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Should I Vote With My Gut?

Updated on September 2, 2012

Are Elections Really Battles of Good Versus Evil?

It’s hard to choose the most annoying aspect of each political party’s national convention: the endless parade of speeches filled with little more than political rhetoric, the repetitive chanting of inane catch phrases, or the pointless ceremony of delegates casting votes for a predetermined nominee. In my view, however, there is nothing more annoying than the crowd of delegates, and I’m not just talking about the ridiculous clothes, signs, and balloon throwing. What particularly irks me is that these people seem to truly believe that the electoral victory of their party and presidential candidate is the key to America’s future prosperity. And the only thing that eclipses the love they feel for their candidate (and themselves) is their hatred of those other guys. It’s not just that the other party has a less effective political platform. According to the party faithful, that other organization is filled with bad people.

I understand that political disagreement is inevitable, and all of us, no matter how unbiased and moderate we may try to be, will end up leaning toward one side of the political spectrum. I actually respect people who are true, consistent ideological liberals or conservatives. What I have trouble respecting, however, is extreme partisanship. A true liberal or conservative, after all, will criticize his or her political party when it fails to live up to ideological principles. So if President Obama steps up drone missile attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, a true liberal will be critical. And if President Bush supports a Medicare prescription drug benefit without coming up with a way to pay for it, a true fiscal conservative will be critical. A partisan person, however, will cut his or her party some slack in these situations, but will jump all over those other guys if they engage in the same policies. The same is true, of course, when politicians are implicated in scandals. If a member of an opposing party is accused of ethics violations, it is clear evidence that those other guys are ethically inferior. But if someone in your party is accused, it is either no big deal or it is a baseless, partisan attack. The best way to deal with inconvenient facts, after all, is to deny their very existence.

Why do so many people feel the need to go to extremes? Why can’t we just look at each candidate’s policy platform – and when possible, past history - and make a rational choice regarding who is better for the country? Do we need to frame elections into battles between good and evil in order to get excited about them? Having said all of this, I would like to say that I am different. I am a currently registered Democrat, but this is partly because I have not taken the time to make the change to independent. I also realize that neither party will have much of a Congressional majority after the upcoming election, so we are unlikely to see any major changes in the country regardless of the results. I also know that both parties have had their share of political scandals over the years.

But Mitt Romney pisses me off. He seems to be the very personification of the term politician, adjusting his belief system to the political circumstances of the moment. As governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice, supportive of gay marriage, and the signer of health care reform. Now, of course, he is a “true” conservative, catering to the freak show that has taken over much of the Republican Party. And I see nothing in his vaguely stated ideas that indicate that he will do anything to change the trends of the last thirty years: tax cuts (particularly for wealthy people like himself who make most of their income from capital gains), deregulation, and minor budget cuts (mostly on the poor) that do little to impact the deficit. So I foresee a future of increasing concentration of wealth, environmental deterioration, and lingering debt. I can barely stand watching this schmuck speak. He almost makes George W. Bush seem charismatic.

Is this a rational reaction? If I stop and think, do I really believe that a Romney presidency would be such a disaster? In spite of conservative caricatures, I see little evidence that Obama is some sort of a liberal reformer. The main thing that I have seen between the Bush and Obama presidencies is continuity, and I don’t expect things to change significantly if Obama wins. So why does the thought of a Romney presidency make me shudder? This could be the subject of a long blog post, and it might require some serious self-analysis to figure it out. So for now, I will merely acknowledge the fact that politics can get quite emotional, and in a complex world with complex problems, it is easier to vote with our hearts than our minds. Voting with our emotions can also provide a certain amount of emotional comfort. When we take the side of good versus evil, at least we feel that our vote is having a positive impact. Too much thinking takes so much time and effort, can lead to cynicism and paralysis, and makes those political conventions and rallies far less fun.

So do I preach compromise and restraint or jump on one of the bandwagons? Since I believe that the best place to be on the ideological spectrum is somewhere in the middle, should I really care who wins? Should I vote (and write) with my gut or my mind? A long time ago, politicians figured out that appealing to people’s emotions is far more effective than rational argument. We are programmed to follow our instincts, choose sides, and defeat the other. It’s tough to fight human nature, so maybe I shouldn’t try.


