Freedom To Choose: Political Elites And The Protest Vote

Several prominent figures have repeatedly urged voters (read: millennials) not to "waste" their votes in the upcoming election by voting for third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (for recent examples, see here and here). They say this election is too important. They say we cannot allow Donald Trump to win.

For one, this is insulting. This is not insulting because the third-party candidates are worth voting for. They are not. But I'll get to that later. It is insulting because this is just another example of elitists blaming the voter for all of their woes. We cannot let Trump win. As if it is the voter's fault. For two, is a protest vote really going to be the deciding factor? Real Clear Politics averages have Clinton with a 0.9 percentage point lead with just her and Trump, and an 0.7 percentage point lead in a 4-way race. Not to mention a solid electoral college advantage up to this point. Am I saying she has it locked up? Of course not. Democrats should be nervous, and should do everything they can to widen the margin. But those efforts should not include browbeating millennials into voting for Secretary Clinton if they do not want to.

Elites like to pontificate about third-party voters (read: millennials) as if they are either ignorant, uneducated, or Joker-style anarchists who want to watch the world burn. Are some of them ignorant and uneducated? Yes. (Cue Baby Boomer mumbling "damn kids these days"). But many of them are not. And the paternalistic and condescending attitude of the left, who are petrified of centrists choosing an alternative option, does not help the situation.

It is the responsibility of political parties to present a convincing case to the populace as to why they deserve votes. If Donald Trump wins, the Democratic establishment are to blame. Clearly, the establishment have not successfully explained to voters why Clinton is better than Trump. In an election where they are facing arguably the most underqualified candidate in the history of the Republican Party, that's saying something.

For your convenience, here is a breakdown of the candidates:

Donald Trump is a demagogue, a racist, a xenophobe, an overrated businessman, a blowhard, etc. with no serious policy proposals. Oh wait, he does have a tax plan that will blow up the deficit. Sorry, my mistake. Secretary Clinton is a foreign policy hawk with a well-documented series of policy flip-flops and there are legitimate concerns regarding her character and "scandals" throughout her time at the White House, Clinton Foundation, and the State Department. For a primer, see this.

Not to worry, here come the criticisms of the third-party candidates:

Gov. Johnson's belief that "the market" will magically solve global warming and his all-time foreign policy gaffe (see "What is Aleppo?") alone disqualify him. This does not even consider the disturbingly strict adherence to free markets displayed in the Libertarian platform that, while maybe not shared entirely by the Governor, nonetheless discounts the party's legitimacy. Jill Stein's comments regarding vaccines and calls for another 9/11 investigation place her just one rung below Jesse Ventura on the conspiracy theorist totem pole. Not to mention the unfeasibility of cutting the defense budget by 50 percent, replacing NAFTA, and making Medicare universal.

Is it any wonder, then, that voters have no idea what to do? Real Clear Politics poll averages indicate that nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of respondents believe that the country is on the wrong track. The same polls place Congressional Job Approval just south of 13 percent. Secretary Clinton's unfavorables are -13.0, while Donald Trump's are -18.8. Yet some are baffled that Gary Johnson is polling at 8.6 percent and Jill Stein at 3.1 percent.

Could we have a sorrier array of choices? Probably not. But instead of blaming the voters, it is time for elites to look inward.

A Trump victory would be disastrous for this country. But so would a Clinton victory if Democrats remain willfully ignorant of Secretary Clinton's scandals and character flaws so that they feel "less bad" about casting a vote for her in November. That will institutionalize the hilariously low standards of this election as the new normal. As a result, we will see unqualified, scandalous, and extremist candidates continue to throw their hats into the ring for many, many elections to come. And they will win elections. And our country will be forever changed for the worse because of it.

Samuel Adams perhaps said it best: "Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men [or women] of unexceptionable characters."

Boy, those were the days...

So what should you do?

Whatever you want. It is not my place to tell other citizens how to exercise their right to vote. Nor is it the place of an economist from the New York Times, or a hypocritical politician who built his career on the protest vote. Whether a Trump vote, Clinton vote, Johnson vote, Stein vote, or protest vote in absentia, it should be a choice free from belittlement.

However, I do have this to offer: No matter how you vote, don't be proud of it. Don't be complacent with our current political environment. Be angry because of it. Demand better candidates. Demand compromise from your elected officials. Demand that this country's better angels show through in years to come. We owe it to ourselves after these last several months - these long, tiring, depressing months...