Supporting Non-Viable, Unqualified Candidates Only Harms The Most Vulnerable Among Us
I've written more than a few columns about why I'd never be able to consider voting for Donald Trump or anyone who stands by the 2016 GOP platform. More recently I wrote about why I'm proudly voting for Hillary Clinton. In response, many folks said they wouldn't vote for either candidate and that they were planning on voting for a third-party candidate. This column's for them.
Let's get something out of the way first: Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will win the election in November. Period. That's it. These are your options. These are the only options. And, with that in mind, I have absolutely no problem saying that a vote for a third-party candidate is a wasted vote.
I get that there are some folks who believe they're making a moral choice by voting third-party. Plenty of people have convinced themselves that there's some sort of moral equivalence between Trump's racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia and overall offensive bigotry, and Clinton's bad decisions â€” both of which she's acknolowledged, learned from, and apologized for (not that Trump's ever apologized for anything in his life). Let me say this as clearly as possible: These are not moral equivalents. Not on any level, so let's stop even entertaining the possibility that they are.
Some folks say they're helping grow a movement. This is their chance, they say, to really make an impact and set the stage to end the two-party system. In a vacuum, yes, this is an argument that could be made. In reality? No. People have been working on growing this "movement" for decades and it's never gone anywhere. It's not going to happen now.
The last third-party candidate who was even remotely viable was Ross Perot back in 1992. You know what happened with him? Nothing. In 2000 there was Ralph Nader and he legitimately affected the election â€” he took away many of Al Gore's voters and gave us George W. Bush instead. It was the ultimate irony: the folks so passionately liberal they wouldn't even vote for a mainstream Democrat gave us one of the worst GOP presidents in recent history.
According to some historians, Lincoln and the GOP were considered third-party back when he won. I asked my friend Dr. Josh Dix about that, and he pointed out: "It's true that the GOP was the newest mainstream party in 1856 and 1860, but it was not a third party in either election. The Whigs folded in 1854, and the GOP came on scene in 1856. In that election, it came in second in electoral votes. In 1860, with Lincoln, it won the most. It wasn't a third party; it became one of the two major parties before him."
While third-party voters are out there trying to make a statement, the rest of us have to deal with the fallout. It's an incredible statement of privilege to be able to vote for a third-party candidate and accept the consequences of a loss without much harm. Many of us don't have that luxury. We've seen the types of people Donald Trump surrounds himself with. Voting for a third-party candidate who has no chance of beating him tells the world that you don't care about the folks who will be most affected by his hatred â€” you'd rather make a statement. In my book, that's incredibly selfish.
Let's not pretend that the current crop of third-party candidates are noble alternatives, either. Libetarian Gary Johnson, the only one to appear on the ballot in all 50 states, is no bastion of liberal love. As Think Progress' Judd Legum points out: Johnson's in favor of Citizens United. He wants to reduce corporate tax to 0 percent. He has no plan for climate change. He wants to abolish Social Security. He's against any kind of mandated minimum wage. In what world are these good liberal policies? If you're a Bernie-or-bust person thinking of voting for Johnson, you've missed the mark entirely.
(I suppose now's a good time to mention that Johnson's also simply not smart enough to be president. He's tried to play off his "What is Aleppo?" and "Name one world leader you admire" gaffes as calculated "awww, shucks" moments, but the truth is, he has no idea about how to handle foreign policy. It's not his fault, though â€” one of the main tenets of the Libertarian Party is the idea that we should never interact with any other countries.)
Jill Stein's no better. Aside from the fact that she's not even on the ballot in all 50 states and it's statistically impossible that she'll ever be elected to anything, she's got absolutely no experience â€” even less than Trump. Here's a really great breakdown of why Stein is absolutely not the savior the Left is looking for. Frankly, Stein's candidacy is so absurd she's not even worth the the column inches here.
Evan McMullin is a write-in candidate from the Right. He's in favor of using religion as a means to discriminate, anti-abortion, against the Affordable Care Act, pro-gun, and basically the kind of person many Republicans had wished they'd nominated â€” in other words, he's not here for us, our family or our friends.
For better or worse, the two-party system is what we have, and it's here to stay. I think it can be noble to try and change that â€” but not when the alternative is Trump's America. What does it matter that you've proudly made a statement in favor of a movement when your neighbors are being rounded up and deported? How is it noble to actively enable the kind of misogyny Trump has been so proud of? How is it responsible to seek a long-term change when the short term damage would harm so many?
A vote for a third-party candidate in 2016 can only be justified by privilege or ignorance. You're either going to be safe enough (thanks to your masculinity or your race) to not be affected poorly by Trump's policies or you're so foolish you think your third-party vote will matter. Either way, it's incredibly selfish and irresponsible, and it shouldn't be who we are as a society.
The mark of a great society is how well it treats its most vulnerable. Voting third-party in 2016 flies in the face of that belief. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton WILL be elected president on Nov. 8, and you've got a decision to make.
Robbie Medwed is an Atlanta-based LGBT activist and educator. His column appears here weekly. Follow him on Twitter: @rjmedwed.
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