I know I’m not alone when I say I’m watching the 2016 presidential election through my fingers, wincing at both the Democratic and Republican candidates. I’m disappointed that out of the millions and millions of people in this country, including a whole field of solid (or at least halfway decent) Republican nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are apparently the best choices we could come up with. Honestly, I’m a little scared for what the outcome -- either outcome -- will mean for the United States and for the world.
I know I’m not alone because I hear similar sentiments every day: things like “Watching this election makes me so depressed.” “I don’t like either candidate.” “I have no idea who to vote for.”
To cap it off, even though there is an alternative -- voting for a third-party candidate -- there might as well not be. After all, the common argument goes, the political system in America is so dominated by the two major parties there’s no way a third party could make more than a microscopic difference.
I already know that I can't not vote. We could debate that issue, but to my mind, voting is what makes a democracy work, and I'm not about to squander a freedom that so many people have died for (or would die for).
So, third parties.
Voting for a third party is “throwing away your vote,” according to many. Or, as I hear even more often, it’s “helping _______ (fill in the blank) win.”
But is that really what voting is all about?
I keep hearing, particularly in this cringe-inducing election, that “it’s not about voting for; it’s about voting against.”
But what if you’re against both choices? What then?
I believe that voting is not just about picking the winning racehorse. It’s not just about settling for the lesser of two evils, or about denying power to one party even though you don’t agree with your own party's pick either. It’s not just about going with the way the two-party system works and trying to make your vote “have a real impact.”
It’s about living with integrity. It’s about putting your vote where your morals are, as best you can. It’s declaring with my vote that I’m extremely unhappy with both political parties, and I’m not going to vote blindly for someone just because they’re wearing a GOP sticker or because they’re not Trump. I could vote for Clinton because I find Trump’s demeanor distasteful at best, downright disastrous at worst. I could vote for Trump because of Clinton’s own sketchy past and extremely dubious morals. But do I want to? Do I feel that’s right? No. I don’t.
If you’ve already made up your mind on one candidate or the other, then this probably doesn’t apply to you. I’m voicing what I’ve heard over and over again -- neither candidate is worthy of my support. I tend to lean more to the conservative side in my views, as many of you do. This doesn’t mean I couldn’t stomach voting for a Democrat (I would if it seemed like the best option available), but it does mean I want my faith and my values to affect who I vote for.
To those who say it's the outcome that matters, not your ideals or conscience, I reply that I was taught to do the right thing even when it means the outcome of doing the right thing isn't pleasant. For me, a vote is me saying that I give my support, and some measure of whatever trust and power I possess, to a candidate.
I intend to vote my conscience this election. And I cannot in good conscience support either Clinton or Trump.