Voting advice: Should I vote to win or who I like?

This is based off a discussion I’ve had with friends and family, and I wanted to get the Dope’s take. So assume there are two candidates: one has all of the same views as you, they’re a young go-getter, and they break the mold of a generic white guy which is a plus to you. The other agrees with you on a few points, but he seems safe, boring and more likely to win in your area. Who do you back? The one who will succeed, or the person you’d like to actually see in the office? It’s a little like the “can’t get a job if I don’t have experience, but…” conundrum.

I assume this is a primary election? I’d go for the candidate that I personally prefer, and not try to game things. The people who like the other candidate better can vote for the other one. If you’re correct that there are more of them than there are of you, that candidate will win without you having to do anything about it. OTOH, maybe you’re incorrect, and “your” candidate has broader appeal than you anticipate. You (and the candidates and the party) aren’t going to know that unless people vote their genuine preferences.

Just don’t throw a tantrum and sit out the general if your preferred candidate doesn’t win, but the fact that you’re asking the question means you probably won’t do that :slightly_smiling_face:

It depends on the opposition, or whether this is a primary or General.

In the primary, vote for who you like.

In the general, if it is a safe election for your party, vote for who like like.

BUT if the election is contested, vote for the safe candidate.

Don’t game things, just pick the person who is reasonable, will talk to people, talk to experts, think about the ramifications, and do their best to ensure a balanced result.

If that’s neither of them, leave the slot blank or choose a write-in. If it’s both of them, pick the better one for that role and write the other one in to another race where it’s two duds.

That is a bad idea.

The question itself is the perfect lead-in to a discussion of ranked choice voting. Because you should not have to make this choice.

For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with RCV, here’s how it works: you look at the candidates and the Republican makes you want to barf, the Democrat makes you want to hold your nose, the Libertarian has some good ideas but also comes across like a wackjob, the Green has some nice positions but is anti-vax and anti-mask, and there’s a Citizen’s Party candidate who would be your first choice, good balance of issue positions and principles and no batshit component. But of course the Citizens Party candidate isn’t gonna win, it’s always a Democrat or a Republican unless something really weird happens.

So you cast your ranked choice vote for the Citizens Party candidate as your 1st choice, Libertarian 2nd, Green 3rd, Democrat 4th.

On voting day, nobody gets 50*% of the total vote. Libertarians get the lowest number of votes. Doesn’t affect you (yet) but all the folks who chose Libertarian as their first choice are switched to their 2nd choice. Still no one hitting 50%. Citizens is now the bottom-most polling so your choice now gets moved — not to your second choice because the Libertarians are already out of the picture, but to your third choice, the Greens. With the Citizens’ voters votes redistributed, the Democratic candidate now reaches 50%, and is pronounced the winner. Newspaper stories cover the fact that a lot of voters preferred minor party candidates and they interview voters about why. Democratic and Republican strategists pay attention, to see what they might do to tailor their message to rank more highly.

Other voters begin thinking about casting their first votes for who they like the most and not the lesser of two evils. Small parties begin campaigning as if they might actually win some day, stressing what they believe and what they’d do differently. Politicians give more consideration to running on a small party platform, or even as an unaffiliated independent.

For the good of the community, you should vote for the person who will best serve the interests and needs of the community. Your personal views and needs should not necessarily be the driving factor. Sure, you want your needs to be met, but meeting your needs may not be in the best interests of the community.

For example, a HS football fan might want to vote for the candidate who is a HS football fanatic and will push for a $1B luxury HS football stadium. But that may not be in the best interest of the community. Paying back the $1B will greatly increase taxes and put a financial burden on the community. For the community, it may be better to vote for the candidate who is ambivalent about football but will do a great job at delivering city services while keeping taxes low.

If incompetent candidates can get elected without any drop in enthusiasm, compared to the competent, it’s not worth the time investment of the competent for them to compete.

It’s the same as communism. If you get paid whether you work hard or not, why work?

In my opinion using the excuse “The candidates from both parties are equally bad, so I am going to vote for somebody who doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning” is either lazy thinking, lying to yourself, or both. I can count on the fingers of one foot the number of times the top two candidates were equally bad (or good).

Oh, and a special “F you sideways with a kayak paddle” for anyone who votes for the opposing candidate on purpose just to spite their own party’s candidate when that person doesn’t fulfill their every need.

