There's a familiar theme to this election. It's the same one you hear about every four years: "It's a choice between the lesser of two evils!"
I hate that assessment.
"Evil" implies malevolence, an intention to do harm; it is a profoundly powerful word. There are a few people who have walked the earth that fit that moniker: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot to name a few. They wanted to kill those who disagreed or were different. They did so by the millions.
Let's save the "e" word for those who deserve it. When we throw that word out about people who commit the crime of not agreeing with us on absolutely every issue, it poisons the well of our democracy. It implies voting for anyone is an act of evil in that the vote endorses and chooses evil.
It also colors the way we view candidates and carry out political discourse. If we can undermine, ridicule, and demean the other choice, we win, not by building, but by belittling.
Those who chose third-party candidates sometimes have a sanctimonious attitude: "I'm better than you because I reject your two party system. I will not participate in your nefarious anti-Sophie's choice of candidates."
That's not to say a third-party voter can't be genuine if the person is actually supporting their candidate and the party platform. That's fine. I disagree with the Libertarian platform on philosophical grounds, but at least it's pure to itself and logically consistent.
But when the "I've-had-it" voter, uses that choice as a prop so they can claim some artificial piety, I find the attitude off-putting. The "I don't vote for the party; I vote for the PERSON" pompousness is as naive as it is annoying.
Third-party candidates aren't better people because they're third-party candidates. They're just ignored. They aren't investigated or maligned by opposition, scorned by the masses or misrepresented by the opposing side of the media.
Nor are they often in positions of power where they are forced to compromise through legislative process. It's easy for Jill Stein to claim ideological purity when she's never had to deal with a pragmatic application of it.
Gary Johnson, the most popular third-party candidate, has 10 reviews by PoltiFact right now. All statements made by him, which suggests no one is attacking him, fairly or unfairly. Because of that, we don't know his warts, and that makes him "not" one of the two evils.
But bear in mind, just because we don't know as much about him doesn't make him more or less flawed. It just makes him too immaterial to worry about. That's not a personal attack; it's an observation. There's an upside to being overlooked too.
No one is perfect, least of all any politician. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have flaws. So do I. So do you. So did Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and every pope who ever lived. Pointing to someone's flaws, real or imagined, is missing the point.
If we equate finding flaws with supporting evil, then every vote is a vote for evil.
So, instead of seeing it as a choice between evils, think of it in a positive light. In which way does your vote have the greatest chance to accomplish the most good? How will it benefit the most people?
I say this because I've come across many a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter still feeling the burn. They swear they're never going to vote for Hillary Clinton because they believe she and the DNC stole the election.
But if you're one of them, set aside your feeling about things. Think about what can be done.
Clinton wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. There are roughly 1.3 million people right now who are working for $7.25 an hour. Every day they go to work and work a full eight-hour day, they make $58, less whatever taxes come out. If Clinton had her way, that could be $120.00.
That would be $80.6 million more they would collectively bring home every day--$400 million per week, $20.8 billion per year. Even If it took Clinton a year to pass it, that would mean a difference of as much as $60 billion to the working poor.
Sure, you can quibble with the numbers. Certainly, all those workers aren't full time. But that's not including all the ones who are working two jobs, either. And it doesn't include the ones who are making between $7.25 and $15.00 per hour.
And maybe it doesn't climb all the way to $15.00. Maybe Clinton compromises at $12.00 or even $10.00 if there's a log-jammed Congress. But if it goes up--even marginally--that means the most underpaid segment of the population will have tens of billions more dollars because of your vote.
Meanwhile, Trump would leave the minimum wage alone, and Johnson prefers doing away with it altogether.
Which cast of your vote accomplishes the most good?
Clinton would like to improve that even more by incentivizing states who aren't expanding Medicaid to do so. She also wants to lower prescription medicine costs by taking on big Pharma.
Trump makes vague promises about repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something vague and undefined. Johnson would cut the ACA and gut Medicare/Medicaid by 43 percent, which would impact over 100 million people.
So which way does your vote do the most good?
On education, Clinton is unequivocally peerless among the three. She's done more with education in her life than the other two candidates have even imagined doing. The differences are vast, but one thing worth highlighting here is the Democratic platform highlights shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline.
Rather she envisions a $2 billion plan with "School Climate Support Teams" which facilitate a cradle-to-college pipeline instead. And she would have tuition-free college for anyone from a family making less than $1250,000 per year.
Trump would fight for school vouchers if he had his way, thus taking even more moeny out of the public school system and making them even more stacked against minorities.
Johnson would just do away with the entire Department of Education.
Again, which way would your vote do the most good?
We have a Supreme Court seat empty with the next generation of decisions at stake, depending on who fills that void. We have courts striking down blatantly racist voter ID laws in that they not only have a racist impact; state legislatures passed them for their discriminatory impact.
Whether they stay struck down or are reversed by the Supreme Court could be determined by who the next justice is. While Clinton's nominees would be the more liberal type, Trump says his would be in the Justice Scalia lineage.
Johnson might be inclined to name the same type of justices as Clinton, but he would have a harder time getting his choice approved with no party and no relationships in the Seante.
Again, what is the most good your vote can do?
There are things that Bernie fought for. In some, he even caused Clinton to move to the left. These are good things. Many of those good things can still be done. Literally, over 100 million people can benefit from your vote.
Does it do less good if Clinton passes those things instead of Sanders? Does it matter to the people making a working wage? To those who keep their insurance? To the elderly who keep their Medicaid benefits? To the young black children who are on a path to college instead of prison? Or to the millions of minority voters who won't be unnecessarily burdened to exercise their rights?
Does the doer of the good diminish the benefit of it?
Those who say they won't choose between the lesser of two evils also say they will vote their conscience. I challenge that assertion.
If you can do good with your vote and choose not to, that is not voting your conscience; it's voting your ego. And if you put your ego above the common good, who is doing the real evil?