The 2016 elections have made ignominious history. Both major party candidates have inspired record unfavorability ratings, and voters from both sides of the aisle have become heavily disillusioned with the political process that left them with the options of Trump and Clinton. Polls have reflected this disgust. A study of “Walmart Moms” exposed a demographic completely opposed to these candidates. One mom’s description of the candidates: “In politics, nobody’s ever great, but these two are just blah. They make me sick.”
With both nominees offering a host of problems, many Americans are likely to stay home and abstain from voting this November. Faced with these unappealing options, it’s easy to see why the average voter would not be motivated to make the trip down to the polling location to get their vote in.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. While there isn’t anything the average American can do to prevent an inevitable Clinton presidency in 2016, voters can send a message to both major parties that they are fed up, which is the best available option to motivate change in the platforms of the major parties.
It’s not that the current third party candidates are perfect — Gary Johnson once forgot who Harriet Tubman was. Jill Stein has lent credibility to very radical camps such as anti-vaxxers by saying that skepticism regarding vaccines was justified, that the relationship between the government and vaccine-producing pharma companies was like “the foxes...guarding the chicken coop.”
A vote for one of these candidates does not have to be a ringing endorsement, however. A third party vote can also be a declaration of concern about a specific issue that the establishment candidates have ignored. Stein and Johnson have made the national debt, single payer health care and the environment major parts of their platforms, and a boost in the polls will show that voters truly care about these issues.
But to get voters to consider third party candidates, two prevalent myths have to be disproved. The first is that, for most voters, voting for a candidate that won’t win seems to be an exercise in futility. The second reason people are hesitant to vote third party is that they are afraid that they could take away votes from the main party candidate that they prefer despite their reservations.
In a state like Texas, both of these reservations are unfounded. Recent polls show Trump up six to 11 points in the state, and due to the electoral college system, all votes that aren’t for Trump in this established red state, one that has gone Republican every election since 1980, are essentially meaningless. It doesn’t matter whether you vote for Clinton or Stein or Johnson in Texas — every single one of our electoral votes will go to Trump.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to vote for the candidate who most closely aligns with your own views? For someone living in a swing state, the decision is a lot more complex, but in established red or blue states it is safe to vote your conscience. Many Americans do not have only two options in this election, and would do more for their country by voting third party, and keeping the ruling parties honest.
Chastain-Howley is a rhetoric and writing junior from Dallas.