Barack-ing the vote?
August 23, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Should I vote in the upcoming presidential election? If so, for who?

22 year old female considering voting in her first presidential election. I'm not really sure if I should vote at all, and if so for who.

I would describe myself as extremely conservative on social issues. So it may seem that Romney/Republican Party is the best bet. But as a recent college grad, I'm wondering if I should be considering voting Obama/Democrat.

Like many Americans (look at the consistently low rates of voter turnout!), I do not find politics very interesting and I do not keep up with them. So I'm really unsure as to which candidate is best.

The social issue that I value most is the whole right to life thing. I am very pro-life and support restrictions to outlaw abortions except in cases of rape or incest. I don't feel too strongly either way about gay marriage but I would tend towards legalizing it. Do not support stem cell research.

I grew up with the view that the Democratic Party is for the average working-class or middle-class American and the Republican Party is for the wealthy that want lower taxes. I do have federal student loans but not a massive amount and I have had no trouble getting them deferred. Since I do not currently have a permanent full-time job in my field, I don't really have any complaints about student loans or interest rates on those. But I obviously care about the creation of new jobs and an increase in hiring. Since I don't have a "real" full-time job (currently just temping), how much do I need to care about taxes? (Btw if you have for-dummies type reading material on taxes and the candidate's views in super-simple language and no presumption of previous knowledge on the subject, please share. I would like to read about and understand this better).

More info: Pretty much anti-war. I do care deeply about our environment and support green efforts. Against drilling for oil in certain areas. Don't care much either way regarding trade deficits and gun control. While I feel people need to take more personal responsibility, I support safety-net programs like Social Security and Medicaid for the retired and those that really need help. I know that there are really great charities out there that have had to cut programs because of a lack of federal funding. What candidate would support restoration of funding for worthwhile organizations?

As I'm writing this question, I'm wondering if I should place a larger focus on Social Security sustainability. I have read the media reports that Social Security will soon be obsolete and that worries me. As an only child, the entire weight of caring for my parents will fall on my shoulders. My parents will be within retirement age in 5-7 years although for financial reasons, they will probably continue working for 10-15 years. I realize that 10-15 years is a while from now, but knowing how slowly it can take to pass laws and such, I guess it would be good if the next president was taking steps to make sure that there is some sort of program in place by then. Which candidate will take a better approach to helping me care for my parents in 10-15 years?

Do I just pick an issue or two that is most important to me and vote based on that? I don't necessarily mind being a single-issue voter but the two issues that I would care most about (pro-life and job creation) seem to draw me in different directions. Do I just vote for whatever candidate I think is a nicer guy? (just kidding, although I am aware that some people vote that way)

Should I even vote at all? Since I live in New York, a non-battleground blue state, does my vote matter? If I cannot decide strongly, I will just not vote at all since I believe that if you cannot take voting seriously and do it with the right intentions, you shouldn't bother to vote at all. Votes cast for stupid reasons, like what candidate you think is a nicer guy or because of their last name or what school they went to shouldn't really count!

Metafilter, tell me who I should vote for based on my criteria above and why!
posted by lovelygirl to Law & Government (54 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'll just answer your first question.

You should always vote. It is your ethical obligation to your democracy to inform yourself, as you are attempting to here (in an "interesting" way), and vote.
posted by taff at 2:52 PM on August 23, 2012 [24 favorites]

Elections forecaster FiveThirtyEight puts Obama as having a 100.0% chance of winning in New York.

In other words, your vote for President doesn't matter.

You should either do something to ensure your Presidential vote does matter - for instance, supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - or figure out a local (contested) election to vote on where your vote actually does matter.
posted by saeculorum at 2:53 PM on August 23, 2012

Your vote always matters since it gives legitimacy to the process.

You might want to use a web site like Vote Easy that can match you to candidates views.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:54 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

I really liked the survey for a candidate that best lines up with your views(you can rank which issues you find most important).
posted by sawdustbear at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

My personal rule about voting: If I don't vote, I don't get to bitch. Do you like to complain about politics, or any specific subset of a political thing? Might you in the near future? Then consider adopting my rule.

I will just not vote at all since I believe that if you cannot take voting seriously and do it with the right intentions, you shouldn't bother to vote at all.

Also, the self-fulfilling defeatism of this is stunning. Be the change you want to see.
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2012 [13 favorites]

If I understand it, it sounds like you are asking which candidate is the best fit for your vote based exclusively on how each candidate will advance your self-interests in various areas. These are extremely personal and subjective factors. I am not sure whether we will be able to provide you with an objective, third-party assessment of those factors.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and one thing I forgot to note: In your solid blue state, your vote for president may not "matter," but will you duck out on local races? Congressional? School board? If there's something on the ballot about, I dunno, turning a local park into a toxic waste dump, do you seriously not care enough about "politics" to not go to the polls at all?
posted by rtha at 2:57 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You should absolutely vote. I recommend using the VoteSmart website. You just put in your location and it will give you information about all the candidates in your district who have returned their questionnaire on issues.

Even if you don't care about the Presidential election, there are plenty of other important contests at the local level which may affect you more.

