to put the store out of business (well, if it's located in Oz).

IMHO, you should only not vote if you have done some grassroots efforts to inform the candidate why you are not electing him into office. Otherwise he will have less of an idea why he didn't make it.

Since it is a Republic and not a true democracy, it's impossible for a politician to know exactly what his constiuents want or what is ticking them off simply by looking at the votes. Votes are a binary thing, you get it or you don't. The issues you bring up are not binary and have many shades in them.

I completely, absolutely, positively agree that your vote should not be given to someone you do not want to. But the idea of 'punishment' is silly. It's like spanking a child but not telling them why they are being spanked.
(unless you have spoken your mind, then I will just shut my yap)
Written By: Sharp as a Marble
very shortsighted...
Soldiers are killed, and wars can be turned in the near term.
Shortsightedness isn't an excuse.

betrayal... Yes when they visit with the enemy ... see Kerry.

any Republican... I'd vote for the damn mascot before I'd vote for Kerry. Or help him by voting for someone else.

Do you vote for Republicans because they are Republicans... this time, because they are not democrats

What would you do to prevent them from abandoning ... Raz the folks in the house and Senate, once Fuckface isn't a threat.

There is one issue that matters. If our fathers and grandfathers thought like this and were so unwilling to sacrafice there comfy lives. Which language would we be speaking now? German or Japanese?

Got to win the battles before you can win the war.
Written By: Greg
URL: http://
Jon, I respect your position. I think it's the fact that you're not voting for Bush why all these people are getting on you (i.e. any Republican... I'd vote for the damn mascot before I'd vote for Kerry. Or help him by voting for someone else). Though, I'm guessing you'll probably get a last minute voting itch at the voting booth and still vote for Bush. But regardless, it's on you.

Written By: DannyBoy
URL: http://
None of the Above is a vote, and he can bitch as much as he wants. It's that sitting at home watching Oprah and eating Cheez Doodles instead of voting, that's when you don't get to bitch.

Though I would gladly afford these folks their right to bitch if they did just stay home. Who needs their dumb asses anyway? Hell, I'd buy them the Cheez Doodles.

But the SC issue is the strong one and it's very real. J Effin' K will never in a million years nominate a Justice that would help one bit towards smaller government.
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://
You present well-reasoned and thoughtful arguments as to why you have grave misgivings about all of the candidates, and I can't say that I disagree with a great deal of what you write. However, you do seem to be announcing your decision with a decided degree of petulence, as if any of the candidates (or anyone else for that matter) actually cares why you do or do not choose a candidate.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to scold you for your (in)decision, it's just that I find it puzzling that someone who is so well informed can be so apparently angered that the world doesn't work the way he wants it to that he is willing to stand by as other, less-informed voters make a decision for him.

Do you not agree that the point of a republic is that virtually noone will be governed by who they want most, while insuring that they are not governed by who they fear the most (desire the least)? The post for which you have eloquently informed us you will not have a hand in filling will indeed be filled -- that is the point of this election, not to satisfy anyone's philosophical maunderings as to the optimal level of government in our lives. Even while I may agree with you (and your blog brethren) on nearly every libertarian point, I simply can't understand abdication of one's vote because no single candidate fills the utopian, Mises-Hayek-Rothbart-Friedman mold you have constructed.

Good God, Man! We are at War! A leader in that War will be chosen with or without you -- someone who will have a great effect on all of us. None-of-the-above is not a choice in these times, it is useless protest of no effect. You'd have far greater effect voting for someone who you detest; at least the candidates would know you cared enough about the issues (any issue) to vote. Making no choice makes you irrelevant, whether you announce your non-endorsement or not.
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
Although I sympathize with your position, I cannot follow the same path. The reason is simple. A vote for "None of the Above" in effect increases the odds that Kerry will be our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. Even though I wish to punish the GOP for its abandonment of principle, I cannot do so by following a course of action that exposes the nation to substantial risk in the foreign policy arena -- and make no mistake, Congressional "gridlock" provides inadequate protection against the potential harm that is likely to occur in the foreign policy arena under a clueless Kerry Presidency.
Written By: RAZ
URL: http://
There's a lot to be said for a "none of the above" (which says "try again"), but I'm afraid that would push us into interminable elections, lasting maybe even an entire year - not to mention the drain on local and federal treasuries.

