For any of you who know me, it is no secret that I’m not a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton supporter. I am also not in the Gary Johnson or Jill Stein camps who at least are big enough third party candidates to have a prayer of impacting electoral math. In other words, I am in a little bit of a situation here as to whether or not I'd be wasting my vote with anyone outside these four candidates. I obviously don't want to waste this privilege to vote but I don't want to violate my conscience either. What should I do?
Just as a heads up about this week, my posts are going to be almost exclusively political. Even as I will not be quoting Scripture directly, please remember that this is coming from a Christian worldview. Therefore, my worldview influences how I think about voting, and when I think about the moral consequences of voting or not voting for certain candidates, these considerations are coming from my Christian worldview. Therefore, I am not going to preface everything I write with "as a Christian" or "from a Christian worldview." Because these thoughts are coming from me, that worldview is implied since it is where I am coming from when I consider these issues.
Back to my dilemma. On one hand, I certainly can have my vote count no matter who I vote for, so wasting it isn't a particular concern. In Vermont, write-in votes count towards any candidate you hypothetically want to write in. There is no reason I cannot support a very minor third-party candidate and have my vote count. In the purest sense of the word, my vote would not be wasted. I would be voicing my opinion in our government in the way that I believe I ought to. I would be voicing my opinion on who should be president just as much as a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump supporter would be voicing his or her own opinion on who should be president. Just because my third-party candidate might not be as popular does not mean that I am abusing my ability to vote. In fact, in the purest sense, I am doing exactly what every other American is doing by voting for the person who I think ought to lead our country. It doesn’t seem clear to me that I am wasting my vote; I am in fact using my vote to participate in our electoral process.
At the same time, I would be honoring my conscience which is important for me. By my vote, I am affirming that I believe a certain person should be president. If I do not believe that a person should be president, then, on the level of individual conscience, I don’t believe I ought to affirm that person. As I stated above, I do not believe either of the four major candidates ought to be our president for various reasons that I don’t really want to get into here (but we can in the Facebook group if you want to). Therefore, if I was to vote for one of the four, I feel that would violate my conscience by affirming that someone ought to be president when I really do not believe he or she ought to be.
Unfortunately, the situation is not quite so black and white however. Even though many people are like me and don’t love any of the four major candidates, they might like one of them even less. In fact, consider this recent survey from Pew reported by ABC.
“According to the study, 33 percent of Trump supporters and 32 percent of Clinton voters attributed their choice in candidate to an opposition for the other candidate, winning out over all other attributes, like 'political outsider' status, policy position, experience and temperament.”
Clearly, not everyone is choosing to go with a third-party option as I intend to. They are not choosing a third-party vote because they feel they are responsible for stopping the greater evil from taking the highest office in the land. Even though all of those millennials might love Bernie Sanders and voted for him enthusiastically in the primaries, now that the chips are down, even though they do not like Hillary, they feel the need to oppose Donald Trump who they believe would be a disaster. Similarly, many conservatives liked Ted Cruz, and even though Trump certainly deviates from the traditional mold of a conservative, these voters are willing to vote for him because at least he is not as bad as Hillary Clinton.
This is potentially a conscience vote as well. These people feel obligated to stop the greater evil. They feel that if they do not stand against that which is more evil, they are involved in allowing that evil to come into power. In that sense, they feel they have to do whatever they can to stop that greater evil, and it becomes a matter of conscience for them as well.
It is a different perspective on what a vote is however. This position turns a vote into more of a protest against one than an affirmation of another candidate. Even in an election where there is a good candidate, people vote in a form of protest in a sense. When there is a good candidate, we also affirm them, but they are good candidate by virtue of the fact that they are going to do a better job than the other candidate.
That’s why we have kind of a disconnect between these two camps. Generally, we’re happy to affirm a good candidate. For example, in the primary, I was happy to affirm Marco Rubio because I thought he was a good candidate but similarly, my vote was a protest against every other person in that primary. This presidential election, by voting for the lesser of two evils, I would be affirming someone who is really not very good. Personally, I feel there is an inconsistency there that I am not comfortable with. That is why I cannot do the same with a clean conscience.
This is where I want to keep the focus on for the next two posts. I am going to continue my case for why I feel I ought to vote for a third-party candidate in the upcoming election.