I drank the "We'll show them!" kool aid in 1992
I'm one of those Republicans who threw away my vote in 1992, because I believed Bush 41 was betraying the Reagan Revolution.
In the current election, we see some comments on this site about voting third party or staying home, to express dissatisfaction with the Republicans' obviously less than stellar performance. Yesterday skymuse posted a blog on the damage done by this kind of attitude resulting in Clinton's 1992 election. I look at a different angle, arguing that even if you believe letting Clinton win in 1992 was appropriate given G.H.W. Bush's capitulations to the Democrats, that kind of reasoning can't justify letting the Democrats win in this election.
Read on ...
There are some morally deluded "protest voters" who think that who wins the election is less important than making a "statement" with their vote. Even in a close election where they believe a victory for the Democratic candidate would be worse for America's well being than electing the substandard Republican, their narcissistic indulgence in getting back at the Republican "traitors" is more important than what's best for our country. That kind of protest voter is too infantile to bother trying to reason with.
A more plausible case can be made for letting the Democrats win, even if you think Republicans would govern somewhat better, if you believe a Republican defeat now will improve our prospects in future elections and/or influence the Republicans to do a better job of governing in the future. In this scenario, you think electing the Democrats now is better for the country in the long run, even if worse in the short run. However if you honestly believe that a Democratic victory now is what's best for the country, your patriotic duty is to vote for a Democrat (if the election is close); throwing away your vote is still an infantile tantrum.
That second protest scenario was my position in 1992. I believed a Bush victory (with Democratic control of Congress as a given) would continue the dismantling of the Reagan Revolution within the Republican party. Along with other complaints, my biggest objections were his capitulation on taxes, and signing the disparate impact "civil rights" bill that created a strong incentive for racial quotas in hiring (along with a legal requirement to call them something other than quotas). I also knew that sooner or later a Democrat would be President, and with all his flaws Clinton was better than anyone else they'd likely nominate - better Clinton in 1992 than a worse lunatic a few years later. (On that count I was right. Would you prefer a President Gore or President Kerry to President Clinton?)
I would have voted for Clinton if the election looked close; since it wasn't close in my state, I indulged in a statement, voting for some Libertarian who's name I don't even remember. I did the same in 1996, because I thought electing the Senator from Archer-Daniels-Midland would entrench the corporate breaks "managed economy" dominance in the Republican party, against the free market advocates. During that period (and since) I voted Republican in almost all other races, federal and local.
Since then I've doubted my choice. On the plus side, Clinton's 1992 victory led to the Republicans taking both houses of Congress in 1994. Maybe the Republicans would have taken Congress eventually, but not in 1992 if there had been a Republican President to blame for whatever was going wrong in the country. Against that we have to weigh the damage done by Clinton where Bush 41 would have made better decisions, as ably described by skymuse.
Even if you think I was right to help Clinton win in 1992, that kind of case can't be made now. Here are some key differences:
We weren't in the middle of a war in 1992 (or at least didn't realize it). A 2006 Democratic victory in one or both houses drastically increases the odds Iraq will become a safe haven for terrorists, and will strengthen them around the world. Even if you think a defeat will be good for the Republican party, winning the war first is a more urgent priority than improving the GOP. Even with a Republican majority, every seat that strengthens the Democratic minority makes the war harder and slower to win, costing more American lives (and Iraqi lives and others).
The 1992 Clinton victory improved Republican prospects in the 1994 election, but a Democratic victory in 2006 will improve Democratic prospects in the 2008 election. When Bush 41 was President with Democrats running the Congress, the congressional Democrats ran wild without regard to the damage they did to the country, because they correctly believed swing voters would generally blame the President for whatever went wrong. After Clinton got elected, Democrats had complete control, so in 1994 there was no doubt who to blame for the mess. If however Democrats win in 2006, we would again have the situation Bush 41 faced - Democrats again run wild in Congress, and the mess they create will largely be blamed on the current President Bush. Swing voters will be even more dissatisfied with Republicans, making it easier for Democrats to win both the Congressional and Presidential elections in 2008.
So the bottom line if you live in a district/state where the election is close, you owe it to your country to help elect whichever candidate you think will be best for the country. If you really think a Democratic victory would be good for America, why would you sell out your country for the personal gratification of voting for some third party asterisk, instead of voting Democratic to help America? If on the other (more likely) hand your Republican candidate doesn't measure up to your standards, but you still think America would be better off with him/her in office than the even worse Democrat, voting third-party or staying home would be narcissistic self-indulgence at the expense of our country.