Protest Vote or Temper Tantrum?

The Fourth of July has passed and at the end of July we will all have to slog through the painful mess of two political conventions. The Republican National Convention from July 18th through July 21st, and the Democratic National Convention from July 25th through July 28th. Unless Clinton and Trump are somehow forced out of the race, the ugly reality is that they will be the nominees for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party (respectively). Sanders had a good run, but unfortunately his campaign is at its end. Acceptance is a healthy part of the mourning process, and those of us on the Left and the Right are left shrugging and muttering, “So it goes.”

I wrote a piece a little while back about choosing between the lesser of two evils when all of a sudden it hit me, “Adam, you dumb bastard, there are other choices besides these two insufferable excuses for human beings!” I’m speaking of course about third party options. Now, I know, some of you probably read that and said, “Why vote at all? You’re just throwing away your vote.” It does feel that way, doesn’t it? But why should it feel that way? There are three other major parties: the Green Party on the Left, and the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party on the Right. An election is your chance to voice your opinion and show your support in the best way that the common man/woman can, and by voting Democrat or Republican, even if you don’t want to, is being complicit with a system you don’t truly support.

Voting for a third party is a better protest vote than voting for someone you loathe. One of the circulating thoughts from Bernie supporters is that they would rather vote for Trump than Clinton as a way of railing against what they feel is an unfair and corrupt political party. Excuse my language, but are you out of your fucking mind? The same can be said about Republicans voting for Clinton instead of Trump. That is not a protest vote, that’s a temper tantrum because you didn’t get what you wanted. If you truly agree with them then by all means, vote for them, but don’t just vote for one of them out of frustration or anger. A true protest vote would be voting for a third party candidate that you agree with as opposed to a candidate you cannot stand. What even is a protest vote in this election? From where I’m standing a “protest vote” means begrudgingly voting for a person you wouldn’t normally vote for, but you didn’t get the candidate you wanted so now the party has lost a supporter. Hurray, party politics has now reached the huddled masses and Washington weeps. The way it seems that people are defending this “protest vote” is that they are protesting a rigged political system, a system they feel no longer represents the people. In Clinton’s case I can see where that resentment is coming from since she started out with a lead thanks to “super delegates,” except people still voted for her. She may have had more support from the Democratic Party, but voters still had to go out and cast their ballot for her. In Trump’s case he has done so well simply because of popular support. So even if a former Bernie supporter says, “I’m voting for Trump because at least the people chose him,” this hypothetical person is overlooking the fact that they probably disagree with Trump on a majority of the issues and the fact that more people supported Clinton than Sanders. That’s not a conspiracy, that’s democracy. And if your problem with the system is that you only have two choices (which you don’t), then by voting for the candidate on the other side of the aisle means you’re still voting within that system! It’s like being in a restaurant and being angry that your only entree options are chicken or beef, but you failed to turn the page to find the seafood dinners. If someone challenges you to turn the page you then dissolve into an apathetic, whimpering heap and moan, “What’s the point?”

If you want to break the cycle then your best bet is to vote for a third party candidate. Now, there is one hurdle and it’s that third party candidates may not appear on the ballot. However, there is still the write-in option, so if there’s a third party candidate you strongly agree with, but they don’t appear on the ballot then simply write them in. That’s a more effective protest than not voting or voting for someone you actually hate. For example, you could always write-in Bernie Sanders if he’s the only candidate you support. In fact, recent polls indicate that if Americans wrote-in Bernie’s name he would take at least a quarter of the vote. That’s a more powerful message than sitting at home and refusing to play the game or voting for a candidate you didn’t want in the first place. That doesn’t mean some miracle will happen and Sanders will win thanks to enough people writing-in his name, but it says the people won’t settle for candidates they don’t want.

One thing also needs to be said when it comes to protest voting and voting in general. Fellow Millennials, let’s talk for a second. We are not the first generation to get royally screwed by the election process, and we probably won’t be the last. I’m sure the majority of us are even more frustrated by the current political situation than our elders. We have to live with this broken excuse of a democratic system for a longer time and there doesn’t seem to be any way of fixing it. Except there is. Come November, go out and vote for the person you actually want. Ranting online about the Democrats and the Republicans is not going to solve this, and complaining that you actually have to physically go to a place to vote does not change the fact that that is how it works. Short of open revolution the only way to change the political climate is by playing by the house rules. If you want voting reform then you need to either find candidates that support voting reform, or write to your representatives and senators and tell them you want to see voting reform in the future. We are now the majority, at least according to the US Census Bureau (and I think it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about), which means if we take at least a marginal interest in politics then maybe we can affect the change we talk about wanting. Even if in the 2016 election we don’t get what we want, we can at least get the ball rolling. Political change takes time in this country, just as an example: in 1865 the 13th and 14th Amendments were added to the Constitution, and in 1964 the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Johnson. That is 99 years of sticking with an issue, and some of the original fighters died long before the Civil Rights Act was passed, but it had to start somewhere. Thanks to better communication, better access to information, and a wildly more open-minded populace we might see that kind of dramatic political change in our lifetimes, but we have to start it and not give up because the situation hasn’t changed in a month.

So, to get back to a general audience, don’t listen to what I said about choosing between the lesser of two evils. Don’t grimace and say, “Ha! That’ll show the elites,” if you vote for Clinton or Trump when you didn’t really want either one. Choose a candidate that you want, and can proudly support. If that person is Clinton or Trump then that’s your decision. I may not agree with you, and you may not agree with me, but hey, we’re both voting adults so you cast your ballot, I’ll cast mine, and may the better man (or woman) win.

Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to comment or follow me on social media. I should probably add my Snapchat user name as well (ahahnjones) just in case you aren’t active on Twitter or Facebook. Also, if you have a topic you’d like me to write about then tell me and I’ll be happy to try and work it into a post.

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