If enough people thought Nader could bring order out of the chaos that is Washington, then he'd get his chance.

So far, none of the 3rd parties seem to have much of a clue - including the Libertarian, whose main candidate seems to have fallen afoul of the law on several occasions.

We should all keep in mind that there are more than 2 names on the ballot. There are Senators, Congressmen, city council, mayors, dog-catchers, superintentents of education, propositions.... all of whom make a difference in the community.

So if anybody's staying home because they think the choice between Bush and Kerry is unmakeable, they're making a big mistake.

But more than that, there are 2 places where the average citizen - and every citizen - can make his input into the System: voting and jury duty. It probably should read "jury service and voting duty".

I think most of the other posters understand this.

Written By: Mike
I'm with you. Bush just doesn't get it for the conservatives. I don't care that he cut taxes 3x's, quashed our involvment in the Kyoto treaty, withdrew us from the restrictive ABM treaties so we can implement a missle defense, supports prohibiting use of federal money to promote abortion, overturned enviromental junk science government restrictions and overthrew two dictatorships that were a present and future threat to our safety. Increasing the educational budget and medicare budget and implementing a steel tariff and then withdrawing from it surely should disqualify him.
Written By: Dman
URL: http://
I say one person not voting in a sea of many voting has the effect of.... well nothing. There is no message sent to anyone. That only works if you actually TELL the people you are NOT voting for why you are not voting for them.

Since we can't have a "President None of the Above" then you are just kidding yourself that you are making a statement.

It is like the saying if a tree falls in the forest and noone is there to hear it, does it make any noise?

If no one hears your "statement", what good is it?

Too bad, so sad... :(
Written By: Nobody in particular
URL: http://
I have to say that I have enjoyed your posts for a long while, but I, too, am suprised and disappointed about this post. It has seriously altered my previous views about your logic.

Can you point to any significant changes in either party after people voted for Perot or Nader? Your vote will be dismissed by the Republican party whether they win or lose. And if they lose the country will end up further away from your libertarian ideals. Perot and Nader have proven that "logic" like yours is flawed. You are being childish if you are willing to hurt your best interests in an attempt to hurt others.
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
One point...

Youre a Traitor to the Party

doesn't apply here, since I've always understood this to be a neo-libertarian blog, not a Republican one.

But going along with that theme, I see how your stance shows you want to force change on the Republicans, but I guess my question is what are you doing to force change on the Libertarians??
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
A well-reasoned post by Henke, which is why I like this blog so much. A possible outcome not on your list that occurs to me and I think likely:

Bush wins Presidency / GOP wins congress. Because Democrats have attacked the issue so much this campaign and all but killed the image, Bush no longer has to live up to "uniter" promises of the 2000 campaign and stops compromising with Democrats in congress. GOP congress is no longer under pressure from Bush to compromise and pulls back toward conservatism/libertarianism.
Written By: ZG
URL: http://
FIRST: Dave Anderson's comments are GREAT!


I think Bush is far more libertarian than kerry.

kerry wants the government to have a bigger role in every aspect of out lives and our economy.

Bush does not.

The drug medicare plan was a compromise - at least it introduced MARKET REFORM into ther system FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME! That's HUGE!

And when askd about skyrocketing medical costs, Bush answered that it's caused by lack of a market.
Kerry is on the wrong side of this issue - TOTALLY.

Jon: you'd be better serving -and advancing - libertarian priciples by voting Bush even if it means you're just choosing the lesser of to evils.

WHY? Libertarians will have MUCH more influence with a Bush presidency than with a Kerry presidency.

Don't think that you "send a message" with your "none of the above" "protest vote". You just waste your vote.

Loo... I grew up in a household of LEFTISTS who always "sent a message" with their votes and supported candidates who always lost (looking back: thank God they lost!). The net result was NOT ADVANCEMENT OF LEFTISM. The result was... NADA.

Do not "send a message" which will ONLY HELP STATISTS. Help send George back to the oval office.

Kerry is a statist at heart, and he is way too cozy with the statists of Old Europe - and the internationalist statists.

Kerry is INDISPUTABLY MUCH MORE of a statist than Blair or Clinton or even Gore.

Bush is INDISPUTABLY Less statist than any of them.

