Today, let’s talk about the question of practicality. You might agree with everything I wrote on Wednesday and believe that it is important to vote your conscience. You might even agree with me that the two major candidates we find ourselves with this year are both very bad choices. However, you might also say that nevertheless, we have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Since only two choices practically have a chance at winning in this situation, we need to pick the one that will be less awful and try to find something better in four years. I have to admit there is some appeal in this line of argument.
That is exactly what that you see coming from Republican and Democratic leadership who might have either supported Bernie Sanders or were part of the Never Trump crowd originally. Now that there are the only two choices left, we have to play the party line no matter what we said about either one originally.
First of all, let’s consider my own situation here in Vermont. Vermont, in case you are almost entirely politically unaware, is one of the most liberal states in the country. Even before the vote takes place, I am sure that every political commentator in the country is going to mark down this as a state for Hillary Clinton (although I do have a pet theory about so many Vermonters being so in love with Bernie Sanders that they write him in and he pulls off a victory).
There is very little chance that any Donald Trump vote is going to matter in this state because they will ultimately all be for nothing. Does that mean however that his supporters are not going to show up to the polls? Obviously not because they have the right to vote for the candidate they want to.
How is this any different than someone supporting a third-party candidate at least in a definitive state like Vermont, Texas, Alabama or California? The answer is really that it is no different from that perspective. If your state is virtually guaranteed to vote in one particular direction, then there really is no reason to cast a lesser of two evils vote when you know that a given candidate is going to win no matter how many people cast that vote. You might as well vote your conscience in situations like this. Have a clean conscience and a particular candidate wins your state, or compromise your conscience and that particular candidate still wins your state.
Battleground states are more difficult. In places like Pennsylvania or Ohio, individual votes actually have a chance of making a bit more difference. These states tend to have closer votes and as we saw in Florida with George W. Bush, differences can be very small between winning and losing. You might argue that the calculation is somewhat different in the state like that.
I will grant you that this is the most difficult situation for someone like me who really does not want to vote for the lesser of two evils. It is possible that the difference in the election is that Pennsylvania voted for Donald Trump, and that ultimately gave him the victory or vice versa for Hillary Clinton.
In this situation though, I return to my question on Wednesday about responsibility. In 2000, Florida was determined by approximately 1000 votes in favor of George W. Bush. I am only speculating here, but I would be willing to bet that if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are to win any state by such a slim margin, there would be more than 1000 “protest votes” if you will in that state. In that case then, we certainly have a situation where one could argue that those votes made the difference.
Like I said before, I would not want to have that responsibility put on my shoulders if it is indeed true that a vote is a positive affirmation of my support for a candidate.
That is the bottom line for me, and I know that many people are making different calculations than I am.
Therefore, rather than be confined to a two-party system, even though it might seem more practical and politically expedient to choose the lesser of two evils, I do not intend to choose one evil or the other. I would rather vote for someone I can support with a clean conscience. That is the beauty of our system. We have the freedom to vote for who we feel that we can support, and at least for this election, neither party put forward a candidate worth supporting.