Voting for Bad Candidates isn’t a Privilege

When Americans vote in November, they should be made to answer another question after casting their vote for President. Do you, in your heart of hearts, believe that either Donald Trump or Joe Biden can make the United States a better country for the people who live there?

I’m not sure how honestly the electorate would answer this question, short of installing lie detectors in the voting booths. But I know how I would vote if I were American. I don’t think either of them could improve the country. And then, if it came out that eighty percent of the country agreed, any pretence of a mandate that the victorious candidate might have hoped to claim would have evaporated long before he raises his right hand on the steps of the Capitol next January. This would be a cathartic moment because neither man deserves to hold the office of President of the United States.

I don’t know why anyone has bothered reading John Bolton’s new book. It was already obvious to anyone neither blind nor deaf that Donald Trump is unfit for the Presidency, and he has demonstrated this beyond reproach in the past months. Nothing about his response to the coronavirus is surprising, from the hubris to the ineptitude and the self-aggrandisement. Little else needs to be said regarding the incumbent.

Meanwhile, Biden is pledging to build on the policies of the former President Obama, who ran an administration which sleepwalked into two conflicts with Russia, over Syria and Ukraine, forever destabilised Libya and the Mediterranean, tanked the healthcare insurance market and added trillions to the national debt. Biden has also been coy about disagreeing with those on the left of his party over defunding the police and abolishing immigration controls. Whether he will have the gall to shout down these voices from the Oval Office is by no means clear.

While Biden might be more seasoned than his opponent, there’s the small issue that he’s barely campaigning. It’s almost as if Trump is running for the Presidency in 2020, and Biden in 1920. Although, at least Franklin Roosevelt campaigned from the carriage of a train. With the current hysteria surrounding public transport, is rail travel even an option for the elderly Mr Biden?

So, Trump can’t run the White House, and Biden can’t run the country. Upon seeing this, you will realise that the whole election is an expensive (and possibly rather violent) farce. Under these circumstances, the best thing you can do, if you are American, is to not legitimise this sham by refusing to take part in the election process. The scenario of a confidence vote which I set out at the start of the article is a nice idea, but it’s not going to happen. Democrats and Republicans both stand to lose far too much from it, or from a “none of the above” option on the ballot paper. If the state won’t budge on allowing the electorate to register their dissatisfaction at election time, then the American public must take it upon themselves to do this, and stay at home. Sorry, but voting for some third-party chump who barely knows where Albany is, let alone Aleppo, isn’t going to cut it.

I have heard all of the pro-voting arguments before. “Voting is a privilege which people living under tyranny don’t have”, people say. This is nonsense; many people living without freedom can vote, and they get in serious trouble if they don’t. North Korea holds parliamentary elections. Vladimir Putin is an elected politician, but the citizens under his control can’t contest his dubious victories every six years.

And in any case, voting for candidates as bad as Trump and Biden isn’t a privilege, it’s a headache. Elections, if they are to be about anything, ought to be about getting good government. This now seems almost impossible in Western countries, because candidates (most of whom are either too square or too scary) must make ridiculous promises they can never keep if they are to have any hope of getting elected. Huge new spending commitments with no new taxes, limits on immigration without native people filling low paid jobs, efficient, state-provided broadband, and a government ‘guarantee’ of employment, all spring to mind.

I don’t know who is going to win the election in November. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Americans realise that the right not to vote is just as important as the right to vote. Most people are anxious to signal to people they want to impress how much they dislike politicians, but they don’t realise that they have the power to strip them of their authority. Politicians derive their mandate to implement harmful policies from your vote. If you don’t give them legitimacy, they lose it.

Our governments have been desperate for us to stay at home for months. I doubt they’ll want you to shield or socially distance on election day, though. Don’t give them the satisfaction of turning up at the polling station. Stay at home, save the country, and do something worthwhile with your day.


Tom Leeman

I am a Politics and Spanish graduate from the University of Bristol, going on to study a Master's degree in Political Economy at King's College London.

The Pangean does not condemn or condone any of the views of its contributors. It only gives them the space to think and write without hindrance.