Election 2016: Like 'em or not, you still need to vote
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After a 108-years-long drought, the Chicago Cubs just won the 2016 World Series, proving that anything is possible. That being said, you had better get to the polls on November 8.

While it has been an arduous election cycle unprecedented in its contentiousness, it is not over until it is over. The nation may be suffering from election fatigue, but it will be suffering from a lot more if eligible voters do not step up to the plate on Tuesday.

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Whether through polling or social media, many have expressed their displeasure with both major party candidates. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonVideo of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Ronan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' MORE are often lauded as the “most unpopular” candidates in history. However, popularity is subjective. The most popular guy in your high school might have been class president, but would he necessarily be someone you would want in the Oval Office?

Trump and Clinton’s popularity aside, the reality is that one of them will be president-elect on November 9, provided no one contests the results. Whether you like it or not, whether you vote or not, whether you go third party or not, either Trump or Clinton will become the 45th president.

The tired and clichéd notion that people do not want to vote for the “lesser of two evils” often rules election rhetoric. Well, odds are, most candidates who run for any office anywhere will not match your values and priorities perfectly, thus your choice is always the “lesser evil”, or relatively speaking, the better alternative. It is best to heed another cliché: “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Voting is not an idealized statement; it is an action with a practical outcome. If your vote did not matter, then wealthy interests would not try and buy it, and other sinister elements would not try to gerrymander or disenfranchise it. Voting is your access to the system.

It is your right to vote or not vote, unlike in countries such as Brazil, where voting is mandatory. When you waive your right, you abdicate your authority to all those who do vote. This means others will vote on an outcome that directly or indirectly affects you, your family, your neighbors, and your community.

The two-party system has been lamented by many and third-party candidates like Libertarian Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonThe Trump strategy: Dare the Democrats to win Trump challenger: 'All bets are off' if I win New Hampshire primary Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party say there need to be more choices. Well, the problem in this election is not the two-party system or a dearth of choices. If you recall the primaries, there were 17 GOP candidates and the other 16 could not topple Donald Trump.

In the Democratic primary, there were originally four candidates. Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders wishes Ocasio-Cortez happy birthday Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Sanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption MORE, an independent and self-ascribed Democratic Socialist, chose to run as a Democrat. It was an intelligent move to work through the system instead of making an impractical third-party bid.

While Sanders ultimately lost the popular vote, he did provide a competitive race. His debates with Clinton were policy-rich and substantive. While the primary was impassioned, Clinton and Sanders were capable of something we do not see often in U.S. politics: dialogue.

Apart from the 21 Democratic and Republican candidates, there were more candidates in the form of third-party choices, such as the former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarians, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and emergent Evan McMullin of Utah, among others. Apart from having no discernible pathway to the White House, there are practical reasons not to vote third-party.

The anti-establishment furor generated unusual interest in third parties this year. Some have said that being scared by Trump will not make them vote Clinton. However, voting third-party because it is neither Trump nor Clinton is the same logic. Third parties provide additional choices, however, it does not mean they are better choices.

Pundit John Oliver, although humorously panning both Johnson and Stein, did sum up their records nicely. Though non-interventionist, Johnson’s “Aleppo moment” demonstrated an ignorance of the global sphere. A Harvard-educated medical doctor, Stein has made anti-vaxxer comments and her investment portfolio is questionable and ostensibly hypocritical. Neither candidate had to go through a rigorous vetting process like a primary, otherwise they might have been scrutinized just as much as Trump and Clinton.

Voting third-party is not a means to clear your conscience. Your third-party vote will not elect your chosen candidate and will also have the “double effect” of helping elect either Trump or Clinton, as your vote will be factored into the final percentages and totals. The U.S. experienced this in 2000, when Ralph Nader syphoned enough votes that former Vice-President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold Gore2020 general election debates announced Odds place Greta Thunberg as front-runner for this year's Nobel Peace Prize Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia MORE lost to George W. Bush. 

At the time, Nader’s campaign compared Bush and Gore as being one and the same. The Bush Administration involved the U.S. in its two longest conflicts in American history and ended with the Great Recession. While we will never know what a Gore presidency would have been, it is clear that Gore, a champion for climate change policy, was not another Bush. Voting third-party does have consequences.

Most importantly, the presidential race is not the only one on the ballot. If you are dissatisfied with the status quo, maybe it is due to years of congressional obstructionism. Your congressman represents you and your senator represents your state. If they refuse to govern responsibly (or at all), hold them accountable by voting them out. By not voting, they stay to do more of the same.

If a third-party candidate garners a high enough percentage, they will not win the electoral college, but may complicate matters. Congress will then make the decision, but it is likely not to be an objective one. It also merits stating that it would be complicated for the Supreme Court to comment as there is not a full bench. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria MORE continues to not consider Merrick Garland, a moderate appointee, for even a vote.

We can look to our friends across the pond to see that using your vote to send a message does not always pan out in the intended way. British voters favoring Brexit felt they were sending a message, then ended up voting themselves outside the European Union.

Based on the British Google searches that followed, they had no idea what they had done. For those who believe Trump and Clinton are the same candidate, will you feel the same way on November 9?

There are many choices, but in reality, there are only two options for president. Are you going to let Congress or other voters decide? Are you going to choose the best possible outcome, or are you going to let the “perfect be the enemy of the good”? According to the Pew Research Center, in the 2012 presidential election, only 53.6% of those eligible voted. Midterm elections for Congress are worse.

The two-party system is not perfect. However, a multiparty system is not necessarily the answer to our woes. If participation is low, either would be ineffective because there would be no accountability. For there to be real change, incremental or otherwise, the onus is on us, the American voters. It is our civic duty to participate, make informed decisions, and vote.

Just because our team did not make it to the World Series of politics, that does not mean we let America strike out on November 8.  

Beitman is the Executive Director at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in Arlington, VA.


 

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.