I cannot weigh in on the rest of your questions without writing a novel, but I do not think you should be a single issue voter. Also, neither candidate is likely to achieve outlawing abortion, so I think it would be a waste to vote for a candidate or not based on that issue when there are clearly a number of others that you do care about and would agree with the opposing candidate on. But then again, I am pro choice and can't claim to understand the pro life perspective.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:58 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Elections forecaster FiveThirtyEight puts Obama as having a 100.0% chance of winning in New York.

In other words, your vote for President doesn't matter.

Your vote matters. People fought and died for your right to vote. You should honor that sacrifice by doing what is essentially a simple task.

You've never voted before. You should vote now, just to get into the habit of doing so.

When you go to vote, you'll be voting not just President, but other local elections and issues. Your voice matters on things that impact your daily life.

You should vote for President Obama because he'll keep the current reasonable status quo and will be better at spurring job growth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on August 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

I can't tell you who to vote for, but yes. vote. Always.

And also, completely ignore anyone who tells you to vote third party. The way the USA election system works, it just will not matter.

Third party is pretty much people comforting themselves that they did their civic duty but didn't vote for the Big Bad Two Parties.
posted by royalsong at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: If I understand it, it sounds like you are asking which candidate is the best fit for your vote based exclusively on how each candidate will advance your self-interests in various areas.

anonnymoose, that may be the case but don't most people vote based on what the candidate will do for them personally? This is a serious question, not snark. Also, not all of my "issues" will solely benefit me: the environment, guns, wartime spending, federal funding for worthy organizations, etc.
posted by lovelygirl at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Of course you should vote!

I was nineteen in the 2000 election, and I didn't vote for dumb reasons. I am still kicking myself over this, despite the fact that I didn't live in a state where my individual vote would have been a big deal. I just mostly feel like I really missed out on a moment in American history, and that I failed to perform my civic duty. (And then look what happened!)

Everyone who is eligible should vote. Even though you are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, I still think you should vote. Even if you live in Ohio and vote Republican, I still think it's absolutely imperative that you vote. If you want to be taken seriously as an adult and a citizen of your country, you cannot fail to do this.

2. As to who you should vote for, you're a lot more conservative than I am, so I feel it hard to advise you. It sounds like you want to go Republican, and that your reasons for considering Obama are a little hollow. That said, my political beliefs force me to tell you that voting for Republicans is voting against your interests as a young middle class woman. But plenty of dumb-asses have tried to convince me that the Republican party has my interests at heart, so I don't know that I have any more standing with you than they do with me.
posted by Sara C. at 3:02 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I apologize, OP, I did not mean to snark--I just meant that our criteria sounded largely subjective and personal. I see your point after clarification.
posted by anonnymoose at 3:02 PM on August 23, 2012

Metafilter is, by and large, fairly Democratic-leaning, so be aware that your responses might be biased that way. (Why do you think we call it The Blue? ;] )

That said, you're not just voting for President - there are other races on the ticket, too. You are free to leave the Presidential slot blank if you like, but I would suggest that you read up on the issues you're personally invested in, and make a decision. Voting for Obama doesn't make you a Democrat; voting for Romney doesn't make you a Republican - you're free to vote for whatever individual best represents your interests every time you vote. I disagree with the idea that you shouldn't vote for the candidate that advances your self-interests in various areas, by the way: if you're not voting for who you think would be the best fit by whatever criteria you deem to be "best fit," including your self interests, what are you voting for?

But please: do vote. It's your civic duty, and it does a real disservice to all the people who weren't allowed to vote in the past if you don't do it (that's my opinion, anyhow - think of all the women who fought so that their voices would be heard, and do it for them, if nothing else).

You may also consider reading up on the candidate's positions on the issues you've outlined above. Keep a spreadsheet of how they stand in various areas and that might help you organize your thoughts.
posted by k8lin at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should always vote, and educate yourself about what you're voting on, there are plenty of local issues beyond the national presidency that matter, and, truth be told, the President doesn't have nearly the power that those who'd like to blame every national ill on him claim.

On the "throwing away your vote" thing: Even if the winner of the vote is a foregone conclusion, this is still your opportunity to weigh on on issues: Is there a third party candidate who agrees with your stance more solidly than one of the big two? A vote more for that candidate will raise the issues behind that candidate to greater prominence.

And no, I don't vote on what the candidate will do for me personally. I vote for what the candidate will do to create the society in which I want to live. Sometimes that means voting for higher taxes for my bracket, or services that I don't personally use, or what-have you.

(for the record: at the national candidate level I'm a single issue pro-choice voter, that issue is a stand-in for so many other issues of personal autonomy that it comes first. But you have to educate yourself and make your own decisions. Yeah, it sucks, it's also part of being a citizen!)
posted by straw at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should vote. The higher the proportion of people "like" you (female, young, etc) amongst the general turnout, the higher the chance that politicians will be willing to listen and cater towards your perspective and issues that impact your life. I realize this is extremely marginal when we're talking about one vote out of millions, but I still think it's important.

