Wait, we have another option?
Lucy Collins | Thursday, September 15, 2016
“Be prepared to be bombarded with questions about this election.” These are the words of warning we received before traveling to Ireland for a study abroad program. Apparently this election is so notorious and consequential as to startle even those overseas that cannot vote in November. When it comes to this upcoming election, the typical response if asked one’s thoughts on the election seems to be one of three options:
– A dramatic sigh followed with the name of whomever the individual views as the lesser of two evils.
– A promise that said individual is going to abstain from voting
– Some joke about writing in the name of Guy Fieri or an equivalent
In fact, according to Gallup, one in four Americans strongly dislike both candidates, and as many as 75 percent of those who remain do not strongly prefer Clinton over Trump, or vice versa. What you never really seem to hear is someone intent on voting for a third-party candidate. Although there are drawbacks to giving your vote to a non-Democrat/Republican candidate, the current state of our country’s political scene may call for a closer the other option.
Last week in an economics class, the teacher took a poll amongst students to demonstrate ranking preferences. We were told to rank Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson from best to worst candidate. Several students volunteered to share their preferences aloud, and of the five who shared, every single one ranked the Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson as their top choice, despite having varying orders for the other three candidates. This shocked me, as I have hardly heard Johnson discussed as a viable option for president. In order to appear on a nationally-broadcasted debate alongside Clinton and Trump, Johnson would need to garner at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations. Johnson has been receiving around 8 through 11 percent in most polls, which is roughly twice as high as Johnson’s figures from the last cycle. Despite this progress, you might expect him to have a higher polling percentage, given responses like the one in my economics class. So why aren’t as many people pledging their vote to Johnson as those who claim to prefer him above the others?
I have heard the idiom “stuck between a rock and a hard place” used many times throughout this election cycle, but to many, it seems to be more like “a rock and the most unfathomably hard place imaginable.” While many dislike both options, it is usually the case that one candidate is vastly preferable to the other, depending on the individual. Many Republicans, who might not usually stand behind Trump, fear that a vote for Johnson is a vote for Clinton, as it is essentially throwing away a Republican vote. An excerpt from a 1996 episode of “The Simpsons” demonstrates this idea when a citizen states his intent to vote for a third-party candidate and is derisively told by the evil alien election front-runner to “go ahead and throw [his] vote away.” There has been a movement, however, designated to stop this mindset. The website, BalancedRebellion.com, came up with a system that allows Republicans and Democrats who mutually dislike their candidates come together to vote for Johnson, and balance out the scales so that neither party gets the benefit of a lopsided vote. In theory, this would help members of both parties feel reassured that their vote is not helping the opposition, but whether or not it is potent enough of an idea to actually convince voters to vote for Johnson remains to be seen, and depends on the willingness of Johnson supporters to spread the message and garner wide varieties of support.
It would be very easy, particularly for college students who are far away from their registered voting precincts, to decide to simply not vote in this election. I will admit that I have been tempted to abstain from my first presidential election vote under the conviction that it might represent my own small form of protestation. On average, about 60 percent of eligible voters participate in presidential elections, but political analysts are predicting a lower-than-average turnout for this election. Despite the temptation to stay home Nov. 8, I am a huge proponent of the idea that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about who is elected and what policies they enact. Perhaps a better way to protest is to give your vote to a third-party candidate, who can demonstrate America’s dissatisfaction by gaining higher-than-average polling percentages in the general election. Whichever way you vote this November, whether for Clinton, Trump or Fieri, keep in mind that, despite modern emphasis on a two-party system, there are other options. Don’t forget that good ole’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull-Moose Party beat out the Republican Party to almost win the election of 1912. It could happen again.
Aside from incessantly quoting “Hamilton” and other perfect works of theater/film, Lucy Collins majors in economics and history, is a sophomore at Notre Dame and is often found trying to balance her hopeless romanticism and nearly constant cynicism. Please direct comments to [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.