2016 a great year to waste your vote on a 3rd party

David Allen Martin is a weekly columnist for Rare.us and Nooga.com.

Libertarian journalist Nick Gillespie recently asked on Twitter, “Has there ever been a better election in which to ‘waste’ your vote by going 3rd party?”

Accompanying his question was one of those mashup photos of the two major party presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton’s face melded over the head, body, and unmistakable hair of Donald Trump. Besides inducing shivers, the point of the picture is hard to miss – in many ways, the two are one in the same, and what they represent (crony statism) is thoroughly disagreeable.

My short answer to Gillespie’s question is “no.” But it’s worth taking a bit more time to focus on the word of emphasis in his question: “waste.”

If you’re one of the millions of folks put off by both the Democratic and Republican nominees, you’ve likely considered pulling the lever for a third-party candidate. If you lean right, you’ve probably Googled Gary Johnson, and if you’re of progressive persuasions, there’s a good chance you’ve studied up on Jill Stein.

Odds are, you’ve liked what you’ve seen. Compared to Trump and Clinton, the Johnson and Stein tickets seem both genuine and mature, even if you don’t completely agree with their platforms. In a season when deciding between the two headliners is like choosing between being punched in the face, it’s been enjoyable to consider alternatives.

But have you brought up your third-party flirtations to any of your friends? I have, and almost every time, I’ve heard that word tweeted by Gillespie: “waste.”

“What a waste,” “You’re wasting your vote,” or, since I’m a conservative who favors Johnson over the rest of the field, “You’re wasting our only chance to beat Hillary!”

Ah yes, the preferred tactic of GOPers trying to cajole other right-wingers into supporting their nominee: declaring that Trump is the lesser of two evils and only he can keep Hillary out of the White House. It’s amazing that outside his most fervent fans, most Republicans who choose to support Trump do so assuming he will be bad for our country — just not as bad as Clinton.

On her website, Jill Stein offers a pretty powerful quote: “If you can’t put your values into your vote, then democracy is lost at sea.”

Nothing is more exciting to voters than believing their votes are going toward some good. Naturally, we like to think our values are the good values, but when we see those values manifest in a candidacy, we enthusiastically punch the ballot for that ticket.

That’s not 2016, though, at least as far as the frontrunners are concerned. As both major-party nominees regularly record unfavorable scores topping 50 percent, it’s plain that most Americans don’t see themselves reflected in either Trump or Clinton. But there are other names to choose from, other candidacies to explore.

I, for one, prefer not to vote against someone with my ballot. Call me hopeless, call it a waste, but I'd rather actually vote for someone.

The RNC and DNC, along with their loyalists, would like for you to believe we live in a zero-sum political world. Well, we don’t. And though my vote this year probably won’t put my candidate in the Oval Office, if enough Americans “waste” their votes, perhaps the message will be sent that we need better choices.

It’s worth a shot. And again, there’s never been a better time.

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