Who will you cast a ballot for? u00a0(Photo: MGNOnline)
Writing about the election leads to an interesting, if not entirely unexpected, response from readers. If you don’t come out strongly in favor of one or the other major party candidates, you are inevitably tagged as “voting” for whichever candidate the commenter sees as unfit for office. I’ve had the same column produce declarations that I’m voting for both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump.
I’ve purposely refrained from stating whom I’m going to vote for in the past because you don’t really care, and you shouldn’t. Individual voters should look at the candidates critically and make up their own minds.
But for the purposes of this column, I should state that I’m considering voting for neither of the major party candidates. That’s right, I am part of THE PROBLEM! Or at least I’m considering being part of THE PROBLEM.
In 2016, it’s accepted wisdom that your ballot possesses supernatural properties. If you vote for one of the third-party candidates, you are in reality voting for whichever major party candidate the person typing furiously on your timeline believes will destroy America.
This belief is particularly apparent among religious conservatives like Eric Metaxas, author of biographies about William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, modern-day Christian saints.
If you’ve never read an article by Metaxas before, be forewarned, the references to Bonhoeffer, hero of the resistance in Nazi Germany, roll in like guitar solos in ’80s rock ‘n’ roll. You know they’re coming, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
Besides referencing his books, Metaxas enjoys performing the kind of rhetorical gymnastics necessary to claim “a vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself.”
Metaxas elaborates, saying a vote for Trump is a vote for “children in the Middle East” and “kids in inner-city America.” Yes, a supporter of the candidate who openly courts white nationalists wrote that.
Meanwhile, Metaxas and other conservatives loudly proclaim their distaste for Trump while still supporting him (**cough** Rubio **cough** Cruz). And they state unequivocally that a vote for a third-party candidate is definitely a vote for Clinton, and the devil to boot.
^Your vote seems to have magical properties. It votes for someone you didn’t actually vote for and doesn’t vote for someone you actually did
– O. Alan Noble (@TheAlanNoble) October 12, 2016
If voting for a third party is a lost cause, it’s not because of the people voting for that candidate, it’s because of the people who submit to the fallacy that they must “hold their nose” when completing their ballot.
Both Clinton and Trump have historic unfavorable ratings. If you’re in that group yet still plan to vote for one of them, when you gripe about your choices for president next time around, you have only yourself to blame.
That is not to say that a third-party vote has no consequences. It is generally accepted that Ralph Nader’s 97,000 votes in Florida in 2000 cost Al Gore the presidency. Whether you loved the Bush years, that should make any third-party voter think hard about their choice and consider the impact their vote might have.
In conservative Utah, where independent candidate Evan McMullin has surged in recent weeks, Don Peay, Trump’s Utah chairman, has basically threatened Mormons with exile if a Trump loss in the state costs him the election. But, in fact, a wave of conservative Mormons costing Trump the presidency by voting for McMullin would send a clear message to the GOP: “Don’t mess with us.”
Mormons are the only reliably conservative block of voters who are currently letting the national GOP know they will not be taken for granted. It will long be remembered that in 2016, it was Mormons who refused to acquiesce, while evangelical Christians willingly bent the knee.
I’m going to posit a controversial theory here, so bear with me while I work through this. A vote for McMullin, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein or Sweet Meteor O’ Death is, in fact, just that-a vote for that person (or space rock). More importantly, it’s a vote for someone.
When political parties whine about third-party candidates stealing votes, it’s reminiscent of a team that complains when its opponent runs up the score. If you don’t want the other team to score, stop them. If you want someone to vote for you, earn it. If you can’t, then stop whining.
John Graeber is a writer in Chattanooga who has also contributed to Glide Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @jbgraeber. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.