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    • Freeway Flyer profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Swendson 

      5 years ago

      This post was not meant to be a strong case for supporting Obama. I have a more negative emotional reaction to Romney than Obama, but I don't entirely know why that is. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, many people seem to go with their emotions rather than stepping back and trying to be rational. This explains much of the low quality of "debate" in this country.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I doubt there will be any significant changes, whoever gets in. Each candidate has to operate within the system and that never really changes. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, I leave for others to decide.

    • Matt Phillips profile image

      Matt Phillips 

      5 years ago

      I can't remember anytime in my lifetime where there was less agreement about "facts" than there is right now, and that makes thing especially challenging.

      I have a daughter who grew up spending some time with her maternal grandmother, who enjoys listening to right-wing commentators on both TV and radio. She told me that she didn't really understand what they were talking about but understood enough to know that it was a somewhat different perspective than she hears at home. I told her that she should focus on how she feels after listening to each a point of view. Does it make her mad or sad, happy or something in between? Does it make her feel like a victim of something, like she's been robbed, or does it make her feel like there is something she can do to make it better?

      I like your premise that you can't really keep emotions out of what should be, ideally, a largely thoughtful decision. But with the amount of "truthiness" that comes with political messaging I'm not sure there is much choice.

      I always thought that the best government came from ideas emerging from the creative tension that would arise from principled conservative and liberal ideas (not ideologies). The chief problem I see with politics now is that there is no actual principled conservative ideas any more. Most of them, universal healthcare being the most glaring example, have been adopted by "liberal" politicians. In fact, there does not seem to be any principled conservative politicians anymore.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I have studied all I can about both candidates, and the only things I agree with in what you wrote is that who gets elected to Congress will make the greatest difference. Obama has demonstrated he can't work with Congress . Romney has shown he was able to work with a Democrat legislature in Massachusetts. I'm assuming he will do a better job with whichever Congress he gets than Obama has done. I believe the two candidates have entirely different pictures of what America should look like, and I prefer Romney's vision to Obama's. I was not supporting Romney during the primaries, but he did win me over during the convention. Whatever he will do if he wins cannot be worse than the last four years.

    • Freeway Flyer profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Swendson 

      5 years ago

      Skarlet, thank you for the typical one-sided argument. It demonstrates some of what I was trying to say in this article. You critique Obama for flip-flopping, but you apparently excuse Romney for the same thing. Sounds like generic partisanship to me.

      On a rational level, I know that presidential elections don't matter as much as we often think. I suspect that the last four years under a McCain presidency would have been similar to what has actually happened (at least in terms of the state of the economy.) And I suspect that the same can be said for the next four years.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Interesting thoughts on voting with your emotions. I like to make an informed vote, but sometimes emotion does play into the decision.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      5 years ago from Southern California

      You should vote intelligently.

      Here is your choice, four more of these years, or possibly four more better years.

      We know that Obama failed, now we can speculate about Romney, but that is all it is speculation. Perhaps if the voters looked at Obama closer in 2008 we might have made a better choice.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      An interesting discussion about politics and feelings. I think the politicians have good writers who know how to reach the people. And it is anyone's guess who will be serving our country.

    • Skarlet profile image


      5 years ago from California

      Flip flopping on issues that are not really political, are done by all politicians, and Romney has not flip flopped more than Obama has.

      Obama was elected greatly because he was going to end the war. After elected he and the media ignored that big fat lie.

      Obama said that because of his RELIGION he believed marriage is between a man and a woman, and now that he needs to win votes on emotion rather than on real issues because of his failed policies, he comes out saying that he has been talking to friends and neighbors, like he has neighbors to talk to at the white house, and has decided that gay couples should be married in the same way that men and women are.

      I could go on, but there is really no need to. He is a major flip flopper.

      Obama will not improve this country because he can't.

      Romney has the tools to make positive changes. He has spent years in the private sector, while Obama is a career politician.

      I don't care about the silly, narrow minded argument that Romney is wealthy and therefor must be a bad person.

      Being a CEO is tough. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and say, "he is rich and life is easy for him." Romney has also been a governor and that is the single most important on the job training before presidency.


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