I (also young and female) am voting in a guaranteed blue state for the same reasons (and frankly I can't imagine voting for anyone but Obama after the battles fought against women's rights this past year by GOP forces).
posted by sallybrown at 3:07 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

what the candidate will do for them personally

Presidents don't make laws and can't change anything on their own. Congress does. The President can suggest laws to be made, but by and large if congress is against it - there's nothing the President can do. Likewise, if congress votes and comes to the conclusion to.. I don't know, outlaw cat ownership, and the president real cat lover.. he can veto the bill.

This is one reason we haven't seen the Change so many of us hoped we'd might under Obama. There's only so much he can do without Congress' support.

The members of congress that represent your state are the ones you want to share your views with.
posted by royalsong at 3:08 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Do I just pick an issue or two that is most important to me and vote based on that?

A lot of people do, but I think it's also very important to consider what the actual powers / responsibilities are of the position you're voting for.

In other words, when you're voting for who should serve in your city council, it's probably not too important to vote for the pro-life candidate, even if you're 100% pro-life. After all, your city councilman isn't going to be a position to do much of anything either way in terms of abortion laws, because he (or she) doesn't have that power. However, you might give extra thought to which candidate is more likely to support policies that will bring more jobs to the area (for example, reducing the burden on people starting small businesses or running shops or the one with a plan to revitalize the downtown area) because that's something that a local city councilman will have a lot of power over.

In general, the President of the United States doesn't have the power to enact new laws--all he (or she) can do is veto what Congress passes, and that happens extremely rarely. What the President does have a LOT of power over is: (1) foreign policy and starting wars / military actions; and (2) how "strong" the enforcement of regulations are (because the President is in charge of appointing people to run federal agencies that enforce regulations).

If you are very pro-life, your most effective vote for abortion restrictions will be how you vote for Congress, because Congress is where those sorts of laws are passed. Same thing with gay marriage and taxes; the President can't change those things himself, he can only try to convince Congress to change them. On the other hand, if you're anti-war then you should make sure to vote for the person you think is less likely to start wars or get our military involved overseas, because that's almost entirely decided by the President and not by Congress. Similarly, if you're an environmentalist than you should care about which candidate is more pro-environment in terms of regulations.

I'll second Project VoteSmart as a good place to look at who is running for office in your area (not just for President, but all the way down to state races which are arguably more important in terms of your vote "counting") and also a non-biased summary of their position on a whole range of issues.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:09 PM on August 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I live in Washington, D.C. While D.C. has votes in the electoral college, we are represented by a delegate in the U.S. House who does not have the full rights of a member of Congress. We don't have senators in the U.S. Senate but "shadow" senators. I pay taxes but at any point in time, Congress can impose their will on the District regardless of how D.C. residents feel about an issue - abortion rights, gun control, medical marijuana, needle exchange, etc.

The idea that someone who has the opportunity to vote for a member of Congress and Senators would sit out the election just because the top of the ticket is more or less already decided in their state is disheartening. Your vote counts, significantly more than mine.

BTW, New York state has interesting third parties, including the Right to Life party and Conservative party. If you, for example, chose to vote for Romney on the Conservative line, that would likely help the Conservative line earn a position on the ballot in the next election, meaning that the Conservative Party might have more influence down the road.
posted by kat518 at 3:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Since my previous answer was not taken, here's a little extra bonus to help you along your way.

You indicate you are worried about Social Security sustainability. There is no risk that Social Security will "die" in the next 10-15 years. Social Security will stop being able to fund current liabilities at 100% in approximately 2021 (this date changes every year). At that point, though, Social Security does not just "run out" - it just happens that money into Social Security does not equal money going out; in other words, Social Security will just have to reduce, but not eliminate, benefits to approximately 75% of current levels. Alternatively, taxes can be raised to fund the difference (this is the "trust fund" referred to).

Neither candidate has a serious position on how to take care of Social Security, so it's not something that should affect your decision.
posted by saeculorum at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

don't most people vote based on what the candidate will do for them personally?

Yes and no.

Firstly, the reasons that people choose one political party over another are really nebulous. I'm a commie pinko semi-anarchist, and there are days that I'm pretty sure I only vote for Democrats because my daddy is one.

Secondly, I don't see voting as what a specific candidate will do fo you personally, because duh, there are 300 million Americans, and most of us are never even going to lay eyes on the President, let alone have him or her do anything for us personally.

I think what you mean is in terms of identity politics -- how will a particular administration affect you as a woman, or as someone who carries student loan debt, or as a small business owner, or as an elderly person, or whatever. A lot of people do vote based on that, and I think its as sound a reason as any.

I can tell you, for example, that a big part of the reason Obama has my vote is the ways that his healthcare victory will personally make my life easier as a woman, as a freelance creative type who changes jobs a lot, and as a middle class person who could easily be made destitute by a chance bad health outcome. Similarly, my stepfather plans to vote for Romney in part because, as a small business owner, he feels it's detrimental to his bottom line to be forced to provide health benefits to his employees.

That said, there's not going to be any candidate that takes exactly your stance on the issues, and nor is there going to be anyone who 100% has your interests at heart.

