The Right to Throw Your Vote Away


I am enfranchised and therefore it is my right to dispose of my vote as I see fit. So I threw it away on Al Pacino for the sole reason that he is not a candidate for President.

Similar to Groucho Marx who famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have people like me as a member,” I am loathe to vote for any candidate who actually wants to be President. By virtue of the fact that an individual wants this power, I cannot trust him to exercise it.

The massive Rube Goldberg Device of the American administrative/enforcement state cannot be made to heel; no mere mortal possesses the sheer tyranny of will to tame it. For a candidate to believe he can is a delusion of grandeur, or malicious intent. The presidency was not designed to be this important and powerful, and only egomania can compel a person to want the job.

It is not a mystery why Donald Trump ran in 2016: egomania and the boredom afforded a billionaire. Joe Biden’s reasons for running are tautological: he has held federal offices for forty-something years. But at this point in his life he should want to relax, spend time with his family, and watch oranges spoil.

Cranks such as I are often told that a vote for a third-party candidate is actually a vote for whichever major-party candidate lost. Third-party votes are also often construed as protest votes against the two-party system. We vote for candidates, not against them; there is no “none of the above” bubble to fill in. If you wish to exercise your right (it’s yours, after all, and you can do with it as you see fit), but do not cotton to anyone listed on the ballot, then you must write someone in. I consider my vote for someone who is not running a real vote for limited government.

Qualities I look for in a national public leader regarding the ability and desire to serve range from self-deprecation and -doubt, to outright refusal. President George Washington and Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman are my crew.

Washington said:

“… movements to the chair of government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution;”

“While I realize the arduous nature of the task which is conferred on me and feel my inability to perform it, I wish there may not be reason for regretting the choice. All I can promise is only that which can be accomplished by an honest zeal;”

“About ten o’clock, I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity and, with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York…with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.”

When Sherman’s name was bandied about in 1871, and then 1884, he said, “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.”

I do not believe the finger-wagging scold “if you don’t vote you can’t complain” (complaining is what separates us from the animals in the field, even if the complaint is Seinfeldian petty and/or an individual is lamenting a scenario he has created for himself), but it is preferable to vote for someone who has no chance to win than to not participate at all. Better to deliberately lose the game than take your ball and go home.

Pacino, as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II, said to Senator Pat Geary, “Senator, we’re both part of the same hypocrisy, but never think it applies to my family.” The context of the scene is that both characters acknowledge they take part in a masquerade to gain the money and power both crave. Both must sully their hands by shaking them with each other, and principles become corroded when one degrades one’s self.

We voters must recognize that the poor characters of the two viable candidates and the system imposed and reinforced by their parties and corporate media have made modern elections a farce. My vote for Al Pacino is my participation in said farce; if I am to be expected to participate in a farce, then I should also be expected to contribute to its absurdity. If this sham finally collapses maybe we can vote for honorable candidates in respectable elections.

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Dillon Eliassen is a former Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College. He is the author of The Apathetic, available at He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.