I will let you know my vote and my reasoning before the NH Primaries. At the moment, there is some review. I regret several of my votes in previous primaries. Arthur Blessitt was perhaps the worst. I was brand-new Jesus people at that point, living in community with five (or seven, depending on the day) other young men. I went into full conspiracy mode at how the system was rigged against Christians in that primary, as the results from my precinct showed only 12 votes for Blessitt, and we knew we could identify at least 15 by name! It seems more like a chapter in a book I read than reality at this point. That I was thoroughly devoted to CS Lewis, had a fiancee who was in a less-crazy Catholic charismatic prayer group, and both of us together attracted moderately sane friends helped me pull free from the quicksand.
I don't remember all of them. I think I voted for Gore in the 1988 Democratic primary, when I still clung to the idea of conservative Democrats, and he had not yet discovered global warming. (That was what we called it in those days, children.) I had voted for Reagan in 1984, largely because of abortion views of Democrats, but still felt he was reckless and all this free-market stuff was going to blow up in our faces. Yet I had been underground in politics since about 1972, first because of the William and Mary bubble, then because of focusing largely on religious issues, not politics and not really paying that much attention.
In 1992 Buchanan launched a counter-Bush campaign that did very well in NH. Even then, I didn't see that Pat was necessarily all that popular, even here in a state very sympathetic to his isolationist, anti-Washington stance. People voted for him because they wanted to send a message to President Bush, not so much because of the war, but because of taxes. So how'd that work out? It encouraged Perot and we got Clinton. This lesson has stayed with me. Sending a message is a loser's game. The message is never heard - how could it be, really? If they read there is negative feeling in the party, they all interpret that wrongly. It only weakens your eventual candidate and your party. The only valid "message" to send is "I think this other person would be a better president than you."
Yet I have wavered on this in every election since. I have settled uneasily into this stance: If you must use your vote to send a message, confine that to the primary, and do not just sit home and pout in the general. There is no "message" in that except - hey, now you've got Obama for eight years you stupid son-of-a-bitch. Aren't you proud of your sacred vote that you wouldn't sully with contact with McCain or Romney?
Your right to vote is sacred. Your actual vote is just a cheap, tentative 51-49 affair. We don't think of it that way, for a reason similar to my recent "Voting As Participation" post. We want to feel we are associated with a noble cause. That never happens. Keeping an even worse SOB (or DOB) out of office is usually the best you can manage. And that's fine! You deserve a warm feeling for keeping them out of the White House. Other countries fail at this repeatedly. This has what has propelled the republic forward pretty consistently since Washington's second election.
My wife is taking the stance that she will vote in the Democratic primary in hopes of securing a good candidate in both parties. I won't tell you who she is considering, but they are all second-tier. I think that is reasonable and respectable. I may still go that way myself. I don't mind saying if I go that route I will be looking at Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, who are not evil, even if they are badly wrong. But I will not be trying to send a message to anyone in either party.