Don’t waste your vote on Hillary or Trump

Are you excited for your choices for President? Fired up to soon be living under Hillary’s rule or Trump’s thumb? No? You’re not alone. In fact, you’re squarely in the majority. Shockingly, more than half of voters in a recent NBC poll “expressed negative feelings about both [Trump and Clinton].”

And unfortunately, this has people feeling trapped. I find myself in conversations like this a lot:

Someone: “Who are you voting for?”
Someone else: “They’re both terrible. I guess I’ll vote for Hillary. Trump just seems like a disaster.”
Another someone else: “What? Hillary is the disaster! I can’t stand Trump either, but he’s definitely the lesser of two evils.”
Me: “If you hate both candidates, why don’t you vote for someone else?”
Everyone (in angry unison): “I don’t want to waste my vote!”

This seems logical. What’s the point of voting if the person you vote for can’t possibly win? Why even vote at all? But there’s a serious problem with this logic, and it all comes down to where you live.

When you cast your vote, you do two things.

  1. You specify a personal preference. A statement about who you want to make decisions on your behalf, and whose ideology you value.
  2. You add a tally to a candidate’s total, in the hopes of ensuring that candidate wins the election

If you live in a swing state, both of these matter. Since your vote could conceivably (albeit, unlikely) swing the election, the value of the tally probably outweighs the value of making your true preference heard. You’re making a sacrifice in expressing your preference — voting for the “least bad” of two candidates instead of the “most good” of many. You do this to ensure that the absolute worst doesn’t happen. You’re hedging your bets.

If you don’t live in a swing state, the tally is effectively worthless. I live in California. Clinton will get all of our electoral votes no matter who I vote for. Since the tally is worthless, shouldn’t I try to maximize the value of my preference? In this case, voting for Trump or Hillary is truly wasting my vote. If I can’t impact the electoral vote, I should at least express my true preference.

If you like Hillary Clinton and think she’ll be a fine President, by all means vote for her. If nothing else, we’ll have finally elected a woman, which is long overdue. If you like Donald Trump, uh, maybe take some more time to think about it. Do some research. Still love Donald? Really? You think he should be President? OK, well then vote for him I guess.

But if you don’t really like either of them, don’t vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Unless you live in Florida. Then you need to make sure the unthinkable doesn’t happen (which could be Clinton, or The Donald, depending on your perspective).

But if you live in Kentucky, Washington, Montana, Illinois, or one of the other 30+ states that’s effectively already decided, make a statement with your vote. Vote for Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian). Or write in the person you wished your party had nominated. Write in Bernie Sanders. Or John Kasich. Or, shudder, Ted Cruz. Or write in the person you wish had run this year but didn’t. Tell Michael Bloomberg or Elizabeth Warren or Paul Ryan that you’re drafting them into service. That they’ll have your vote (and probably your time and devotion) if they run next time.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Hillary won, but with 25% of the vote? Wouldn’t that send a stronger message than giving her (or, violent shudder, Trump) a “mandate” because she got 51% of the vote — 25% in favor, plus another 26% of “not Trump!”? I promise you both candidates will count every single vote they receive as a “vote for me” and never “a vote against that other clown”. Don’t give them the satisfaction. More importantly, don’t give the major parties the excuse to keep alienating such a huge part of the population.

One of the big problems with the two party system is that it cuts right down the middle and creates an “us against them” mentality. People align themselves to one team and talk themselves into whatever nonsense the party espouses. When the platform changes, their views change to match. The gulf grows so wide, it’s almost impossible to cross over.

You know that insurance mandate in Obamacare that Republicans hate so much? Yeah, that was a Republican idea back in the 90's. And it was generally opposed by Democrats, including the 2008 Democratic nominee — some guy name Barak Obama. Now of course the script has flipped, and the party faithful fell right in line behind. Why? Because we care more about our team winning than we do about principles. Critical thinking is not allowed.

If you play team sports, eventually someone on your team will get into a fight with someone on the other team. When that happens, of course everyone takes a step back, evaluates the situation, and rationally sides with whoever was in the right. Right? Of course not! You jump in and defend your teammate no matter how uncalled for his actions were. You rationalize in your mind that it can’t be his fault. The other guy was way out of line!!! My guy is right!!!!! And nothing you can say will change my mind!!!!!! Stop showing me evidence!!!!!!!!! I can scream like this forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s how politics has become. When you vote for Trump as the “least bad option”, you’re sending him (and the Republican Party) a message that you support them. That he’s right. And good. And just. If you believe that, then wow! Vote for him and be excited that someone you support is on the ticket. You’re one of the lucky ones.

For the rest of us, DON’T SEND THAT MESSAGE! Send a different message. State your preference clearly. Tell the Democrats they should have nominated Bernie. Tell the Green Party that you’re ready to support them. Tell Elizabeth Warren that she really, really should run in 2020. Tell Michael Bloomberg how desperately you wish he was on the ballot. Tell Paul Ryan that you love his wonky economic policy thing he has going on. Tell Gary Johnson to keep running as the Libertarian candidate every 4 years until he’s 100.

Don’t waste your vote. Make sure your vote counts by sending the message you want our politicians to hear. That you reject that BS they’ve been handing us lately. That apparently we need a 3rd (and maybe 4th) major party to keep them honest(ish). Make this the most valuable vote you’ve ever cast!

Unless you live in Ohio. Then just vote for Hillary. Because…President Trump? Seriously?