Similarly, we also don't know how political platforms and campaign promises will reflect the actual reality of a presidency. There's a lot Obama promised that he hasn't done yet. There's a lot in the Republican platform that is pie in the sky nonsense that, short of some kind of fascist coup, is just not going to happen.

This is all stuff you are going to have to reason out for yourself. And it might be that you don't know which lever you're going to pull until you're in the voting booth. But you still have to vote, even if it seems confusing right now.
posted by Sara C. at 3:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

You describe yourself as a social conservative, and very anti-abortion except in cases of rape and incest --- are you aware that Romney & Ryan want to outlaw ALL abortion, in all cases? And they want to completely gut Planned Parenthood, which provides a wide selection of health services (the LEAST of which is abortion-related) to poor women, including cancer screenings, health checkups and yes, pre-natal care to make sure babies are born healthy? (My personal take on abortion, by the way, is that you are welcome to live by your religious values, and I'd appreciate it if you would allow me the same right: your religious beliefs do NOT trump mine.)

Fiscally: for 2011 (the only year Romney will release his tax records), Romney paid something like 13.8% in taxes --- as a single person without dependants, I paid about 31%. If Romney's tax reform goes through, which would remove all taxes on investment income, Romney's tax rate will fall to about ***0.8%***..... my own taxes would increase by approx. $4200/yearly. Does most of your own income come from investments, stock and bonds, or a paycheck?

Medicare: yes, Obama is reducing Medicare costs --- almost entirely in elimination of duplicated costs. This would NOT reduce care to the elderly, where R&R's plan to reduce Medicare costs simply reduces coverage across the board --- but what do they care? Those guys are wealthy, and they won't need it. Ditto Social Security.

You say you're a recent college grad --- got any student loans that helped you through? R&R want to massively cut back on such loans, plus gut the whole Pell grant program.

As for whether or not to vote at all: you absolutely SHOULD vote, not just in this year's persidential election but in ALL elections, right down to dogcatcher. Or as my own high school government teacher said many, many years ago: If you can't vote FOR someone, vote AGAINST the one you like least --- and besides, if you don't vote, win or lose, you don't have the right to bitch about what they do!
posted by easily confused at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I'll give you a brief pitch on one issue from the lefty perspective.

When you say that you shouldn't care about taxes because you don't make much money, yet you want to preserve/increase funding for safety net type social programs, that is a confused position. Tax rates affect how much funding is available for those safety net programs. If you think those programs should be preserved/well-funded, you should consider that tax rates matter a lot. Higher tax rates are a good thing if it means we can pay for these programs we think are important.

Tax rates also matter to the government's ability to create/sustain programs that foster job creation. Money that the government pays for eg road-building, schools, tech R+D, etc, goes out into the economy and creates jobs at firms that fulfill those contracts... and then the people who have those jobs can spend money in their communities supporting other businesses etc. That is what the "stimulus" packages are supposed to do, and many economists have said this is the most predictable and effective way of creating jobs. (You will want to look up Paul Krugman and other economists and read what they have to say on this issue. Look at comparisons to FDR's New Deal programs during the Great Depression.) If the government does not bring in enough money through taxes, it cannot do that kind of stimulus.

I will further say, a willingness to pay our fair share is patriotic. Paying taxes to support programs that help our fellow citizens, and help to keep social stability (keep homelessness rates low, eg), is a responsible thing for us to do. Now what's a "fair" share? I think, as a person on the left, that it's a good thing for the very rich to pay a higher rate than the people who are just making ends meet - because the very rich benefit disproportionately from our shared social stability and infrastructure, and because someone who is super-rich will still be super-rich even if they have to pay an additional few percentage points in taxes. Higher tax rates for the very rich do not impair their ability to meet their family's needs in the way that it might for a low-income person.

Unless you are already very wealthy and voting purely out of economic self-interest with no attention to helping others, the economic reasons point to voting Democratic.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [21 favorites]

One thing to keep in mind that others here have touched on: Most pols running for office focus their efforts on constituencies older than the 18-30 age bracket. Why? Because that age bracket doesn't show up to vote at the rate that older voters do. Do you want to keep contributing to that? Then keep not voting until you're 35 or something. It's a great way to run a democracy!
posted by rtha at 3:24 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

On the sole point of Social Security: just requiring everyone to pay the Social Security tax on all their income would fix the Trust Fund's solvency with a flick of the wrist.

In this solvency scenario from the 2011 report, simply requiring everyone to pay SS taxes on all income and crediting those contributions (right now no one has to pay any SS tax on income over about 110k or 115k I think) basically fixes the problem and ensures that everything is fully funded at least out to 2085. (From a list of other solvency provisions to address the problem.)

And actually, even if we did absolutely nothing, the fund would still pay out 75% of benefits after the Trust Fund was depleted as saeculorum notes.

But in any case you can be pretty sure that Mitt Romney would not be in favor of everybody paying the same Social Security taxes.
posted by XMLicious at 3:24 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

You should vote because you are already trying to learn about the issues and work out your positions. Any kind of educated vote is a good one as far as I'm concerned. I would also encourage you to particularly learn about and vote on races lower on the ticket (congressional races, governor, state and local governments) as those are where your individual vote will make a big difference and, as they say, all politics is local. Those things will affect you more directly AND whomever the President turns out to be his will means nothing if Congress doesn't act on it, so you can affect very much right there.

