by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel
With the country so divided right now along party lines, as well as within each of the two major parties, it would be easy for voters to say “The hell with them all,” and sit this election out. Both of the major party candidates have record-setting voter disapproval ratings, assuring that our next president will be starting off their first term knowing that more than half the country did not like them, and would have preferred someone else for president.
But there really is no other choice this year.
History of Third Party Candidates
The reality is third party candidates have a terrible track record in this country, so a vote for the Green Party or the Libertarian Party is, in effect, throwing away your vote. Those who insist on exercising this option may get some emotional satisfaction out of rejecting the two major party candidates, but they are also helping Donald Trump.
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 established a Republican-Democrat duopoly that persists even today. Since then we have seen third-party candidates on the presidential ballot in two dozen elections, without success. In fact, most – including Ralph Nader in 2000 and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 – have failed to win a single electoral vote, do to the winner-take-all nature of the electoral college.
The last such candidate to secure any electoral votes was segregationist candidate George Wallace in 1968, who won five Southern states in his fight against the civil rights movement. And the most successful third party presidential candidate was Teddy Roosevelt, who bolted the Republican Party to run as a Progressive Party (aka “Bull Moose Party”) candidate in 1912, who won six states and came in second with 27% of the vote, but lost badly to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Despite the continuing complaints of dissatisfaction being heard from the cadre of enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporters, in fact Sen. Sanders himself has now acknowledged the inevitable and endorsed Hillary Clinton. Sanders used his popularity with millions of American voters to nudge the Democratic Party platform, and the Democratic candidate, to the left. And that’s a positive development.
But Sanders also realized the most important priority at this time is to assure that Donald Trump is not elected president.
Both Hillary Clinton and her vice-presidential running mate Sen. Tim Kaine support the right of the states to continue to experiment with different versions of marijuana legalization, without interference from the federal government. While Donald Trump said he too holds that position, that was not apparent from the language in the Republican platform, that appeared to be heading in the other direction. And with Trump, who could guess what his position will be tomorrow or the next day.
But more importantly, Donald Trump is a bigoted, racist, ignorant candidate whom no one with a whit of common sense would want running our country, or having his finger on the nuclear button. Merely having him as a major party candidate is an embarrassment for the country, and has sent shockwaves throughout our allies in NATO and other strategic alliances. He is obviously unfit to be president.
So don’t waste your vote making a political point, knowing it would make it more likely that “the Donald” might somehow squeak through and win this election. Every progressive voter who sits out this election, or who votes for a third party candidate, helps Donald Trump.
We can all fight among ourselves about specific issues and how best to achieve more progressive policies in this country. But none of us can afford the risk of a Trump presidency.