When I was a kid, I knew a lot of people who were Chicago Bulls fans. I don’t mean people who rooted for the Bulls when the Bulls were on, or who simply wished for the Bulls to do well. I mean people who wore Chicago Bulls hats, Chicago Bulls Starter jackets—people who, if you happened to ask them, would’ve told you the Bulls were their favorite basketball team.
None of this would have seemed strange if I’d grown up anywhere near Chicago. I didn’t. I grew up in North Jersey.
But I also grew up in the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era—thus explaining the Bulls and their widespread fandom.
Throughout my life, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve noticed variations of this phenomenon. Most people like to root for their local sports teams, regardless of how good or bad those sports teams are, because it makes them feel like they’re a part of something. But every now and then, you’ll run into that geographical anomaly like the occasional Dallas Cowboys fan living outside Philly.
“Oh, really?” I’ll ask them. “You root for the Cowboys? Where do you come from, Dallas?”
“No, I’m from here.”
“But I guess you’ve been to Dallas?”
“Never in my life. But listen to me, man—five Super Bowl rings!”
My favorite is the people who are somehow, against all geographical odds whatsoever, magically fans of both the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Steelers. The winningest teams in their respective sports, a seven-hour drive away from each other—and somehow, you “grew up rooting” for both of them?
I don’t begrudge these people their right to root for whoever they want. It’s a free country (allegedly) and if they want to be frauds, they are free to be frauds. But let’s not mistake their fandom for anything other than what it is. These are not people who grew up in some isolated area where they didn’t have pro sports, where people simply chose whatever teams were on TV. No, these are people who only want to root for a winner, people who, for whatever reason, put winning on such an unreachable pedestal that the very idea of following a team with the occasional down season would turn them off the sport altogether.
Unfortunately, these people exist in politics, not just sports.
Later this month, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—the state where I’ve lived for the better part of a decade—will (finally) hold its presidential primary. I purposely registered as a Republican this year so I could participate in that primary and vote for Ron Paul. Even though we are now at a point where Mitt Romney’s nomination seems to be inevitable, and Ron Paul’s chances of overcoming him seem impossible, I still plan on pulling the lever for the man I have always believed in.
Some people will undoubtedly read that last sentence and think I’m either nuts or stupid. I am probably both, but I’d rather be nuts and stupid and vote for Ron Paul than do my part to condone Mitt Romney as president. And not only do I feel this way now, but I intend to feel the same way in November. If the general election comes down to Romney versus Barack Obama, and Ron Paul has chosen not to run against both of them as an independent, I will likely vote for a third-party candidate, if there’s one who comes close enough to what I believe in, or I will simply not vote at all.
You have to understand—and that’s my point here; not enough people do understand—that any time someone asks you to choose the “lesser of two evils,” not choosing either is a perfectly valid choice. I don’t like Romney. I don’t like Obama. Neither of them is any less evil to me. I can’t imagine being comfortable with either man as president and I certainly can’t imagine being comfortable taking a chance that I would be. So why would I waste my time and energy going to the voting booth to vote for a man who I don’t intend to like?
Every time I have a discussion like this one, someone inevitably calls me an idealist or accuses of me of being willing to throw my vote away. To that, I say: Good. I wish more people would throw their votes away. Maybe then this country wouldn’t be so screwy. We’re so busy going to the polls every four years believing there’s only two guys who can win at any time. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If more people went to the polls believing they should vote for who they actually believe in, maybe we’d have better choices, and the two sides of the same coin masquerading as our “parties” wouldn’t have such a stranglehold on our country.
Unlike some people, I don’t need to root for the Steelers to enjoy my football. I certainly don’t need to gain some kind of personal validation at the voting booth, voting for whoever I think is the “lesser of two evils” just because I think he can win.
I like Ron Paul for a variety of reasons. Not the least amongst those reasons is the fact that he not only claims to respect the Constitution but has a record I can generally make heads or tails of to prove it. I have no idea what Romney believes in. He changes his mind on most of his issues faster than scientists flip-flop on whether eggs are good or bad for you. And Obama? I’ve already seen what that guy’s capable of doing. I seem to remember an anti-war theme to his campaign in ’08. I’m sorry, have we stopped bombing people? Or have we actually bombed more people since he got in office?
So the next time someone tells you not to throw your vote away, just remember this: The only vote that’s thrown away is the one that you regret. If you don’t like Romney and don’t like Obama, don’t vote for either of these people.
Otherwise, when these guys are screwing everything up for us, you’ll have no one to lay the blame on but yourself.
Jonathan David Morris is the author of Versus Nurture, available now for Kindle and Nook, as well as in paperback. Send him mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.