"If either Hillary or Donald are elected, it will be bad for America. A vote for either is a wasted vote." - Ryan Moran
I remember the day of the 1996 election, because my parents got into a big fight at the dinner table.
We were eating spaghetti, and my mom sat down at one end of the table. Immediately upon putting her fork into her food, she posed a question to my dad.
“So… who did you vote for?”
That was a dangerous question. I’ve since learned that that question can ruin friendships, drive people apart, and can cause reasonable people to become belligerent.
My dad moved the food in his mouth into his cheek so that he could reply. He thought it was a simple questions, so he gave a simple answer.
“Perot," he said. And he moved the food back into his mouth and kept on chewing.
My mom stopped mid-chew. She put her fork down and looked up.
This was followed by a long silence. My brother and I made eye contact. This was going to get interesting.
“Why would you do something like that? All he does is pull votes away from Bob Dole.”
My dad blinked a couple of times, like he was searching for an obvious answer. “Because I liked Perot better,” he said, almost in the form of a question.
What happened next was your typical political argument. My mom accused him of being foolish and short sighted, and my dad defensively argued that he just did what he thought was best.
My parents separated the following year.
In 2000, I found the Reform Party and its nominee, Pat Buchanan, interesting. When I brought him up to a church member, she said, “All he does is pull votes away from Bush.” I thought it was weird that I should consider how my first choice for president might negatively affect someone that I didn’t want to be president. Why should I care about “taking votes away” from someone that I don’t like very much?
That same year, my art teacher Mrs. Thaus told the class, “I’d love to vote for Ralph Nader, but that would be throwing my vote away.” The prettiest girl in school, Patty Sobieski, looked up across the table at me and whispered: “My parents said the same thing! If everyone who said ‘I wish I could vote for him’ would actually vote for him, I bet he’d have a chance.”
I didn’t know who Nader was, but I had a crush on Patty, so I smiled and agreed.
The election of 2008 was my first opportunity to vote, and I voted for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. At Thanksgiving, I confessed this to my Uncle Tom. He teased me. “Ahhhh, so you threw your vote away, huh?” He was right - I do regret that vote. I should have voted for Bob Barr instead.
I liked Obama over McCain. I liked Romney over Obama. And I liked Trump at first, until I didn’t.
I’ve run the gamut of political parties, and I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans, as well as other parties, because I have bizarre political beliefs. I don’t fall into any box.
Some of my bizarre political beliefs include the following:
I think that individuals should make their own decisions, including what is best for their bodies and how they spend their money, even if it’s not good for them.
I think people should have a right to practice religion and marry whoever they want, even if it isn’t popular, as long as they do not hurt someone else.
I think it’s a bad idea to consider the government as the first choice for solving our problems. Why would I want to turn a solution over to a politician that I don’t really trust?
I think we should take care of people less fortunate than us, but the government does it terribly. In fact, I have argued publicly that government is to blame for income inequality.
I think war is almost always a bad idea in a modern society.
These are obviously strange and weird beliefs if you listen to the media.
However, when I have reasonable discussions with people, I find that most Americans agree with these positions, while almost zero politicians do. Since the age of 18, these views have largely been unrepresented in presidential elections, and it has become clear to me that the majority of Americans have been largely unrepresented, too.
Democrats seem have it right when it comes to civil rights and caring about the poor, but they get it wrong on policy proposals. For example, I respect the desire to make health care affordable, but the Affordable Care Act is the the most disastrous law that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Republicans seem to have it right when it comes to taxes, but then they spend money on starting war.
As a result of my “crazy and fringe” beliefs (*eye roll*) and a general distrust in government, I have always had to look far down the list to find a candidate who agrees with me. It was always someone who didn’t have a chance.
The Constitution Party. The Reform Party. The Libertarians. Michael Bloomberg. I’ve flirted with them all, looking for anyone who might represent my beliefs.
I have always justified voting third party by arguing similarly to Patty did in middle school: “If everyone who voted their conscience, we would have a different world.” And if I believe that, then it’s my job to lead by example and vote for who I think is best.
But… I recognized that when I voted third party, my chosen candidate had no chance. I’ve always known that I was throwing my vote away.