I always figure, whatever it means to you, vote for the person you want to hold the office, with the caveat that it should be one of the people that’s likely to actually win the race. Often times you’ll hear people saying how much they don’t like either candidate (which usually means they don’t like theirs and they’re almost certainly not going to vote for yours) so they vote 3rd party instead.
When Trump was running the first time a very, very Right acquaintance didn’t want Trump in office so he announced his plan to vote libertarian (Gary Johnson, IIRC). His wife promptly jumped in and said something to the effect of “You know as well as anyone, this is a two party country. Johnson isn’t going to win and a vote for him is a vote for Hillary. If you don’t want Hillary to win, you need to vote for Trump”.

Made sense. If every Democrat that wasn’t really gung-ho for Biden voted for [looks up who else was running] Howard Hawkins, it could have led to a Trump win.

But, likewise, if everyone just votes for the party candidates then you get Donald Trump vs. Michael Moore, representing the Republican and Democratic parties, and a Mitt Romney/Steve Bullock pairing as President / VP candidates from the “Let’s not be stupid” party, and no one votes for Romney.

Hard rules are usually dumb. Devoid of context, sure you might be able to make some rough recommendations but you really just need to look at the reality on the ground and be practical.

Thinking that everyone else is going to be dumb and assuming that you can’t change anyone away from the course of being dumb is how you end up game theorizing yourself into everyone being dumb together. At some point, you need to put your foot down and tell your friends that they’ve got to do the same. It can’t just all be a downward spiral with no bottom.

In a close primary race (especially if the opposition in the general election is revolting) it may make sense to vote for a reasonable but imperfect candidate who has a real chance in the general, as opposed to a sexier candidate with controversial views who’s liable to get trounced in November.

Only once have I ever voted in the general election for the opposition over my party’s candidate for nationwide office. He was a terrible candidate, way behind in the polls, and I figured if he lost by a record margin it might help send a signal to the party to back someone next time who wasn’t such a loser.

Voting for someone based on racial stereotypes or because you think they break racial stereotypes is a bad idea.

For the President, you might have an argument. But there’s a lot more positions on the ballot than just the POTUS.

No one person in government is a dictator. At all levels - (in fact, even including the President) - accomplishing any one thing usually requires the buy-in of dozens or hundreds of people. And, in general, you work your way up the ladder from the bottom. And at the bottom, there’s really no reason to not flunk a race with two duds.

Imagine, for example, that a company decided to only hire the worst candidates for their entry level jobs - they’d actively recruit against anyone who seemed competent. And then assume that they’re almost entirely going to promote from within. Following that process is almost guaranteed to land you in a position where you’re dooming that enterprise to have incompetent leadership because there’s no non-horrible options.

Flunking out entry-level candidates is a good thing. Yeah, in a race with two lunatics, one of the two of them is going to get the job - there’s no helping that. But, again, by making sure that the number of votes reflects that deficiency, you signal a job opening to replace them during the next cycle. They don’t get to go on to the next level and they don’t, eventually, become President.

And if they do make it to the next level, you’re still talking local politics or serving in the House or some other powerless role. You have a lot of chances to flunk the candidate out, before they get into a position where you have to choose between your devils. Blocking them from climbing the ladder is how you keep from getting into a position where you’re damned no matter what you do.

In extreme situations, strategic voting might be reasonable. But under most circumstances - where the person isn’t really in a giant position of power and where they’re mitigated by the difficulty of building a coalition - it’s really better to just be honest and not play any games. If the options are crap, signal that they’re crap.

In the primaries in 2016 and 2020, I voted for who I wanted to see win the Presidency. In '16 that was Sanders; in '20 that was Warren. In my state, Sanders was still a (longshot) contender by the time the primary rolled around in '16. In '20, Warren was all but mathematically eliminated before we got to Virginia, but I wasn’t gung-ho about Sanders anymore; I think he can do better where he is, and I felt I shared very little in common with Biden. (I still feel that way.)

But in the generals, I voted for Hillary and for Joe Biden, because they’re a damn sight better than that madman insurrectionist.

In my youth, I was surprised to find that some voters voted for they guy they thought would win, not the one they agreed with on politics.

And is spread by Russian bots.

Yes, sometimes.

Never mind.

Winning by association is sometimes the only winning some people can accomplish.

If voting for a highly local office, like a ward commissioner, one vote has a low but realistic chance of being the difference. So if you feel you really know how the primary results would play out, vote strategically.

The bigger the jurisdiction, the less chance of one vote being the difference, and thus the more reason to vote your heart.