Be sensible. Do not be an arch-ideologue.

Please? For old times sake.

And I'm 4th generation Democrat!

Written By: daniel
URL: http://
I wrote about something similar today. You have much in common with the late Leonard Read. I will vote for Bush and have a greater faith in people persuading him of the C/L view than you seem to. I do respect your choice as one of principle.
Written By: kb
I don't know that #1 is virtually impossible. That you think so is obvious, but I'm not that pessimistic. It is impossible only to the extent that we keep pressure off of the President and Congress after the election (THEY still face re-election in two years even if he does not), or if we went to the primaries in sufficient numbers to nominate C/L minded Republicans. Too late to do anything about that last part now. Time to plan ahead for 2006.

#2 Did not stop the further erosion of the judiciary under Clinton, so why should I believe that it will now? Kerry's foreign policy is a joke, with France and Germany already saying that they will not assist in Iraq, even with Kerry as President. Kerry's domestic policy is a disaster, and I am not convinced that it will be kept mostly at bay. I remember the "shutting down the government" game played by Slick, and Kerry might be able to do likewise. What's to keep Congress from caving under Kerry like they caved under Clinton? What's to keep the Republicans in control past the first two years? If they stop a popular Kerry program and get enough voters ticked, 2006 may find Kerry with a Democratic Congress.

#3 will not occur if C/L abandon Bush because he would lose. Particularly with the strengh of the Democratic vote fraud machine.

#4 is possible if the Democrats retake the Senate. Retaking the House is not likely.

#5 is an unmitigated disaster, and would lead to a disasterous first two years of a Kerry Presidency which I don't think would be completely reverseable. It is probably the least likely scenario.

#6 is indeed possible, and that's a pity. It is up to us to tell them that they forfeit future support for bad behavior.

I think that the Kerry impact on the Judicary, his socalist domestic agenda, his complete derelection of national defense, and his totally daft foreign policy make him a risk that I am unwilling to take.
Written By: David R. Block
URL: http://
Not voting for Bush is too risky this term. Kerry could appoint supremes that we'll have long after he's forgotten. If the turnover in the court wasn't so likely, I might agree with your decision.
Written By: mike
URL: http://
I sympathize totally, although my decision is different than yours. One thing is certain - if this are the types of choices we get, we do need another party or an insurrection in the Democratic party. To have a two party system in which one of the parties has abdicated any real debate on the issues is very unhealthy for our country.
Written By: MaxedOutMama
The best chance the Libertarian party has of changing and advancing an electable candidate and platform is if libertarians refrain from voting for them. This is because the partys base is small and it will have to change or die.

The best chance the Republican Party has of changing and advancing libertarian positions is via passionate people from within who do not attach their livelihood to the party maintaining the status quo. This is because the party is powerful, entrenched, resistant to change, and not dependent on the minority who firmly believe in small government. Because most people are comfortable and busy, they are unlikely to demand serious change unless a serious economic crisis occurs. Passionate, effective grassroots leadership from within might do it, however.

I dont think libertarian ideals have much of a chance in general, however, until the both the level of economic understanding and willingness to take personal responsibility rises substantially. I think thats a decades long project, at best.

Written By: David Andersen
URL: http://
kb writes
I do respect your choice as one of principle.

No! You are saying you respect narcissism. We are not voting in order to feel good about ourselves. Go masturbate instead. We are voting to preserve or acquire policies that will advance the interests of our nation. You must decide that either a Kerry presidency or a Bush presidency will better achieve those goals, since they are the only two choices who can win.

Stand on principle during the primary season when you can make your voice heard for the best candidate that meets your vision. Now it is time to choose based on reality. By promoting an idealistic stance on principle you are trading a few moments of personal gratification for possibly terrible national policy. Make the difficult decision even if it doesn't feel good--that's one of the things adults do differently than children.
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I think saying not voting is really a vote is a contradiction in terms because there is no "none of the above" option in the voting booth. You may be not voting for very principled reasons, BUT NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW THOSE REASONS, or even that you did not vote, other than to be counted as a statistic. Therefore, the likelyhood that your "none of above" nonvote will lead to the kinds of reforms you want is vanishingly small.

