With large blocs of Republican and Democratic voters vowing to abandon their parties rather than vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in November — and in the GOP, even some party establishment figures mulling an alternative ticket if Trump takes the nomination — the “wasted vote” argument is peaking earlier than usual this year.
We hear it every election cycle, all cycle long, but the heat wave of patronizing rhetoric usually crests in early October as the poll numbers of third party and independent candidates evaporate beneath its glow. It goes something like this:
“A vote for anyone but the Republican is a vote for the Democrat!”
“A vote for anyone but the Democrat is a vote for the Republican!”
“A vote for any candidate but my candidate is a vote for the candidate who’s worse than my candidate!”
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!”
“Don’t be a spoiler!”
“Don’t waste your vote!”
The subtext of this line of campaign propaganda is actually pretty ugly. The people telling you to vote for a candidate you don’t prefer rather than for the candidate you do prefer are telling you that your vote really belongs to the candidate they prefer. Third party and independent candidates “steal” their votes from the big dogs, with you, the voter, as their accomplice.
Seems pretty arrogant when you look at it that way, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t just seem that way. It is that way.
I suppose there’s a case to be made for strategic voting. If I think that Candidate A is just a wee little bit not as bad as Candidate B, I might decide to vote for Candidate A instead of Candidate C who “can’t win.”
Or maybe not.
Maybe I’d rather vote for what I want instead of voting against what I fear.
Maybe I’d rather not vote at all than choose from among a gang of grifters I wouldn’t leave alone in a room with my wallet or my daughter, let alone the codes used to arm nuclear missiles.
The candidates don’t own your vote. The parties don’t own your vote. Until you cast your ballot and give that vote to the candidate or party ofyour choice, it’s yours, not theirs.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Not now, not in November, not ever. Vote your own conscience and let the chips fall where they may.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (www.thegarrisoncenter.org).