I would also say that while, yeah, I guess in the long run people do vote for things that benefit them personally that's really not the case in the short run for most anyone I know. Nearly universally the friends I've discussed these things with vote for issues and candidates that they believe will make everything better. I don't have kids in school but it matters to me that funding for education is maintained because a better educated citizenry makes for a better society. But personally that hoses me financially. At the end of the day it doesn't matter to me personally if abortion is outlawed - if I wanted one I'd just hop on a plane to the nearly friendly locale and get one, it wouldn't even be remotely an issue - but I believe that unwanted pregnancies are not good for women to have if they cannot afford the results (financially, emotionally, socially, whatever kind of "afford") so I vote for access to that to be maintained, etc. My idea of torture is going outside and having, like, bugs and shit touch me, but I vote for open space to be preserved because I think environmental protection in these areas benefits everyone. Etc.
posted by marylynn at 3:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

On everything but the abortion issue, you are actually fairly aligned with the Democratic party platform. However, as has been pointed out, you are not actually aligned with the GOP platform on abortion either, as it specifically does not include any exception for rape or incest.
posted by kyrademon at 3:54 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: True story: In a recent local election, the local minority party won a seat on the city council that had been solidly held by the local majority party (both the seat and the council) by 3 votes. Of course it was the 3 votes of me, my mum, and my dad, whom I drove to the polls.

You should vote.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 3:54 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

You should always vote. Especially as a woman, since your right to vote was the result of a long struggle. Do some reading on each candidate's website (taking what you read there, of course, with a grain of salt) just to get a general feel for each guy. Watch the debates. Cruise some news websites (I stick to NPR and CNN). Even watching The Daily Show or Colbert Report can give you a decent idea of what's going on, if mostly pointing out dumb shit that each guy said/did. It's going to be a long, loooong election season. You don't have to decide now.

But definitely vote and encourage any friends or acquaintances of yours who are sluggish about voting to do so also. It is your right and responsibility as a citizen. I sometimes forget about my duties as a citizen but voting always reminds me of them, in a good way. (I kind of LOVE voting. IT'S FUN!)
posted by Aquifer at 3:58 PM on August 23, 2012

Do I just pick an issue or two that is most important to me and vote based on that? I don't necessarily mind being a single-issue voter but the two issues that I would care most about (pro-life and job creation) seem to draw me in different directions. Do I just vote for whatever candidate I think is a nicer guy? (just kidding, although I am aware that some people vote that way)

This is something that only you can answer, that is: what is most important to you? Is abortion above all else the sole thing you are truly concerned about, or is it something you are most concerned about? If the latter, then perhaps the issues surrounding social security, job growth, and fiscal responsibility might outweigh the importance of a candidate who aligns with you solely on that one issue.

Contextually to, as some others have pointed out, keep in mind who you are voting for. What are the duties of the President of the United States, and how are the duties that he performs relevant towards my policy beliefs? Then look at all the other roles on the ballot and do the same.
posted by SollosQ at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2012

Elections forecaster FiveThirtyEight puts Obama as having a 100.0% chance of winning in New York.

In other words, your vote for President doesn't matter.

Beyond the obvious objections to this idea given above, there is yet another reason why your presidential vote is important in New York State: our electoral system is set up such that candidates can be on the ballot for more than one party, which means that were have a number of small pastures in-state who will have one of the two major candidates listed under their party name. For example, when I voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election, it was as a candidate of the Working Families Party, not the Democrats. Voting that way helps support the smaller parties, which enriches the political process.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Later addendum: I've got a friend who's spent years in and out of jail. After a few years out and sober, he's getting his legal cards in order so that he can get his rights restored and participate in society. He's loud, brash, and still trying to figure out how to deal with the world. His current self would be aghast that anyone would choose to not vote (He doesn't have a terribly high opinion of his previous self).

On local issues, we've had discussions about various positions and then he's said "I'm gonna call up [local politician] and ask them to explain it!", and he has. This has opened all sorts of doors for him.

I used to believe that government was a service that was provided to us, and if we didn't like it somewhere, we moved. I now feel that life is too short for that, that we have to pick a place we love and make it the best that we possibly can. I've already been involved in local politics, but I'm taking a cue from my friend: When I don't understand an issue well enough to make a decision, I call up a few politicians and ask them why they're taking the position that they are.

That process has been incredibly enlightening, and I recommend it for everyone. Don't expect personal responses at higher levels, but you'd be amazed at who will take an interest and help you understand issues. And when you gain that understanding and knowledge, you'll share it with the people around you, and they'll become more informed, and...

It's not that I believe that voting changes things as much as I believe that the process of educating yourself in order to make a voting decision changes things. Please do that. And then color in the little circles and drop the ballot in the box.
posted by straw at 4:22 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

In other words, your vote for President doesn't matter.

This is completely untrue! Everyone's vote matters. A "guaranteed" state is only that way because people get out and vote.

