I get it…
“Both parties are the same!”
(No, they’re really not.)
“The two-party system is broken!”
(Yeah, because the two-party system needs two parties! Democrats are in one party and Republicans are posing as a party and only want to shrink and dismantle government.)
“I’m voting for a third-party candidate, because I’m staying true to my values… and F- the big party machine!”
Voting for a third party candidate is not a righteous alternative — it doesn’t send the message you think it sends, and it can only undermine values you profess as pure.
Four years ago, I made a last-ditch appeal to those disenchanted voters who disliked Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and were considering a protest vote for a third-party candidate.
“Protest vote at our peril” (Nov. 2, 2016), I concluded: Should your votes — cast in the interest of preserving your conscience — lead to the election of Donald Trump, we will all have much graver concerns than your purity. Some good that did. The graver concerns I expressed involved North Korea, Iran and our warming planet, but as we found out, the greater peril has included over 225,000 deaths and counting because of Trump’s AWOL response to a global pandemic.
But, I was right, though, in 2016. And I’m right again: If you are planning to vote in protest of Biden or Trump, McGrath or McConnell — or not vote at all — you do so at our peril. You do so at the expense of every issue you claim to care about. “How is that possible?” you ask.
Well, it’s simple: A protest vote says, “I dislike both options so much, I’m going to express my displeasure by voting for someone who isn’t going to win.” Displeasure with the system. Displeasure with the status quo. Displeasure that your first choice, primary candidate didn’t win.
It’s inarguable that voting for or against a candidate or a party can help push or prevent policies that impact the issue you care about most. Casting a protest vote, on the other hand, can lead you only further away from the issue. For instance, none of the Green Party/Jill Stein voters in 2016 served their concern for the environment by not voting for Clinton — or, rather, against Trump. Biden might not be an environmental crusader of the Green New Deal, but if Trump is reelected, we’ll be much further away from Any Green Deal and any chance of saving the planet.
Biden seems like a tremendously decent, caring person. Yet, out of 300 million Americans, it’s impossible to argue he is the best person to be President. He is, however, the only person at the moment who can beat Trump… so, it turns out, he is the best option. The same goes for McGrath. She might not be the candidate you wanted — she wasn’t my first choice — but she’s the best option for me and realizing the issues I care about.
We all face this real dilemma of a democracy every election: You will never completely agree with the person you vote for, that is, unless you run for office. So stop allowing perfect to obstruct better.
“I always used to tell my staff, ain’t nothing wrong with better,” President Obama said last week at a round table with community leaders in Philadelphia. If you want to make your vote count for something; if you want to see progress on (or prevent further damage done to) any issue; if you want “better,” you need to understand what your one and only vote means.
One final thing to consider: Instead of blaming and bucking the two-party system for its failings, why not try to improve things by participating in it? Nothing goes straight from shambles to perfect. In order to get to perfect, we have to start with better, first. Perpetuating what’s wrong because you’re angry with it, doesn’t solve any problems — in fact, it sounds a lot like the angry Trump voter.
Let’s make the 2020 election and next four — and six — years better