No one should feel obligated to vote for a candidate who doesn't represent their interests
In a democracy, people should have the liberty to vote their conscience. Now that the 2016 general election is kicking off in earnest, people are getting pressured to pick between two of the most hated presidential candidates in modern history.
While there are other choices on the ballot, Democratic and Republican party loyalists are pressuring potential voters to vote for either Hillary or Trump and arguing that a vote for an independent candidate is a de facto vote for or against Hillary or Trump.
For years independent voters have been scorned by adherents of the two major political parties in America. Aside from the fact that independents are heavily marginalized within the political process, the voters are usually berated by Democrats and Republicans. According to establishment logic, voting independent is a waste and if a voter chooses to vote independent, depending on who he/she votes for, you are somehow directly handing a vote to either the Democrat or Republican.
The establishment logic says that the Democrat and Republican are the only two “viable” options to vote for president. If you are a left leaning voter and you decide to vote for Jill Stein and the Green Party over Hillary Clinton, then you are merely handing a vote to the Republican. The same logic works on the right. Say if a right leaning voter votes for Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, then that voter is merely handing a vote to Hillary Clinton.
While numerically it is true that by voting for one candidate you are denying a vote to another. But, in a democratic system that supposedly cherishes ballots, why should it matter who takes votes away from whom?
While many staunch progressives on the left and libertarians on the right will vote independent regardless, there is a widely held system of belittlement for voters even considering voting independent. It’s the old “Nader’s Fault” tactic, which deals with the points listed above.
After Bush was handed the presidency by the Supreme Court in 2000, many Democrats blamed Ralph Nader, who was running as an independent at the time. Even today, Democrats seem to blame the loss of the 2000 election on Nader, who is said to have drawn much needed progressive votes away from Al Gore, which helped tip the race in favor of Bush.
While it cannot be mathematically denied that Nader did take potential votes away from Gore, the establishment mind is making a rather dubious claim in this line of thought. Rather than blame Nader (who only grabbed 2.7 percent of the vote by the way) for taking votes, why does the Democratic Party not assess the candidates it runs? Even if Nader was in the race, a lot more progressives and liberals would have voted for Gore if they saw Gore as more appealing.
It’s always unpopular in Democratic circles to criticize the Nader hatred, but the fact is Gore would have won if he was a better candidate (and the SCOTUS allowed a real recount in Florida). Ralph Nader and his 2.7 percentage votes didn’t cost Gore the election. Perhaps a little personal responsibility is needed in this issue.
Independents are told that their votes are worthless unless they vote for either of the two establishment parties. For a nation that prides itself on free choice, it seems that (for elections) those choices are extremely narrow. Of course your vote counts if you vote for an independent party. It counts because this is supposed to be a democracy, and you are supposed to have the right to vote your conscience without being vilified in the process.
It’s simple: it is up to the candidates to sway people with their message to vote for them, it is not beholden for voters to vote for anyone out of party loyalty. If more progressives are swayed by Jill Stein’s message and vote for her over Hillary, that’s not the shortcoming of Jill Stein. That’s a shortcoming on Hillary, and it’s time for Democrats to come to terms with this. The same goes, of course, for Republicans.
Independents are the largest voting blocs in the country, but somehow are the most marginalized and scorned. This is especially true when it comes to getting a spot in the presidential debates. While technically an independent can get on the debate stage if they get at least 15 percent average in polls, there is a catch. Many polls taken in the election do not include other candidates, or some polls include one set of candidates and not others. It becomes hard to get a 15 percent average in polls when many polls won’t include you. That is by design of course.
Vote for whoever you want. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are obligated to vote for. It is up to Hillary and Trump to persuade us to give them our vote, it is not up to the voter to bah like sheep while waiting to be sheered by an elephant or mule. Remember that your vote is special, and you owe it to no one.