But not this year.
This year, it matters.
This year, a vote for third party is not a wasted vote.
Not philosophically. And not literally.
In fact, voting third party in 2016 may be the most impactful vote that you can possibly cast.
Never before have the nominees of the major parties been so unpopular. If either Hillary or Trump is elected, they will almost certainly be a one term President who is deemed ineffective in the scope of history. More than 50% of the electorate has a negative view of both candidates, and a recent report outlined that only 9% of eligible voters actually voted for the two nominees.
They are doomed before they even start. They will begin day one as the most unpopular President in history.
Donald Trump did not win the Republican nomination by appealing to the majority of voters. He instead chose an election in which there were 16 other candidates, so that winning a majority was unnecessary. He then spoke to their beliefs, creating a rabid and rousing following, and he inspired them to go to the polls. It was this loud minority that drove him to victory.
Hillary Clinton is as close to an incumbent as possible, yet even she struggled to hold off a largely unknown Senator, because the Democrats are as desperate for something different as the Republicans are.
(There is, by the way, a powerful business lesson in this: stop trying to appeal to everyone. Appeal to a small number of people in a noisy marketplace by speaking to their beliefs. Let them drive you into the collective awareness. Both Trump and Sanders did this incredibly effectively.)
Support for Trump is waning. Support for Clinton never started.
If either Hillary or Donald are elected, it will be bad for America. A vote for either is a wasted vote.
Demand is strong for another option.
And demand creates its own supply.
Already, two third-party options are polling at record highs. Jill Stein is polling record numbers for the Green Party. She is being highlighted in a CNN Town Hall in August. Many Bernie Sanders supporters want to throw their votes behind her if she gets traction.
The Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, is currently in the best position to do damage. He already polls at 12% despite having almost zero funding. His trajectory looks a lot like Bernie Sanders’s humble beginnings. If Johnson crosses 15% (which he may do after appearing Presidential and highly qualified on CNN for the second time last week), then he gets into the debates. His running mate, Bill Weld, was Mitt Romney’s predecessor, and may be receiving endorsements from Romney, Jeb Bush, and perhaps even Ted Cruz. If he receives these endorsements and does well in the debates, then he is a legitimate contender. Plus, he pulls just as much Democrats as he does from the GOP.
In other words, he has a chance. If Stein picks up momentum and takes even a decent percentage of Sanders’ supports, then she too can shake up the election.
While this election may not mark the end of the two party system, it could and should radically change the way that we do politics moving forward. That requires, however, that people vote their conscience, rather than voting for the lesser of evils, whoever you consider that to be.
2016 offers a rare opportunity for unique voices to be heard, regardless of which side of the aisle your fall. It offers a unique opportunity for new proposals to get pushed into the mainstream. It offers a unique opportunity to threaten the two party monopoly.
Bernie pushed Clinton to the left. His campaign mattered. If Stein picks up steam, she could push issues into the mainstream. If Johnson’s campaign is a legitimate threat to the GOP (and it is) and/or does well in the general election debates, then he, too, could legitimately impact policy.
For the first time in decades, your vote actually matters, because it does not have to be drowned out by either of the two parties. When candidates can get nominated by receiving only 9% of the vote, then each vote has more power than almost ever before. When you vote third party in 2016, your vote matters.
But it requires you to vote for the person you believe in, not the person that you think can win.
If the third party candidates continue to pick up steam, they could theoretically block any individual from winning a majority, thus opening up the election to the House of Representatives. At that point, it is anyone’s game.
2016 may not be the year that a third party candidate is elected. It can be the year, however, that a vote for them mattered, because it forced issues into the mainstream, broke up a two party system, ended the electoral college system, opens the floodgates for new parties, or results in the ultimate defeat of one of the major parties. It matters far beyond who wins.
Voters may never have this type of an opportunity for many years to come. Voting for someone that you don’t believe in does nothing. If Trump is your guy, vote for him. If Clinton is your girl, then go with her. But if they are not, then it is your ethical responsibility to be the change.
Because for the first time, voting for the two main candidates is a wasted vote, and not the other way around.