Don’t Blank

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You’re doing democracy wrong.

The impulse to blank a ballot, or to effectively do so by tossing a protest vote to an unelectable candidate, is not hard to grasp: “I have two options before me, neither of whom come close to representing my idea of who should fill the office, so rather than affirmatively select the less-bad option I’d rather opt out of that Sophie’s choice.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but representative democracy is not about getting what you want. In fact, it’s specifically about not getting what you want.

There are systems of governance where you get to have things run the way you want. Or, rather, where someone does; one of the significant downsides of those systems is that it’s actually not very likely that you get to be the monarch.

And while it’s quite possible that the monarch will run things in a way you like, it’s not worth the risk of being stuck with a bad monarch. Or, at least, so thought the people who brought you America.

The alternative — resting national sovereignty with the actual citizenry of the vast, sprawling, diverse country — has always been a pretty dubious experiment. Seriously: you, and me, and everyone you run into in the mall, and the Real Housewives Of New Jersey, and those people you block on Twitter, and Eric Church fans, and a couple hundred million other people are supposed to decide on something, anything, let alone something as important and consequential as who will be President for the next four years. Who the hell thought that was a workable idea?

And yet, I think we all agree, a couple centuries into the experiment, that this idea really is the heart of what makes this the greatest nation ever devised.

So, it seems to me it’s all wrong to opt out because the selection of candidates isn’t good enough for you. Your participation is just as much about choosing the lesser of evils — or, put another way, preventing your fellow citizens from doing too much harm — as it is about forming a more perfect union.

Plus, you really shouldn’t be allowed to wear the “I Voted” sticker if you blank the top race.

[Note: I’m specifically talking about blanking because you find neither candidate acceptable; blanking a down-ballot race due to lack of information is a different matter, and in my opinion sometimes justifiable.]

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