From any reasonable perspective, modern politics leaves much to be desired for those, such as myself, who favor pragmatism over idealogy. When it comes to political activist a myriad of choices are presented, each with their own set of problems and compromises. While participating in protests, using social media to raise awareness of social injustice, letter writing campaigns, petitions, and so on are all legitimate means of political activism, there is really only one way in a democratic society to achieve real social change, namely voting.
But then the question becomes, which candidate should one vote for? Should one even vote for any candidate? In the upcoming Presidential election, voters will have the option to choose between Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama. However, I think it's worth comparing the differnt optionns and considering the pragmatic value of each compared to voting for either mainstream candidates.
Option 1: Not voting
A totally non-pragmatic option as there is no chance of affecting social change by not voting. By staying home and not voting as a means of protest, all one will accomplish is to make oneself totally irrelevant to the political process.
Option 2: Voting third party or supporting a candidate doing a write in campaign.
This has pragmatic merit and therefore worth considering, due to the fact that having a viable third party has a shot at breaking through the dysfunctional mess that is modern politics. True, the chances of the candidate winning the election may be slim, but the fact is that every political party has to get it's start somewhere, but if a political party or politician gets enough votes, it may garner them enough attention to allow them win the proceeding election or at least get airtime on future debates.
Option 3: Abstaining but still casting a ballot or by writing in your favorite cartoon character.
Different from Option 1 in the sense that it requires the political activist to actually go to polling station and make aproximately the same effort as any other voter. While in the short term you will not be affecting the immediate election, the advantage comes from the message it sends to whoever wins. Consider how much more seriously an elected politician will take constituents concerns if their main compitition was from Mickey Mouse.
Granted this applies less when the politician who wins becomes a second term President, but I think it's worth considering, even if the chances of this having the desired affect are slightly less than number 2.
Also, I would like to point out that I have done this myself in one local election, when the candidate in question was running unapposed and had taken on positions that I found untenable.
Option 4: Voting For Either Democrate or Republican
For the pragmatic political activist, there is no longer any reason to consider voting for Republican candidates at the national level. I can't comment on local or state politicans too much (particularly as there is one local Republcan candidate currently holding office that I like) but when it comes to the GOP, idealogy now trumps any and all reason. What makes the situation worse is that the GOP's idealogy is horrifically inconsistent due to the crossing of Ayn Rands' Libertarianism (Screw the poor! Big Business Rocks!) while picking and choosing bits and pieces of Old Testament Law (Death to the Homosexual!) to shove down citizens' throats. "Uttely nonsensical" is a phrase unable to come anywhere near summing up my feelings for the current GOP.
From a pragmatice perspective when it comes to Romeney and Obama, there is no contest. Based upon everything I have read about Romeny's economic policies and positions, I see no reason to believe that that they will do anything besides benefit the rich while screwing over the middle and working classes. Toss in Romney's laughing off the fact that he once assaulted a fellow student who demonstrated non-conforming behavior and combined with his waffling/etch-a-sketching on every issue, and there is nothing to indicate that Romney has any leadership qualities worth mentioning.
Yes, I have very serious concerns about the positions and prioritites that many Democratic politicians, paticularly Obama have taken, as well as some of the legislation that they have supported and passed.
I get why many people are fed up with the democrates. To me, modern politics often feels like the following scenario.
You've just been in a serious car wreck, are experiencing severe arterial bleeding, your arms are bent at angles you didn't know were possible, and you can't move or feel anything below your waist. Along come the Democrates and offer you only a single band-aid and maybe spread a little salt in the wounds "to prevent infection". When the Republicans show up, they simply offer a length of rope tied into a noose, "to make the pain go away quicker".
At the same time, liberal political pundits stand around the smoking hulk that was once your car, hyping the undervalued healing properties of salt when combined with band-aids. All the while, conservative commentators argue that the rope in question is too expensive and because all of the money spent by the government on the noose, the salt, and the band-aids has now all been added to the national debt, we can soon be expecting the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Furthermore, the conservatives argue, the EPA really sucks because of how much envirnmental regulations will cost to remove and properly dispose of your car.
As you start to draw your final breaths, the liberals jump back in argueing that the EPA is good damnit (how dare the conservatives suggest otherwise) becuase of how much it will be helping to save all the species that are now endangered by the toxic fumes your burning vehicle is giving off.
Getting back the issue at hand, as a pragmatist, I believe in choosing the options before me, not in giving in to idealogy. That means even if I disagree with the President's stance in favor of LGB assimilation via marriage, I will still consider voting for him over the guy who assaulted a fellow student for demonstrating effeminate behavior.
To me, the choice a pragmatic activist has comes down to voting for a third party or write in candidate vs. voting for Obama. Those options are legitimate means of creating political change, while voting for Romney in the presidential election means chossing the worst of all the possible options. The worst option is not voting at all, which means giving up all chance of achieving political change and social justice.