I try to keep in mind that it isn't a race or a game, it's our government. Sometimes, I imagine the reporters getting carried away with their sports metaphors and accidentally telling the truth:
The Preseason. "This year, the candidate has put together the best organization money can buy. Fortunately, he doesn't have a salary cap like certain sports."
The Game: "Here's a replay of the challenger taking a hand-off from his powerful business backer. And here's that wonderful replay of the incumbent avoiding tackling tough issues by performing an endaround."
The Postseason: "It's only winners down there on the field now, Al. About the only losers in this game are the spectators."
We can't do too much about the agenda-setting influence of the ad driven media, although I wouldn't mind seeing a law or a libel test suit against the public media when they don't mention all the candidates in a race. But the media doesn't yet control the ballot. There are going to be a lot of alternatives presented. Real choices with individual ideas. Independent voices who aren't mouthing the party line we've heard ad nauseum.
Vote for them.
Don't listen to the same media that hides alternatives and then, when a new idea finally presents itself, they say, "Don't waste your vote."
What is a wasted vote? Because the media has already set the stage as a horse race or football contest with all the subliminal connotations of gambling, then they're suggesting you need to go with a winner. It may not even be a conscious choice on their part. Advertisers are so focused on popularity, on "the number one choice of consumers," that they may not realize government doesn't work that way.
You don't win anything for voting for the winner. In fact, you often lose big time because he (or occasionally she) will brag about his or her landslide, that the election was a referendum and that anything s/he/it says should become the law of the land.
There are only two ways to really waste a vote. One of them is not voting at all, or not even registering. Some people think not registering gets them out of "having" to perform jury duty, but courts are getting desperate and tricky these days. Others say not voting shows their disgust with the whole system. I don't think it does. After all, we're talking about a silent act being interpreted by politicos and high-paid media moguls. Don't expect them to get it right. Yet to my logical mind, that isn't really a waste of a vote so much as it is a waste of a chance to vote.
The only way to waste a vote is to vote for someone you don't like, but are voting for, because you think they're going to win and that some of that good luck or professional charisma or lobbyist dollars will rub off on you. Don't hold your breath and don't waste your vote on the same old, same old. Vote Green. Vote Libertarian. Vote for a change.