But it doesn’t matter what message you think you are sending, because no one will receive it. No one is listening. The system is set up so that every choice other than ‘R’ or ‘D’ boils down to “I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens.” It’s easy to argue that our system shouldn’t work like that. It’s impossible to argue it doesn’t work like that.
This is a fallacious argument, because it does not take into account that this is unlikely to be the last Presidential election in the United States. It is more important to me to hasten the following trend than to pick between a “neo-liberal disaster and a neo-fascist catastrophe:”
Maybe, as you say, “it doesn’t work like that” now, but things are changing, and every vote the representatives of the two major parties don’t receive today signals to the next generation that it’s OK not to fall into the two-party trap. Whatever happens today, I don’t want the voters of the future to be held hostage to the same fear people now are that has roughly half of the people voting for Clinton doing so because they are against Trump, and half of the people voting for Trump doing so because they are against Clinton. Imagine if all those people just voted for someone they liked? Neither Clinton nor Trump could win in that scenario, but they are paralyzed by the same fear that has prompted you to dismiss the value of a “protest vote.”
I say a vote for Clinton or Trump is a wasted vote, especially if you don’t really like them, and if you don’t step up to pave the way for a better tomorrow by loosing the oppressive binds of the wildly corrupt two-party establishment today, then you are just perpetuating the same problem. Consider: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are somehow the major party candidates we’re stuck with. They did not come out of thin air. They were produced by a legacy of failed politics, and any vote for a Democrat or Republican is a vote cast in denial of this legacy of failure, a vote to keep the same system in place. Why would you reward a system that brought us either of these candidates, much less both of them, by voting for one of them?
Because you are afraid, but you don’t even realize the biggest threat is that things don’t change as fast as possible, so we’re not stuck in the same unwinnable conundrum every four years, where people resign themselves to believing you can’t use your vote to push for a better future because “it doesn’t work like that.” What doesn’t work is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a better result. This election is precisely and unequivocally America reaping what it has sown. It’s not going to get better if we keep giving them our votes like it’s our job. It’s not our job. They’re not entitled to our votes.
Beyond this undeniable logic, there is also the ethical matter that I do not want my vote attached to either of these people. I do not endorse either of them, I view them both as lying sociopaths, and, as such, neither will be receiving my vote. I cannot in good conscience vote for either one of them.
None of this creates an obligation to vote, or to vote for one of the two viable candidates. It is, famously, a free country, and you can vote for anyone you like, or for no one. But if you do, don’t kid yourself — and certainly don’t try to kid anyone else — that you are creating some kind of positive political change. Noisily opting out as a way of demonstrating your pique is an understandable human act. It’s just not a political act. It’s an elaborate way of making the rest of us do the work of deciding.
I could say the same of you. If you choose to vote for one of the two viable candidates, that’s your choice. But, if you do, don’t kid yourself — and certainly don’t try to kid anyone else — that your one vote has even a one in septillion chance of making any kind of difference in the outcome of the election. Noisily opting out of progress as a way of demonstrating your commitment to one horrible candidate over another horrible candidate is an understandable human act. It’s just not a political act. It’s an elaborate way for you to feel like you’re doing something important, but leaving the real work of progress up to the rest of us.