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No such thing as a protest vote

Think back 24 years ago - to November.  It’s the 2000 election and Al Gore and W. Bush are locked in a tight race.  

After a nail-biting election night, the race was still not determined.  Everything would be decided days later by a few hanging chads - a term that became part of our vocabulary that year- because the outcome of the presidential race and the country hung by only a few votes in Florida. 

And the Supreme Court, in all of its glory and infinite wisdom, would make that final decision.

A few hanging chads - or votes as we most often call them - determined the direction of the country in 2000, and Bush became president.  Within months, we lived through 9/11.  And months later we were embroiled in two wars - with Iraq and Afghanistan.  We spent trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, and twenty years treading water in a losing cause that no one understood. 

All because of a few hanging chads. 

I remember casting my vote that year.  I wasn’t impressed by either candidate.  I was transitioning from a lifetime of voting Republican to an almost Democrat after the Religious Right, Christian Coalition, and Moral Majority had offended my sense of independence and any residual loyalty I felt to those on the right of moderate. 

I voted for the Libertarian candidate. 

I admit, I don’t remember his name because it was a protest vote.  It was my stand against two flawed candidates that I couldn’t support, and I was naive enough to think my vote would reverberate around the country and teach a lesson to those whose policies I couldn’t support. 

Of course, it didn’t. 

What I did learn was that an election can turn on just a few votes, and the old saying that every vote counts is right.  I vowed to never waste my vote again, even if I have to vote for a candidate that doesn’t align totally with my values or float my boat. 

When I hear young people vow to stay home on election day because they don’t agree with Biden’s policies in Israel, I wonder if they know how bad Trump’s would be. Staying home on election day would be like a vote for Trump and ensure that a two state system in Israel never happens. If you’re pro-Palestine, that’s as bad as it gets. 

When I hear rumblings from the electorate about the economy and high prices, I wonder if people have even bothered to compare the inflation rates of every other free country around the globe to our own.  Biden might not have been able to bring prices back to pre-pandemic rates, but Americans are spending far less for food, goods, and gas than countries across Europe and Asia.  After all, he’s a president, not a magician. 

You might threaten to stay home because you don’t like any of Biden’s policies, but do you really know what those policies are ?  With so much misinformation easily available, searching out facts from credible sources is a chore, but one that every voting American is obligated to do. Once you’re armed with information, figure out what those policies have actually meant for you as an American.  

Then look at the other guy, a man who’s vowed to rule with authoritarianism and revenge. A man who’s proud that he was the one guy who orchestrated the overturn of Roe v. Wade.  A man who doesn’t value women. 

Protest, yes. That’s the American way.  

But take it from someone who’s learned the hard lesson: there’s no such thing as a protest vote.

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