Column
October 12, 2016

Protesting too much

The closer this election gets—or at any rate the closer we pretend it is—the more articles I see lamenting the foolishness of Millennials who plan to vote for third-party candidates instead of Hillary Clinton. The New York Times has been publishing these articles almost daily, including one called “The Folly of the Protest Vote” that ends with the line “I know you’re young, but grow up!”
Third-party voters have probably always been viewed as a bit quixotic, but this year’s election—in which a particularly uninspiring Democrat goes up against a particularly horrifying Republican—has created a perfect storm for the fear-based mass demonization of the supporters of the Green and Libertarian parties. The New York Times insists that anti-Trump Millennials who are nevertheless considering voting for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton are simply too young to remember the horror of the 2000 election, in which the vote-splitting campaign of Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency, leaving us with George W. Bush as our commander-in-chief. For progressives, Hillary is even less exciting than Gore was, and Donald Trump may be even worse than Bush—it’s a good thing that the op-ed writers for our national newspaper of record are hard at work assuring college kids that they are morons and should do as the New York Times says.
It’s not just professional columnists (or Samantha Bee). A lot of my Facebook friends have internalized this line of thought and are spitting it back out, spamming their social networks with righteous rants about the disgust they feel for the selfish and irresponsible voters who are willing to jeopardize the safety of Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ people, women, and every other group who would be endangered by a Trump presidency just so that they don’t have to “compromise their principles” by voting for Clinton.
Am I the only one who sees something a bit undemocratic in all this?
I was young in the year 2000, but I think Bush’s victory devastated me as much as it did anyone else. I do recall that many people blamed Nader’s supporters—rather than, say, the half of the electorate that didn’t vote at all, or the Supreme Court, which halted the Florida recount and gave the presidency to Bush for no particularly good reason.
Here is my take: when, at election time, a citizen takes stock of his or her values, examines the records and proposals of the candidates, finds a candidate with whom he or she mostly agrees, and then goes out and votes for that candidate, this citizen has done his or her civic duty—this is exactly how democracy is supposed to work. One cannot be in favor of democracy and find fault with what has happened here.
And here, I think, is how the presidential election of 2016 will work: until Nov. 8, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will continue to debate and give speeches around the country. If more people agree with Hillary Clinton’s message than with Donald Trump’s, Hillary Clinton will garner more votes and win the presidency. If more people agree with Donald Trump’s message than with Hillary Clinton’s, Donald Trump will win the presidency. The presidency will not (and should not) be decided by the level of energy and diligence with which the Democrats’ media lackeys bully people who don’t agree with either candidate’s message into voting for their candidate anyway.
We know that you repulsive Millennials hate Hillary Clinton, says the New York Times (more or less), but you’re still required to vote for her. Just shut up and do it. The real folly, of course, is in expecting people to cast a presidential ballot for someone whom they don’t actually want to be president; believing that they should do so is worse than folly. The Democrats aren’t entitled to young people’s votes. If they want young people to vote for them, they should promote policies and ideas about which young people are enthusiastic. If Hillary Clinton instead chases soccer moms and moderate Republicans, that’s her choice.
So—one more time, here is how democracy, under ideal circumstances, is supposed to work: when a candidate loses an election, it’s because not enough people agreed with the candidate’s politics, and so not enough people voted for the candidate. The problem is not that people who didn’t agree with the candidate didn’t vote for the candidate. Those people were not supposed to vote for that candidate; they did the right thing by not voting for him or her.
If you love Hillary Clinton, great! Go vote for her. And if you don’t want the Millennial in your life to vote for Gary Johnson, maybe you should explain that Gary Johnson is a simpleton whose libertarian ideology, if implemented, would be disastrous for everyone but the super-rich and just as bad for the health of our planet. And if you don’t want the Millennial in your life to vote for Jill Stein, explain that, while he or she may agree with much of the Green Party’s platform, Jill Stein has done nothing to merit serious consideration as a politician and has in fact allowed progressivism to be hijacked by the vaccine- and GMO-related paranoia of privileged hippies who only discredit the movement and distract from meaningful goals.
Then, explain to him or her why Hillary is actually a good candidate—maybe not perfect, but deserving of the presidency all the same. But if you can’t make this argument, maybe you shouldn’t be voting for Hillary either.

Killington Music Festival Banner

Share This Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *