Hillary and Trump: they’re terrible candidates, I get it. Bring up the 2016 election to anyone, and following a sigh and an eye roll, that’s what you’ll hear. Polling backs up these opinions, consistently showing Trump and Clinton as the least popular presidential candidates in recorded history. Perhaps the most telling poll was a recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll of over 15,000 registered voters that showed Donald Trump slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton in the “honest and trustworthy” category. And by “slightly ahead,” I mean a whole 16 percent of voters viewed Trump as “honest and trustworthy,” compared to Clinton’s 11 percent. These are generally qualities that one expects in the most powerful public office holder in the world.
So with an overwhelming majority of voters having no trust in either candidate, many are choosing to base their decision off of which candidate they see as less bad. Since voters cannot find positive reasons to support the candidate they’re voting for, they choose to justify their choice out of hostility against the candidate they dislike most. This is despite the fact that there are numerous other third party candidate options available. Voters feel like they are being boxed into a corner choosing Hillary or Trump. But at least you’re not wasting your vote, right?
Wrong. Especially in a solid red or blue state. Last I checked, Louisiana is the former. In fact, Louisiana is so red that in a recent FiveThirtyEight projection that showed what the electoral map would look like in the ultimate Clinton landslide–a 16 point victory–Louisiana still went for Trump, even with Mississippi and Texas going blue in this scenario. Mississippi and Texas.
Many people see casting a ballot for a third party candidate as at worst wasting a vote, or at best an example of political privilege. This argument is aggressive, shallow and lazy. Yes, voting for a third party is exercising privilege–the privilege that comes with living in a democracy, where we have the option to vote for whatever candidate we believe in. Or if we so choose, no candidate at all. If the approach we take is to sacrifice our true beliefs and unite under some flimsy coalition in a misguided attempt to save democracy, isn’t democracy already lost?
That’s why it’s time to dispel this idea that voting for a third party is a wasted vote. Despise both candidates? Can’t stand how this campaign has been run? Feel like the system is rigged? The only way you’re going to see real change among the elites of both parties is if they feel threatened. A third party candidate getting 10, 15 percent of the vote will do just that. Now if you agree with Trump or Clinton, vote for them, no doubt. But if you honestly feel like you’re picking between the lesser of two evils, don’t feel compelled to choose one because you feel your vote will be “wasted” if you don’t.
If you really want your vote to count, maybe try voting for a candidate you actually think is a decent human being.