Many of us have been watching the gears of election 2016 turn for the past year or so. The xenophobic shenanigans of Donald Trump and controversies of Hillary Clinton have dominated news and election politics, and to many (41% of all Americans, according to a recent poll by Pew Research) the upcoming election feels like voting for your next sexually-transmitted infection. But there are some third-party candidates out there vying for your votes, and hope is not lost for a large population of Americans who aren’t satisfied with the two major candidates, right?
I don’t claim to be an expert on American politics, and at the age of 26 I am both proud and ashamed to admit that this is my first year ever voting. As this will be the first presidential election in which I will exercise my civil right to vote, I have been considering our options very seriously. I want to feel like my vote is important, but I count myself among those disenchanted by our options. I have found myself reading information about alternatives to Trump and Clinton, and frankly, none of them appeal to me greatly, either. However, I’m not writing this to tell others who to vote for, but to help others think critically and rationally about how they choose to vote.
It seems that the general feeling of the population is that write-in votes or votes for third-party candidates are wasted votes, because it’s well-known that the Democratic and Republican nominees soak up the majority of all votes – why vote for someone who realistically isn’t even competitive in the race for the White House? Likewise, should voters vote for a major party nominee whom they dislike but feel is a lesser evil to the alternative? Those voters who are completely disenchanted by those candidates, should they even bother voting if they plan to vote for a third-party candidate? These are questions I have been struggling with, and I don’t have solid answers. But here are my thoughts, and the answers all depend on what individual voters want for the future of our country.
Should I vote for a major candidate whom I dislike but feel is the lesser evil? Which of the major candidates one feels would be the overall best option depends greatly on ones values and how one prioritizes those values, and I understand that for some it can be a very difficult choice given our options. As much as I would like to vote for a third party or write-in Bernie, I cannot realistically expect enough of the population to do the same.
Unfortunately, voting and thinking in this way is what perpetuates the trend of bipartisanship, and one can only hope that more moderate candidates from the major parties will present themselves by the next election cycle. Yet, struggle as one might with the decision, perhaps it is most sensible to vote for the lesser evil in order to feel that a vote is not a wasted vote.
Should I vote for a third-party?
One may be so disgusted with the major candidates, that it is simply easier and weighs less on one’s conscience to vote for a third-party candidate, even if the odds of that candidate making it into office are slim to none. As rational as voting for the lesser of two evils is, if every voter voted their conscience and not on party lines, I believe that third-party candidates would have much better odds at winning an election. Unfortunately, right now, it would take an enormous public relations effort from a third party or independent candidate to squeeze their way into the public mind, especially when so many voters seem to identify so strongly with their respective political parties. I dare say that it seems like it is too late in the election to see any additional options become visible enough to garner a significant portion of the votes.
It’s hopeless. Should I even bother voting? Trump and Clinton have disgusted so many so much, and none of the third-party candidates are terribly convincing either. One must consider what they personally want for America in the next 5 years, 10 years or 50 years. Will not voting at all get one any closer to seeing the America that they want to see? Absolutely not. Even if every option seems terrible, the voter must consider which candidate will be most likely to inch America closer to the ideal that the voter holds in his heart, and vote for that candidate.
These are just some questions that I have been considering while struggling with what to expect in the future of our country and the world, and my answers and opinions are mine and not intended to convince but rather to encourage critical thinking.
In this election, it is my feeling that voting for a third party may be as good as not voting at all. Personally, I am not at all happy with either of the major parties’ nominees, but realistically, it is likely going to be Trump or Clinton who gets to live in the White House next. One may be completely and vehemently against Trump or Clinton, but take the time to not only rationally examine what each candidate brings to the table, but to consider the possible, probable and preferable futures that world and domestic events present in conjunction with the futures that the nominees may present. Some conclusions that one draws may be surprising. Consider our options and the future deeply, and please vote!