“I’m voting for Biden in the primary,” she said, “and in the election I’ll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination.”

I’ve been hearing variations on this statement for a few weeks now, and every time I hear it, I get immensely depressed. Not only are people like this the reason that the Democratic party is falling apart, but they’re also the reason this country is falling apart. Their failure to have a spine is why people like George Bush are in office. And it saddens me, because I hear this statement from passionate, intelligent people who really ought to know better.

I believe that voting your conscience is very important, and I hope that I can persuade you to agree. Because if I can persuade you, maybe you can persuade someone else, and maybe we will see some real change at the polls this year. I know that all of you may not feel as passionately about politics as I do, and that’s fine, but surely you can see that politics can be used as a tool for change, and that if you’re going to complain about the way that things are done in this country, you need to be part of a movement for change.

There are a number of reasons why I think that voting in line with your personal beliefs is vitally important. To begin with, I think that it is very important to preserve your self integrity by any means possible, and it’s kind of hard to do that when you capitulate to what is, essentially, blackmail. A large part of the left wants you to think that something terrible will happen if you vote for a third party candidate, and the Democratic party’s entire platform is based on “well, at least we’re not Republicans.” I’m tired of that argument. I think it’s bullshit, and so should you. Don’t let people tell you that “we need to compromise” at the polls; we need to speak at the polls.

I also think that it weakens the Democratic party, which is a point that Brendan made the other night in a discussion we were having. If the Democrats routinely lose elections because the left votes for better liberal candidates, they might learn that their weak candidates aren’t working. They might realize that they need to mount candidates with integrity and strong personal beliefs, rather than people who blow with the wind.

Because, right now, the Democratic party believes in and does what is politically convenient. Is anyone surprised that a lot of Americans turn to the Republicans, who at least pick a party line and stick with it? I might not agree with them, but many Republicans and members of the radical right have at least figured out that voters respond to honesty, to plain talking, to clarity. The Democratic party seems rather weak by comparison, and it is weak. The two front running candidates are not really in line with my values, and I’ll bet they’re not in line with yours. Both of them, for Pete’s sake, have “not ruled out” the option of dropping a nuclear device on Iran. Do you want to vote for someone who is ok with dropping nuclear weapons?

“But they wouldn’t really do that,” people say, “they’re just catering to the hardliners,” and I say I don’t want to vote for someone who lies for convenience, who twists his or her political beliefs to appeal to people. Because then I don’t know what to believe and not to believe. I want to vote for a candidate who gives it to me straight, who doesn’t pander to win an election, and you should be appalled for thinking that failing to stand up for your beliefs to win an election is acceptable.

“But,” people say, “if you vote for a fringe candidate, the Democrats might lose! Then things will be awful!”

Well, yes. This is true. If I vote for a radical left candidate with some integrity, the Democrats might lose, and we might have another four years under a Republican administration. Perhaps even a very bad Republican administration which does a lot of damage. But I think that living in fear of this is a bad decision, because we need to think long term. I don’t vote for myself and the next four years, I vote for my country and the next 100 years. I am willing to suffer and make sacrifices now, if it means that I will see positive change in 20 years.

I am well aware that a single President can do a lot of damage. But at least a Republican candidate is upfront about schemes and plans, while the Democrats are snaky, sneaky, and far more subversive. I don’t trust the Democratic frontrunners because they don’t display any consistency, and I don’t know how they will behave if they are elected. I may not like Republicans, but at least I know what they’re going to do. To think only about yourself and the next four years is selfish, stupid, and ultimately counterproductive, because by weakening the Democratic party, you ensure that change will never come. I argue that by voting for “whoever gets the nomination” out of fear, you are basically shooting yourself in the foot.

If you’ve one of those idiots who thinks that not voting will somehow change something, please go to the polls and vote for a candidate you believe in, any candidate. Your vote does count, it is considered when political parties look at how they perform in the polls, and it is important. If you’re thinking of throwing your vote away on “whoever gets the nomination,” please consider not doing that. Please consider voting for your conscience, for future generations of Americans, even for yourself in the future. If you vote with your heart and not out of fear, we could see a sea change at the polls.