One of my favorite slogans this election season is “don’t boo, vote.” The president uses the line when his supporters start booing Mitt Romney, and it’s an effective way of noting that you ought to express your frustration by voting (even a spoiled ballot is more of a message than not voting, right?) The slogan would work just as well for Mitt Romney or any other candidate running. Don’t boo Barack Obama, vote against him.
On Friday, though, Obama took the slogan a step further, ad libbing that “voting is the best revenge.” Revenge? For what? A day later Romney had seized on the divisive remark and the Obama campaign’s press secretary tried to clarify what exactly Obama meant by revenge: “[I]f you don’t like the policies, if you don’t like the plan that Gov. Romney is putting forward, if you think that’s a bad deal for the middle class, then you can go to the voting booth and cast your ballot. It’s nothing more complicated than that,” said Jen Psaki.
But how does that fit into revenge? Dictionary.com defines the noun form of revenge as “the act of revenging; retaliation for injuries or wrongs; vengeance” and the verb form as “to exact punishment or expiation for a wrong on behalf of, especially in a resentful or vindictive spirit.” It’s hard to imagine what wrong Mitt Romney may have exacted on a potential voter. Bashing the president? Seems like weak tea.
Instead, treating voting like revenge reads, on its face, like a call to vote for Mitt Romney. After all, of all the candidates on the ballot tomorrow, Barack Obama is the only one in a position of leadership on whom the present economic or political policy conditions could be blamed. Many people upset with Obama, I imagine, are voting for Romney. But they’re also, presumably, voting for candidates like Gary Johnson or even Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson or Virgil Goode. And presumably, at least some of those third party voters might be persuaded to vote for Romney, especially, perhaps, if you framed it as a matter of “revenge.” Romney is by far the most likely candidate to defeat the president tomorrow, and so it stands to reason if you were trying to exact revenge at the ballot box for the failed policies of this president, you’d vote for Romney. The Romney campaign, of course, has latched on to the president’s “revenge” comments, using them on the campaign trail and in ads. Romney says you should “vote for love of country.” But perhaps he should’ve pointed out, too, that if you do actually want to vote for revenge, you could vote for him.