I’m thinking about how to vote in 2016 in a way that will annoy the greatest number of people.
Usually, the most effective way to annoy the greatest number of people is by voting third party; most people have a deeply superstitious faith in the two-party system, such that voting for a third party seems to them like some kind of blasphemous perversion of democracy.
In the state of Indiana, the only third party that consistently makes it onto the ballot is the Libertarian Party. Helpfully enough, most people despise libertarianism above all, because libertarian principles imply that excessive government control over society is stupid and ineffective, if not evil; and most people want to maximize the power of government to oppress and silence the people they hate.
However, the rhetoric of libertarianism has been pretty much taken over by Ayn Rand worshippers in the last few years. I had some sympathies with the people who made up Tea Party gatherings, but in general they were farcical. They tended to indulge in collectivist fantasies about the oppression of the middle class, which supposedly needed to organize street rallies in order to demand special consideration from the federal government. Then, when people laughed at them, they threatened to hold their collective breath until they turned blue, which they romantically called “going John Galt.” Their most significant actual achievement was inspiring Republican politicians to organize them as a voting bloc in order to dislodge some ossified incumbents.
I would rather have people vote according to either their material interests or their ideal principles, than according to some pragmatic calculation about “who can win” or “who will win.” A pragmatic calculation assigns a magical power of manipulation or divination to the individual voter, obscuring the fact that a vote in a mass election is nothing more than an expression of personal commitments. Each individual vote literally makes no difference to the final result; they only matter en masse. So, unless someone has awesome voodoo allowing them to manipulate millions of other people’s votes by pushing a little button in the voting booth, the average voter has to choose whether to believe that they are a skillful political operator who can multiply their influence by enough acquaintances to swing the election, or they have to figure out how to go along with the rest of the herd.
It is difficult to manipulate large numbers of voters in a geographically and culturally diverse nation, which is why parties and politicians have to use special strategies. Parties have to divide up the voters like cattle and drive them into little pens based on fake, irrelevant abstractions and wedge issues. Then they can massage smaller, more manageable groups into cohesive voting blocs by persuading them that the party is “in their pocket” and will always vote their interests, despite the absurdity of making the same cynical pitch to competing interest groups. Then, once each social group is in its little pen and focusing on the candidate, the voters have to be lulled into feeling warm, safe, and happy. One way is to use a lot of irrational symbols and slogans to make people feel complacent whenever listening to or watching the candidate; another way is to use the candidate’s clothing, height, voice, gestures, or hairstyle to communicate authority and decisiveness.
In the current election campaign, I think that Bernie Sanders is interesting only because he is articulating the suppressed desires of progressive liberals. For seven years Democrats have been whining about how Republicans have unfairly characterized Obama as a socialist; so, apparently, some Democrats are now trying to prove their point by nominating a self-identified democratic socialist.
Sanders has as much chance of being nominated as Ron Paul did: that is, no chance at all. Why would a party nominate a candidate who explicitly demonstrates the hollowness of its official rhetoric, not to mention the cupidity and hypocrisy of most of its members? In the same way Ron Paul was despised by “the party of small government,” Sanders will be pushed aside by “the party of the common people,” and his devoted followers will move on to more radical politicians in the next election cycle.
Donald Trump is interesting because he has taken advantage of some disaffected former conservatives and some gullible mass media figures in order to generate the perception that he is The Great and Powerful Oz. Like Hillary Clinton, he is absolutely unreliable and will say whatever he thinks people need to hear at the moment in order to make him appear larger than he is. Trump doesn’t challenge Republican ideology because he doesn’t care about ideology at all. I think most of his supporters are wowed by his huge public image; or they are fixated on one of his clever remarks that they mistake for a policy statement; or they are just gleefully watching him troll everyone from the mass media to progressive activists to duplicitous “establishment” Republicans.
Trump is image-oriented, not principled: He presents an updated Archie Bunker, a postmodern characterization of pre-1960s secular American culture, when loyalty to God and Country were taken for granted without having to “explain” anything by using big words or by making excuses for personal prejudices. In this way, he appeals to people whose real-life interests don’t fit neatly into the artificial little compartments created by political elites.
Hillary Clinton is a politician’s politician, someone who must win because it isn’t possible for her to exist without political validation, so she tacks whichever way she needs to in order to get it. Because of her tenacity, she is the obvious choice for anyone who is afraid of betting against the house, anyone who is otherwise powerless yet always calculating how to pick the next winner.
Ted Cruz is like the anti-Hillary, because he is equal and opposite to her. Rather than deftly managing his social networks, he is a technical politician, as evidenced by his superb political tactics and rhetoric. If he were on Survivor, he would be allowed to go to the end because the other people figured they would look better next to him, since no one actually liked him; but if he won anyway, it would be because the jury grudgingly acknowledged the effectiveness of his manipulations.
So, in the Indiana primary I am voting for Ted Cruz out of respect for his well-crafted ideology and his skillful gamesmanship, even though he cannot possibly win Indiana, the party nomination, or the general election. He is not flexible enough to scoop up a majority of Republicans, much less a broad base of voters nationwide. Based on the current polls, saying that I am voting this way in the primary will guarantee disturbing the peace of the maximum number of other voters.