Do the Math: Why A Third Party Vote is A Vote for Trump

Are you a #BernieBro? Are you #NeverTrump? Are you #HillaryForPrison2016? One thing’s clear, you could never conscientiously vote for Hillary or Trump. That means your options right now are pretty much Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Or someone nobody’s ever heard of outside of their 200 twitter followers.

Great. Cool. You’ve just thrown your vote away.

Call me a cynic. Call me callous.

Voting third party is a vote for Trump.

Historically, Green Party votes siphon votes from the Democratic Party, boosting Republican gains on the electoral map (*cough* Nader in Florida in 2000). Libertarian candidates have taken votes from both parties, but from the polling done this election cycle, it appears they may have more of a negative impact on Democratic votes than Republican votes. The outcome is that whether you vote for Johnson or Stein, you’re handing the election to Donald Trump.

You’ll probably argue that your third party vote counts anyway in the popular election. Sure, it counts mathematically, but it doesn’t guarantee an electoral vote. Here are the facts about what happens to third party votes in the electoral college:

  • In 1992, Ross Perot got 20% of the popular vote yet he received ZERO electoral votes.
  • And we know definitively from Bush v. Gore that the electoral vote takes precedence over the popular vote in the presidential election.
  • The electoral college is historically, stubbornly two-party. They rarely give any electoral votes to a third party candidate, sticking with the two major parties.

Your vote won’t count when it matters. You may have forgotten this fact from civics or government class, we don’t actually live in a democracy.

The electoral college was designed to protect Americans from themselves. The 538 members of the electoral college are not bound to the popular vote. They are bound to their own judgement. They will vote how they see fit — and you need 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. That’s the number that counts.

Presidential Politics is all About Math.

We’re participating in one of the most divisive elections in history, and some of us have decided we’re going to vote on the issues while other have decided to vote for the most viable candidate — looking ahead to winning 270 votes in the electoral college.

Basically, we’ve got the #DoTheMath people and the #HillaryForPrison2016 camps. Sure, some issues people want to vote for Hillary, but for the sake of this argument, we’re sticking to the two camps, just as the electoral college sticks to republicans and democrats.

Viability voters, or #DoTheMath people, treat politics like Olympians treat their respective sports. We focus on who has the best chance of winning, who has the best chance of getting to 270 on election night. We care about issues, but we stick to the two major parties. We stick with the candidates, because we aren’t electing Messiahs or Kaisers. We know we’re doing the serious, messy business of electing the President of the United States. We are looking ahead to Election Day from before day 1 of the primary. We are constantly calculating who has what it takes to win the electoral vote. It doesn’t mean we don’t care what the candidates believe in or what their track records are. We do.

We care deeply about the issues but we care more about beating the opposing party. We also tend to have voted in every election since we turned 18 and we watch and re-watch conventions like they’re our favorite shows on Netflix (When CSPAN replays a convention, we open a bottle of wine and grab the popcorn — even if we’re on vacation). We study political history the way baseball nuts study players’ stats. We look at the balance of a politician’s career to see if the good outweighs the bad. We know in our bones politicians aren’t elected to be truth-tellers. They’re elected to tell us what we want to hear.

Issues Voters, or #HillaryForPrison2016 people, vote for candidates who represent your beliefs. You treat the election like it’s your own moral compass. I respect you for sticking up for what you believe in. You are the compass of each party. Your candidates must meet standards that are so high, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill couldn’t dream of meeting them. Which isn’t a bad thing. We need idealism and standards in politics.

But idealists don’t get the job done. Idealists don’t compromise their values to pass laws. Look at the past year in Congress. It was one of our most polarized sessions in history — everyone wanted to stick to their values, it is an election year after all — and practically nothing got done. You talk about a hardworking Congress? Truman called the 80th Congress the “Do-Nothing” Congress and it passed 906 laws. The current Congress, the 114th Session, has passed only 199 laws, mostly because of party politics. It is the most obstructive Congress in recent memory, perhaps in the entire history of the United States.

On an equally important note, if you’re a minority, if you’re a woman, if you’re LGBT, if you’re a senior citizen, if you’re a veteran, if you’re a parent, if you’re living under the poverty line, if you are a victim of gun violence, if your loved ones are in prison due to racist sentencing laws this affects you more than it affects me. I am a privileged white woman. I recognize that but I also recognize that if you want to turn the most progressive platform in our country’s history into reality, we have to take action to stop Trump. This is the most important election of our lifetime. We have the choice to elect someone who isn’t perfect but who promises to help fix what’s broken and to move us forward, or we have the choice to elect someone who wants to set us back 200 years.

Voting based on your issues is admirable. But that won’t help you realistically. Whether you morally can’t cast a vote for either Trump or Clinton, your third party vote translates into an electoral vote for Trump. If you really don’t want to see Trump in the White House in November, do the math.