An individual vote is indistinguishable from any other, but it takes all of them to make a plurality. It doesn't take very many people at all to start thinking "oh, my candidate has got this race LOCKED, I'll skip voting" to change an election.

If you can't come up with a good reason to vote for someone, I'll bet you can come up with a reason to vote against the other option(s). Choosing who to vote for isn't always easy, but when you give up your vote, you give up your right of self-determination. I've noticed a lot of people here who care very much about the future of the country saying things like "they are both the same" or "Obama hasn't done enough" to excuse their decision to not vote. And it couldn't be farther from the truth- you aren't punishing a candidate by not voting, you are making it easier for someone you disagree with even more to win! Voting for someone isn't meant to be a imprimatur of complete faith and agreement with a candidate. You aren't "signing on" to their outlook or taking some kind of blood oath. You are just dropping your bean into the fishbowl along with the rest of your fellow citizens.

Now, here is how you choose. After the conventions, go to each party's website and look at the platforms of the parties. It's usually a list of statements. Read them and try to figure out what they mean. Be especially careful of positive sounding but non-specific ones. What does "protecting the family" really mean? What does "pro-life" really mean? Etc. Figure out which platform is least objectionable (and if there isn't something objectionable on both sides for you, you probably haven't read deeply enough), and that's who you vote for. This shouldn't take any longer than a rainy Sunday afternoon.
posted by gjc at 4:25 PM on August 23, 2012

I would encourage you not only to vote, but to get involved with candidates in every area of government (local, state, and federal) to get to know the issues, get involved, and see just how much it matters. Nothing feels quite as empowering during an election cycle as seeing someone at the local level (or at the national level, really) using your skills and dedication and hard work to put forth an agenda with which you agree.
posted by xingcat at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2012

a number of small pastures

pastures = parties

Autocorrect has been making me look awful silly lately.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your individual vote, numerically, is insignificant unless you are in a contested state. That is, where the race is close. So at the presidential level, the good that comes is from the process of participating: learning about the candidates, thinking about what the country should do, and feeling afterward that you had your say along with everyone else, and the candidate won legitimately.

At the state and local level, your vote is much more likely to matter numerically because the races are closer (sometimes) and the number of voters smaller, and also what comes up for a vote may be directly in your interest (in California, we often vote on specific funding issues and legislation).

tl;dr: the process of voting can lead to a more civic and engaged outlook, and that's good.
posted by zippy at 4:38 PM on August 23, 2012

Best answer: I'm not going to speak to how you should vote or why you should vote, since other folks have covered that. Let me just share how my Mom rolls on this, which has been passed down to me.

As much as I can, I try to always *show up* to vote (though because I live in Louisiana and our political system results in far more elections than most other states, this doesn't happen as much as when I lived in Ohio). BUT I don't necessarily always cast a vote for a (or any) candidates or issues. IT IS TOTALLY OKAY TO CAST A BLANK BALLOT or only vote for one or two things. Especially if you're someone who doesn't like to vote along party lines or for someone/thing they don't understand.

So why show up to vote even if you don't vote for/against something? Because voter turnout is abysmally low in most elections, and especially so in non-presidential elections. When politicians see low voter turnout, there is not as much incentive for them and the rest of society to continue recognizing the rights of all citizens to engage in one of the most fundamental rights we have in a free and open society.
posted by mostly vowels at 4:41 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't buy the idea that if you don't vote you can't bitch. Sure you can bitch, you're a citizen. Bitch all you want.

But you should vote, as an expression of your dignity and accountability as a citizen. Which means you need to find out all you can about every candidate and every issue. If you don't vote, you can still bitch but you'll feel pretty limp and pallid doing so--and deservedly.

As for whom you should vote for, someone above said vote for the persons and positions that will create the society you want to live in. Sometimes that becomes personal, as the abortion issue does for women, and sometimes it's just based on your overall values.

I don't know what the hell Romney stands for because he's changed so often. He seems utterly untrustworthy to me, and now appears completely in the pocket of an extreme, science-denying right wing. So for me the choice is easy: Obama.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:41 PM on August 23, 2012

Remember that voting is an endorsement of the system. Our system of government is tragically broken and being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils is not how our government should function... yet its degenerated to that point. I encourage you NOT to vote, partly because you're divided in your views but mainly because with enough people refusing to participate, we can actually have substantial change in government - reboot, start over from the beginning with new governing documents, etc.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:00 PM on August 23, 2012

Mod note: Folks, don't argue with other commenters, just answer the question please. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:07 PM on August 23, 2012

Yes you should vote. You kinda have to figure out the 'who' part on your own.
posted by mazola at 5:17 PM on August 23, 2012

I have run for public office (albeit small town office). I strongly encourage you to vote regardless of your final decision on for whom to vote. I ran because I thought instead of bitching, instead of saying "these bums should..." and instead of lamenting the outcome, I thought I would put my money where my mouth was. It was a great experience. If I were to run again, a major part of my platform would be simply to get out the vote. I don't care if you vote for my opponent or for a write-in candidate, but vote. The process and the community are better off for your vote. While I don't think you have an obligation to vote and I do get that voting might just encourage and condone the system, the very act of participating in a democracy should not be taken for granted. Even in NY, your vote matters. Trust me. (Can someone who ran for office actually say, "Trust me"?)