I suggest you write in a vote. That CAN send a message, depending on you you write in.
Written By: Mike
URL: http://
With all due respect, I think your decision is misguided, Jon. This is a two-party system of governance. Not voting for the Republican is, in effect, a vote for the Democrat. If you truly believe there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two, that's one thing. But in this case, there are significant differences between Bush and Kerry. Judicial nominations alone should tip the scales. But the other fundamental questions are: Which candidate better understands the War on Terror and has the better strategy? The other fundamental question pertains to the economy, which is performing pretty well. There are a whole host of issues that irk me about Bush, but the issue isn't "principles", it's voting for the least undesirable candidate out of a choice of two. Any other vote means you're just wasting it.
Written By: Bird Dog
Well, I am not sure I disagree with your endorsement decision. I have been thinking of not voting also, however I live in Illinois and Democrats are going to won here anyway so it doesn't matter much in this election. However, I wonder how much of a carryover a Bush win would have after his 2nd term would be up. I doubt Cheney will run for President so we will have a new canidate chosen from the primaries.

Besides, I think the fight is more of a philosphical one between the American people. Do American people truly want less govt? If not, then I don't think your none of the above will have any effect. If so, that is where work needs to be done. The Republicans have abandoned their principles to take the middle because that is where they believe most people are. What we need to do is to move the middle. If that happens, everything else falls into place. Of course, that is the hard part.
Written By: Frank Castle
URL: http://
There are always those folks that think they are the smartest people in the room. Voting None-of-the-above is 'nuts'. Politics is a marathon not a sprint. Think about it, it took 40 years of liberal policy failures to finally put steam into the 1994 conservative revolution victory. That victory was not won in the 1994 election season, it was won over a period of years by slowly expanding influence via incremental victories. Not unlike the war in the pacific, MacAurthur was sent island hopping to fight the Japaneese army where they weren't, but all the time picking up incremental gains for airbases and supply routes.
Frankly, the only party that gets you closer to your goal is the Republican party, and should your 'smartest guy in the room' rationalization put John Kerry in the Whitehouse, you will put your cause back 12 to 16 years ( 3-4 election cycles ).
Think about it and then come back to the light/right. Our cause for smaller, more accountable, lower taxing, lower spending, better defending govenrment is found on the right..protect your libetarian gains and keep working toward your goals with effective incremental victories, libertarians and conservatives will find no quarter with the left in power.
Written By: Greg
URL: http://
Mr. Henke,

With all do respect, and hoping this isn't too much of a nit-picking, but I do not only see three choices. In fact, I see five (R, D, L, G, and NOTA). In fact, I specifically referenced a scenario in which I would vote for None of The Above - no candidate exists that shares enough of my philosophy.

My apologies for not being clearer. In this particular election, there is a candidate who is similar enough in goals (without too many marks against), that I will eschew a vote for None of the Above, opting instead for the incumbent. Removing those candidates with whom I completely disagree, I'm left weighing my two main choices, Bush and None of the Above. I determined that for me the Bush vote was of more value than the removal of my consent. This may be where we part ways.

However, being from Illinois, I will be voting None of the Above for Senate.

Written By: Jim Skach

I'm totally onboard with your sentiment.

I further expanded your (our) views here:
Written By: Joe Kelley
Dear Jon,

As much as I respect your attempt to reason this out as best as you can, the bottom line is that John Kerry would hug and kiss you right now if he ran into you.

You've made his election one vote easier.
Written By: Mark
JH * Is there a point at which the betrayal becomes too much?

First sidestep: is "betrayal" an appropriate term to use in the political context of necessary tactical compromise, so long as your strategic vision is firmly adhered to? Second sidestep: Since a PLANNED tactical (battlefield) loss (an example would be a feint) can lead to strategic victory, at what point do you allow the surviving troops to accuse the generals of "betrayal"? Third sidestep: IF a tactical victory necessarily leads to an easily foreseeable strategic defeat, isn't the battlefield victory itself the betrayal?

But to answer as if the question was seriously constructive, in terms more cogent to the discussion: Yes, of course a political course or perspective can be changed, even in seeming mid-course. Carter's incompetency was personal casus belli enough to abandon, in the early '80s, my previous overwhelmingly Leftist tendencies (me, a Leftist?! ...yes, in my distant wastrel youth (sigh), I voted for George McGovern ...and unfortunately McGovern was NOT the worst or most serious embarrassment of my politically inept youth, either). I would at least occasionally call this kind of change (whether bitter or sweet) experience, an act perhaps of maturity ...or even W I S D O M ...rather then "betrayal".

