I want to be clear that this particular post is not, in any way, designed to change the mind of any individual who has already decided who to vote for in this delightful Presidential election. If you have found a candidate that you are excited about supporting, I congratulate you and encourage you to get out and vote! No…this is for those of you who are still feeling confused and perhaps a bit nauseous. If that sounds like you, read on. Even if it doesn’t, read on.
First of all, please don’t stress too much on the decision you make because, frankly, it isn’t going to matter. No, I don’t mean that some nefarious alien overlords are going to steal the election though I suppose that could happen. It is just a statistical fact that it is more likely that you’ll get struck by lightning while buying the winning Powerball ticket than it is that your vote will change the outcome of the Presidential election. You would have to be voting in a state where the election is so close that, without your vote, it would end in a tie. Then, your vote would decide the outcome. Furthermore, the election would have to be so close in the Electoral College that your particular state would be able to determine the winner. The closest we have ever seen to this was in Florida in the year 2000 and that points out the problem with my extremely unlikely scenario: human and computer error. Besides, with an election that close, it is very possible that it will lead to such a crisis that the courts will end up stepping in so it still won’t matter.
Oh…but what if everyone thought that way, you say? Well, if everyone starts to think that way, you’ll notice it pretty quickly. Once only a few thousand people are regularly voting, I will advise you to be sure you do! Until then, it just isn’t going to matter.
That being said, I am a habitual and inveterate voter and I am always excited when I get to participate. And that’s because voting is more than a rational attempt to change the outcome of an election; it also has a psychological component, as well as being a way to participate in the process with minimal effort on your part. While you are not legally, nor I believe morally, required to vote, it feels good to know that you have participated in the process and expressed your opinion on the questions at hand. Many libertarians choose not to vote as a political statement of its own. If you do not choose to participate, you may be saying that you simply do not approve of the process at all. That is an entirely legitimate argument.
And don’t fall for old saw that, “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” Bull! The only thing you don’t have a right to complain about is the number of votes cast for a particular candidate or for or against a particular ballot issue. Simply refusing to participate in the process because the choices provided to you are so poor does not mean you cannot complain about the result of those bad choices.
Still, I am going to advise you to go to the polls this Tuesday and vote. If you need to throw up before or after, that’s OK too. There are simply too many other races beyond the Presidential election that are going to have an impact on your lives. In fact, your Congressman or state legislator may have a great deal more impact on a day to day basis. Research those races and those candidates. You might be pleasantly surprised at some of the fine people who are seeking office and feel excited about supporting them, however, while you are there, you are going to see those people on the top line of the ballot and what are you going to do?
It is my personal opinion that one of the worst emotions you can feel is regret. It just eats at you and it is hard to get past it. It is also my opinion that, given a poor set of choices, if one candidate so horrifies you that you feel like you must vote against them, that is OK. Despite the astronomical odds that your vote would matter, imagine if somehow it did! I always play max coin in a video poker machine because I would hate it if I hit a Royal Flush and I didn’t. I also play the lottery. I would just hate that “what if” feeling, even though if it is extremely unlikely to happen. Therefore, if either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton absolutely horrify you, even if you dislike the other, maybe you should vote against the horror, just for your own sanity. However, I only recommend this approach if you live in a state where the race is close. Because, frankly, if it was going to take your vote to keep Trump from winning California or your vote to keep Clinton from winning Texas, it was already over before you even showed up.
Otherwise, these are my recommendations:
If you live in Utah, vote for Independent candidate Evan McMullin. I don’t think he is qualified to be President and I disagree with him on a majority of his policy positions but polling shows that he could actually win the state. What better way to thumb your nose at the system than to reject both of the major party candidates and have it actually mean something. Trust me! That will make people sit up and take notice. No one other than a Democrat or Republican has won a state in 48 years!
If you live in New Mexico, vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Polling also shows he could conceivably win the state. Other than the fact that I agree with him a good percentage of the time, the same exact argument applies as it did with McMullin.
If you live in any of the other 48 states or the District of Columbia, select someone on the ballot other than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Not only will those protest votes be counted but they will show how discontented you, the voter, are with the two major parties. I would recommend a vote for either Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein, as both parties are serious about building a significant alternative party. If either reach 5% of the vote nationally, they would be eligible for federal funding in the 2020 campaign and large vote totals in individual states would give them ballot access in future elections, removing the onerous barrier of petitioning that exists in most states. That being said, research the candidates which are on your state ballot. Then visit https://www.isidewith.com and see which candidate most closely reflects your views.
It has frequently been said that Third parties can never succeed in this country due to the fact that we elect candidates in single member districts, meaning that only the candidate with the most votes can win election. It is also said that this promotes political stability. I disagree. First of all, stability may lead to only two parties but only two parties does not necessarily lead to stability. Secondly, most Congressional and Legislative districts in this country have been drawn to all but eliminate competitive elections. The state legislatures, when dominated by one party or the other, most often try to “fix” it so that one party or the other is all but certain to win a particular district and, of course, try to make sure that their party wins the majority of those districts. Now imagine how a strong alternative party could throw a wrench into that system. What if the Green Party became the major alternative to the Democrats in liberal districts? What if the Libertarian Party became the major alternative to the Republicans in conservative districts? This, at least, has the potential to threaten the current system which, frankly, does not work. You may argue that either the Greens or Libertarians are too small or too radical. But the two often go hand in hand. Small parties tend to be dominated by a dedicated group of activists who likely have a pretty extreme agenda. Make those parties 5 or 10 times larger and they become more moderate, while still advancing their ideas.
But, if you don’t feel comfortable making those statements, simply leave the Presidential ballot blank. Don’t write in a candidate whose vote is never even going to be recorded but which is still going to show up in the total votes for the office. Imagine if 10 or 20 million Americans refused to vote for any of the candidates, all of whom are seriously flawed. Now that’s a news story and it sends the message that we are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!”
Whatever choice you make, find a way to feel positive about it. Do not let yourself be pressured to vote out of fear. Once you allow yourself to be manipulated that way, you will always be manipulated that way. Rather vote your hopes and dreams. Because, as we Chicago Cubs fans discovered this week, sometimes, just sometimes, dreams can come true.
Hey! We aren’t through previewing the election here on Ecumenical Libertarian. If you liked this article, come back tomorrow when I will offer my own endorsement in the Presidential race. And, on Sunday and Monday, I will be doing a two-part posting on my predictions for Tuesday and beyond. And be sure to tell your friends!