As for whom to vote, based on what you wrote here, if your go to issue is right to life, vote for the challenger. It is an unusual make or break issue in that most voters vote in what they believe is in their best personal interest. Usually that means their wallet, but sometimes for local elections that may mean a local issue such as changing a zoning law.

I found the hard part about statewide and national elections is that there is no perfect candidate that fits what you would do if you were in their position. You will almost always have to hold your nose and vote for (or against) someone. Don't let that dissuade you from voting. Life is all about hard choices, gray areas, difficult decisions, etc. This is just another one of them.

And fwiw, when it comes to voting for President, I think the american public overestimates the power of the President to accomplish much of his agenda nationally. His greatest influence will be on foreign policy. But, that is just my observation. YMMV.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:19 PM on August 23, 2012

Best answer: The Working Families Party tells me that New York is a swing state because there are 8 closely contested congressional races. So your vote will definitely make a difference in those races.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:31 PM on August 23, 2012

In other words, when you're voting for who should serve in your city council, it's probably not too important to vote for the pro-life candidate, even if you're 100% pro-life. After all, your city councilman isn't going to be a position to do much of anything either way in terms of abortion laws, because he (or she) doesn't have that power.

Just as a pet peeve: these local city officials DO affect abortion laws and many "personal freedom" issues. In my area, city councils vote on local zoning/licensing laws, parking regulations, etc., which can be used to re-locate business services, including Planned Parenthood, group homes, etc. In some areas, city officials can appoint vacant judgeships and these may the first line in a minor's need to by pass parental notification, or in how protestors are handled, or laws regarding protesting enforced. Our police chief is approved by the local city council and has say in what the priorities of the force are re PP protestors, rape investigations, gay bashing.

A local judge was the sole reason that the abortion protest laws were enforced during the Republican convention of 2008 in Houston. I can't find a cite but if recall properly, the police had considered PP protestors low priority prior to the ruling and it was starting to get a bit messy.

So yes, your vote counts at all levels.
posted by beaning at 5:34 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry, that should be the 1992 convention!
posted by beaning at 5:37 PM on August 23, 2012

Yeah, you should always vote -- state and local items especially can have big effects on your life.

SelectSmart: Presidential 2012 is another site that helps you figure out how your values align with the candidates; their connections to local candidates might help you figure out how you want to vote.
posted by wintersweet at 5:47 PM on August 23, 2012

Another good resource for info is the League of Women Voters. Historically, there have been local chapters of this organization all over the country, and they put together voter guides that collect info about the candidates' positions, and info about voting laws in your area, how to register, etc.
League of Women Voters of the City of New York might be a place to start. They will probably put out an election guide after the conventions, so in a few weeks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:42 PM on August 23, 2012

If I cannot decide strongly, I will just not vote at all

Reconsider this. I mean, it's great that you don't want to vote for inane reasons, but extreme confidence in these decisions is not reasonable to hope for. Government has to grapple with a lot of complex problems, and the if the solutions were simple then somebody would've taken care of them by now. Guessing (with the benefit of as much information as you can stand to gather) about what sort of solution is most likely to work and which politician is most likely to be effective at implementing such a solution in the context of the larger political environment is worth doing, even if you never achieve great confidence in the guesses you make.

Also, you will not always be underemployed and deferring your loans. Many things that will be legislated in the short term will affect you and people you love over the long term. Things that don't seem to matter now, soon will.
posted by jon1270 at 7:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Elections forecaster FiveThirtyEight puts Obama as having a 100.0% chance of winning in New York.

In other words, your vote for President doesn't matter.

You should either do something to ensure your Presidential vote does matter - for instance, supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - or figure out a local (contested) election to vote on where your vote actually does matter.
I completely disagree. While your vote for or against Obama as a NYer will (probably) not change who is in the White House in a year, whether or not you vote, the party in which you vote, the mechanism you chose to vote and the fact that you voted at all does matter.

I do agree that there are things you can do beyond voting to take a more active role in local and national politics.

If I understand it, it sounds like you are asking which candidate is the best fit for your vote based exclusively on how each candidate will advance your self-interests in various areas.

anonnymoose, that may be the case but don't most people vote based on what the candidate will do for them personally? This is a serious question, not snark. Also, not all of my "issues" will solely benefit me: the environment, guns, wartime spending, federal funding for worthy organizations, etc.
The Agitator has a recent post about voting for something that is against your personal interests but for the public good:
If you can bring yourself to advocate a policy that runs against your personal interests, we can infer two very interesting things. First, the policy is probably especially good for the public; it would not otherwise overcome the personal interest. Second, if you have to “bring yourself” to advocate it, then you are probably under-advocating. You should talk about it more often, not for your own good, but for the good of the country.

Here are some of mine:

Phase out the mortgage interest tax credit. My family would suffer directly if it disappeared. That doesn’t make it good policy. The mortgage interest tax credit distorts the housing market and unfairly privileges the upper middle class, of which I’m a member.


