Staving Off The End of the World
I wish I could just ignore this election.
I really, really do.
The narrow defeat of Bernie Sanders took all the wind out of my political sails. What I think many people don’t get is that Bernie Sanders is a politician who shouldn’t exist. I — like many — have believed for years that I would never see a candidate who truly represented me. I believed that a politician could not really stand up for issues I believe in. For issues which believe are the most important: wealth inequality, mass incarceration and how it relates to the drug war & the prison-industrial complex, global warming, etc. In fact, when President Obama tried to mention wealth inequality, pundits made him back down.
But here comes Bernie Sanders, speaking truth to power for over two decades. He shouldn’t be possible. Moreover, he shouldn’t have had a chance. But against all odds, he mounted a serious run for the Democratic nomination. He very nearly won it. He did it without campaign financing from big money. He did it without compromising his message. He made me believe that maybe someday there could be a presidential candidate I actually believe in.
During the primaries, arguments for “practicality” rang as defeatist. Here we finally have a candidate we can actually believe in for once and opponents are calling to give up. Just go back to hopelessness. We refused. And we promised that come hell or high water, we would never back down.
Well, I’m afraid to say the cold water of reality has hit.
While it was not at all “impractical” to vote for Sanders in the primary — because if he had won, he almost certainly would have won the general — it is absolutely impractical to vote for anyone other than Clinton or Trump in the general, with one exception: if you are in an uncontested state (i.e. a state that is not a so-called “swing state”).
As you are probably aware, the election always comes down to a few swing states — states where the vote is very close and it could go either way. The reason for this is because of our fucked up voting system, a combination of “first-past-the-post” and the Electoral College.
If we abolished the Electoral College and simply let the national popular vote decide the election, this wouldn’t even really merit a discussion, because Trump will almost certainly lose the popular vote. But we don’t have time to reform our voting system prior to the election. So we need to figure out how to ensure he is defeated given our current constraints.
How Trump fares in a single state could decide the election, regardless of how many people outside that state vote for Clinton.
If you don’t believe a Trump Presidency would be the worst thing ever, I don’t have the patience to convince you here. Please move along and continue living in whatever magical wonderland you have constructed that allows you to believe whatever the hell it is that helps you sleep at night.
So that leaves us with the considerable portion of the nation that is aware of the imminent threat posed to our country (and the world) by Trump. But you all are just single voters and some of you maybe still want to vote 3rd party in a swing state. What are we to do?
Problems & Solutions
We can actually take advantage of the quirks of the Electoral College to come out ahead here. Let me address the two groups separately, since they have slightly different motivations.
1. To directly address 3rd party supporters in swing states:
First you need to admit that your candidate has no chance. I’m constantly accused of being overly optimistic and even I believe there’s no way in hell a 3rd party candidate could win the election in our current voting system.
But a 3rd party candidate has won before!!!!!
Yeah, things have changed. It’s not your fault for wanting to hope. I want to hope too, but at some point I need to admit I live in the real world. A 3rd party candidate could win the election in the same sense that “anything is possible” and I could sprout wings and fly far far away right this very second.
The reason a 3rd party candidate could not win is because this is how “first past the post” voting systems evolve. They evolve into 2-party systems. Maybe early on in the evolution, there’s still a fighting chance for other parties. But our system has been through many iterations and it has converged. The real way to give 3rd parties a chance is to reform our voting system. Abolish the Electoral College and implement instant runoff voting. But again, we don’t have time to do that before this election. So that should be our very next priority — after defeating Donald.
3rd Parties Do Still Need Your Support
Even though your candidate won’t win this election, there is still a reason to vote for 3rd party, and that reason is federal funding. If a 3rd party candidate receives 5% of the popular vote, their party will receive matching funds from the government, which will indeed strengthen that party and (combined with voting reform) will provide us with more options and better representation someday in the future.
2. Now to directly address Clinton supporters in uncontested states:
There’s no nice way to put this, so I’m just gonna come out and say it:
I’m sorry, I know you were told otherwise. I know you’d like to believe otherwise, I would too. Again — until we reform our voting system, this sorry state of affairs will remain.
I don’t want to get too deep into the math or the philosophy behind this paradox, however I just want to give you the gist, and that is this: in a state where a candidate is expected to win by a wide margin, your vote matters much less than in a state where a candidate is expected to win by a small margin.
We built MakeMineCount to facilitate vote-swapping across states, with two goals: 1) to ensure Donald Trump will lose this election and 2) to support 3rd party candidates in reaching the funding threshold.
- Power in numbers. Just one of us trading votes across states isn’t going to do much, however if you join the thousands already registered at MakeMineCount, and together we can tilt this election. Your vote for Clinton matters in a swing state.
- Support 3rd Party Candidates. They can’t win this particular election, but by strengthening the parties with funding and refocusing on voting reform after this election, maybe they could have a fighting chance in future elections.
To answer some common questions:
- No, this isn’t illegal. 🙄
- We are unaffiliated with any candidate. In fact creation of MakeMineCount was inspired by a Medium post.
- The site facilitates vote-swapping in the spirit of the common goals (defeat Trump, support 3rd parties). As such, there is no guarantee. But you want to defeat Trump right? So sign up & follow through.
The site is open source and I’d love your help! Fork me on Github. So far I’ve written the vast majority of the code, though I recently accepted pull requests from the first 2 contributors! Others have helped with design, copy & strategy, and if you’d like to join the growing team, send me your email and I’ll add you to the Slack team.
Want to help ensure Trump is defeated come November? Please hit the green “heart” to recommend this article! Sign up to trade your vote at MakeMineCount.org and tell your friends and family.