With the 2020 presidential election less than a month away, my TV screen and snail and email boxes are awash in, and my phone is ringing off the hook with, reminders of how very, very important it is that I vote. Pleas from the candidates and their proxies, of course, but also the generic “no matter who you vote for, vote.”
How important is it, really, that you or I mark and cast a ballot?
According to the political operatives knocking on my door (sometimes literally), my potential failure to vote — or my decision to vote for the “wrong” candidate — constitutes an existential threat to motherhood, apple pie, and America.
Could my vote (which, by the way, I’ve already cast by mail for the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgensen) affect the outcome of next month’s election?
It seems unlikely. The last time a single vote decided a statewide election was in 1839 when Marcus Morton became governor of Massachusetts with 51,034 votes out of a total 102,066 ballots cast.
I probably have a better chance of winning next week’s Mega Millions jackpot than of casting the vote that decides which candidate’s slate of electors will represent Florida in choosing the next president. And as a Libertarian, the chance of my vote putting my preferred candidate over the top, in Florida or nationally, is even slimmer.
So does it really matter whether I vote or not? Absent some earth-shaking development that I can neither predict nor bring about by force of will, more than nine of every 10 voters will choose “business as usual” by casting their ballots for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. They’ll vote against freedom and for an ever more authoritarian state. And yes, they’ll almost certainly win.
Why bother? Because it matters to ME, that’s why. I have an opinion, voting is a way of expressing that opinion, and the vote total my preferred candidate gets, however small, will remain a matter of public record long after you’ve forgotten this column.
If one or two of a hundred voters choose freedom, they — WE — light a flame of hope in the deep dark night of fear and loathing that is 21st century American politics. A tiny, guttering flame, perhaps, but a flame I’d not want to see go out entirely.
Your vote is your voice. I won’t join my voice to the voices of the party of hate or the party of fear. Will you?
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.