Now I challenge my fellow wonks: What policies do you support that run directly against your personal interests?

It would be extraordinarily improbable if impartial reasoning about public affairs never led you away from your personal interests, wouldn’t it?
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:19 PM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers guys! I do realize that Metafilter leans liberal but I have always learned a lot from commenters on this site and this question is no exception. I had a lot of fun playing around with isidewith and votesmart.

Iminurmefi brought up a great point about different levels of government being able to do different things. I had not really considered that my vote for councilman would go further in fixing Issue X while my vote for congressperson could help with Issue Y.

Great responses, everyone has given me a lot to think about :)
posted by lovelygirl at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

On kat518's point: The type of voting that she is referring to is fusion voting, which only exists in a handful of states. It allows third parties to cross-endorse other (usually major party) candidates, which can offer voters the ability to send a message about why they are voting for a candidate—for instance, when one votes for Romney on the Right to Life line, it shows him that abortion is a priority issue for whatever percentage of his voters did so. When one votes for Obama on the Working Families Party line, it shows that issues like abortion are perhaps less of a priority for these voters when compared to things like job creation or affordable healthcare.

Often, these third party endorsements (or a combination of many third party endorsements for the same major party candidate) will provide the margin of victory in a race. This is much more relevant in down-ticket, state seats, but can become relevant in federal positions as well. When the margin of victory is provided by these parties, it can put the elected official in the position of being stuck with their campaign promises that are relevant to that party's platform because they know that without the endorsement that they received because of those stances, they could not have won the election.

Voting on these third party lines also allows you to avoid "wasting" your vote because it strengthens not only the political clout of growing parties, but also if you vote on their lines for the governor, it determines their continued ballot status—a party must get 50000 votes for governor on their line to retain NY ballot status, and the parties are listed on the ballot for the next 4 years after the gubernatorial race in the order that they fared.

tl:dr What kat518 said: vote with a third party for a major party candidate.
posted by cheerwine at 8:30 PM on August 23, 2012

Best answer: Another website that might give you some insight into whose tax policies would affect you how is Politify. You can enter your income, zip code and number of dependents and see which set of proposed tax policies is better for your bottom line. You can also see how many people in a specific area would benefit more by Obama's or Romney's plan.
posted by tigerjade at 6:30 AM on August 24, 2012

whose tax policies would affect you how

Although again, remember that tax policies affect you in more ways than your bottom line.

If government does not have enough money to fund social safety net programs, those programs will not be there for you if things go badly..... or for your parents (to take some of the burden off you) ...or for your neighbors or other people in your city (and even if you think about it purely from an "effects on me" standpoint, if you live in a city others, and you don't have enough money to hire private security, what do desperate people do when there is no safety net?).

If government does not have enough money to fund university research (the results of which are open to everyone), then that research will be fundable only by private industry (and the results will be secret so they can charge people for the beneficial developments).

If government does not have enough money for schools, more kids in your community will grow up dumber. They'll grow up into the people who work in hospitals, etc, around you - so again, unless you have enough money to have complete control over who you interact with, other people's kids getting a bad education will affect you in the long run.

If government does not have enough money to do its job of inspecting meat-packing plants, etc, it is easier for huge food-poisoning outbreaks to happen.

And on and on. If you think that government should be doing those kinds of things (some people don't, but I do), then you need to consider how we'll pay for it. The answer is taxes. Taxes are not bad. Taxes are, as someone said above, an investment you make in the kind of society you want to live in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:03 AM on August 24, 2012

Philosophically, I'm inclined to be pro-life too. But I've always been a bit suspicious of the elements of society that advocate most fiercely for anti-abortion policy for a variety of reasons: they often also advocate for things that don't appear to line up very well with pro-life principles like the death penalty and often seem to be pairing up anti-abortion agitation with a religiously-derived attitude towards sexuality in general, obviously misogynistic attitudes about the role of women in society, they don't seem to care much about the welfare of children after they've been born, and they carry on with other generally unpalatable behavior that indicates that they aren't working from the same bases I am and don't actually have the same interests at heart.

One of the points that someone on MetaFilter has mentioned that has helped convince me that political support for nominally pro-life politicians isn't really very likely to genuinely accomplish pro-life goals is the lack of attention that is paid to miscarriage. Despite all of the sturm und drang that is made to enable nominally pro-life politicians to have more influence over health care and other policy areas related to the lives of unborn children, there are at least half, likely more, as many miscarriages that occur in the United States as there are abortions. The political forces that proclaim abortion as their motivation for trying to establish control over related health care and legal issues are mysteriously uninterested in taking equally forceful measures to reduce the incidence of miscarriage nationally and you certainly never hear about anyone shooting up a clinic in the interest of guaranteeing better pre-natal care for pregnant mothers to reduce miscarriages.

Also, if you look at the rate of abortions per 1,000 women it actually appears that in general societies with less conservative attitudes and policy towards sexuality and abortion and which do things like provide national health services that cover abortion for free and sex education that isn't limited to abstinence have lower rates of abortion than does the United States.
posted by XMLicious at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

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