JH * Will you cast your vote for any Republican?
Did you perhaps mean, are you willing to split your electoral ballot? In context, your question appears to me to make little sense otherwise; the sense of "casting your vote" could mean for any other Republican (i.e., then the president, as in the primary), or for anyone other then a Republican? ...although I'm not sure in re-reading this (again) that your intent was specifically the presidency.

Regardless ....

Of course I'd vote for a non-Republican (and, as previously noted, I - embarrassingly - have)! - I suspect that a Zell Miller/Joe Lieberman ticket would have given me considerable pause for reflection (especially after a stump speech that resembled Zell's stentorian RNC speech ...which I regard as one of the finest political speeches I've had the pleasure to hear) ...certainly a Miller/Lieberman ticket would have been serious enough that I wouldn't have dismissed it out-of-hand, or worried o'ermuch about its electoral victory ...I'd be perfectly willing to vote for almost any relative conservatives who were players of any colour, stripe, or 'suasion.

And I could - again - be misreading your intent, but the contextual point of asking this particular question seems to me to equate those who vote the "pure" party-slate with being akin to some flavour of reflexive, non-introspective idiots stoopid to vote. And, if that IS your intent ...what arrogance this implies, Jon. I recall recently reading that political theorists have suggested that republican democracy (as opposed to "pure" or mob democracy) may operate as well as it does in America simply due to the apparently self-correcting statistical "ability" of voters to "feel" their way to an answer (as opposed to the poli-wonks logically thinking their way through). I've seen too many intelligent analyses of problems suggesting solutions that turned out problematic *at best* to be comfortable with my - or anyone else's - omniscience.

JH * Do you vote for Republicans because they are Republicans, or because they work towards goals similar to your own?

I personally will vote for ANYONE who is apparently operating within the parameters of my "strategic imperatives" ...though sometimes only under the mere HOPE that they will do the lesser amount of actual political damage during the relevant political cycle ...let alone that they might actually do some political good. If they didn't perform as well as I hoped for THIS time, maybe they will do better next time.

Of course, since my proxies are ALL of the breed Lizard (i.e., politicians), one must always be wary, and maintain a certain emotional detachment. Hey, they're lizards! But I'm hardly disappointed when I don't get everything (anything?) I want via the proxy I have chosen to cast my ballot for. Actually, I find it strange almost to the point of absurdity, to think that ANYONE could even hope to achieve some significant majority of their "goals", without suffering tactical setbacks, and the occasional forced compromise.

JH * What would you do to prevent them from abandoning those goals?

Isn't this "question" akin to trying to argue a negative? "Prevention from abandonment"? - Is that a fancy way of asking someone if they've beaten their spouse yet today? I would suggest that this question is so similar to the "betrayal" question as to warrant the same answer.

But I'll paraphrase the answer regardless. I'm personally not interested in unattainable goals. Coupled to my natural bent to idealism (remember my Leftie youth), there has grown an adjunct thick skin of practical experience. If a partial loaf is all I can get, I'll take it. Better something now, then nothing ever.

JH Before coming to a decision on my vote, I thought about a hierarchy of outcomes. They are, from 1 (best) to 6 (worst).

I started to go over your "hierarchy of outcomes" ...and decided against it, as on the surface you are apparently no more clairvoyant then I am.

SO about THIS [more] likely scenario, instead? - Bush wins, and since he is no longer bound by personal electoral imperatives, he is freed thereby to work more openly towards those strategic goals which seem to be transparently obvious (to some of us metaphysical diviners) when accepting at face value the glimpse into the inner workings of Bush-the_man that we have been allowed public access to. And the with the increased Republican strength in the House and Senate, and the stunning electoral defeats the Democrats bow to the inevitable and politics focuses on sensible solution to some previously politically intractable problems.

JH Now, Id love it if Bush and the GOP moved in a libertarian direction, but heres the problem: if the GOP wins this election without being conservative/libertarian at all, then they dont ever have to be conservative/libertarian [CL] ever again.

Jon? which "depth" of CL are you discussing here? For specific policies, the Bush administration has indeed been conservative.

Even in the midst of their "triangulation" over Education and Medicare drugs, they have been able to gain previously unattainable stepping stones towards conservative solutions. Your question presupposes your earlier focus on "betrayal", and just seems ...lacking your more usual insightful analysis.

JH And that is the worst of all possible outcomes: The end of conservatism and libertarianism as a factor in American Politics.

This is frankly a non-sequitur. I mean: Bush wins, and the GOP also wins effective majority political control of the House and Senate ...and you're suggesting that they will immediately break into the myriad non-cohesive special interest groups that have defined the Democrat party of the last 25-30 years and/or desert their electoral base? Huh? - Howzzat work zactly?

(If you're suggesting that eventually the overall ideals of conservatism will be subsumed in personal motives of pecuinary gain by individual and unscrupulous and unaccountable Republican politicians as time passes inevitably on ...well, your point being? - You know the ol' saw: "Power corrupts ..." ya-da, ya-da. It happened to the Dems. It will likely happen to the Repubs. So? The result of eventual GOP smug perfidy will give the by-then reformed, and ideologically coherent Dems of that decade the opportunity to gain ascendent power in that turn of the wheel by becoming responsive to the needs of the American voter. The power pendulum swings, ol' man; its life-death-renewal stuff. How 'bout we just let them worry about it when it happens, instead of needlessly fretting over the inevitable and obvious now?)

Instead, try this: How about an '04 victory leads to the beneficent dominance of a Republican majority for a sufficient period of time to prove the viability of conservatism to actually solve a variety of the current problems of the American republic ...which goal I would propose even the Left approves of, in their heart of hearts?

JH So, what would you do to prevent the Republican Party from becoming the Democratic Party? Me, Im going to punish them in the Electoral Free Market: the Ballot Box. I dont really care what you do, but I hope you have a strategy beyond playing "Nearer My God to Freedom" as the USS GOP slips beneath the waves.

Yeah. Right. "I'll punish them". By, umm, NOT voting? {repeat as Chorus}

No, you will NOT have punished them. You will rather have rendered yourself a political eunuch.

A vote is a vote is a vote!

...but a non-vote ...isn't.

How 'bout we realistically reframe this whole Q&O in the following quantitative fashion (qualitative questions suck btw), to see if your position is really tenable? -

1. If I vote FOR Bush ...I have voted AGAINST Kerry

2. If I vote FOR Kerry ...I have voted AGAINST Bush

3. If I abstain, when my single vote would mean victory for Bush ...I have in essence voted FOR Kerry

4. If I abstain, when my single vote would mean victory for Kerry ...I have in essence voted FOR Bush

5. If I vote "NOTA" vote is indistinguishable from an abstention, and (3) or (4) follow

THERE ARE NO OTHER CHOICES (well, in the American two-party slate of candidates) POSSIBLE! If you vote at all, you WILL have voted for one or the other candidate. Any other position is nonsense. Any political "statement" anyone thinks they're making is equally nonsensical.

(NOTE: The above are different electoral "choices" then presented under the Cuban - as an example - system of "100%" electoral certainty ...if an electoral system requires ALL adults to vote when only one candidate is proferred, and the voters choose NOT to cast a ballot for that single candidate, then I would agree that conceptually they are "making a statement" about the candidate ...but the outcome of that electoral systems "voter" will be the same as everyone having cast a filled-in ballot unless that electoral system requires a minimum %-age of votes cast for a candidate to be elected, THEN and ONLY THEN would you have the - delicious? ...and quite libertarian - outcome in which the office would empty; the voters would have chosen not to "fill" the office. Essentially, you could just toss the bastards out, and figure it out from there ...wishful thinking, I s'pose.)

UPDATE II: I would suggest the following conclusion something that seems pretty applicable to this election:

"Some people say that the lizards get all the votes ...because they're the only ones willing to run for office." ...with apologies to Douglas Adams and fellow Hitchhikers (and yes, I did a lot of that in my wastrel youth, too). wit: I am a tactical pragmatist, and a strategic idealist. This position, I believe, is "tenable" conservatism AND is "true enough" libertarianism.

So quit dickin' around with this. You. Know. What. To. Do.
Written By: brandon davis

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