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The Blue & Gray Press | September 22, 2017

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Op Ed: Response to “your protest vote will not work”

Op Ed: Response to “your protest vote will not work”

By QUENTIN BENTZIN

America as a country was never designed to have only two political parties, battling head to head in every election. From the beginning, every citizen was expected to vote for whomever they thought would be the best leader of the country.

As time went on, the definition of who did and did not count as electable changed, but those initial ideals of free choice through democracy remain the same. As I read articles in the media throughout the country with headlines such as “Your protest vote will not work,” I shudder with fear knowing that everyday people try to convince generation after generation that their vote is meaningless.

Lines such as “the ballot box is neither the time nor the place to express political opinions outside from the obvious” make me worry for the future of our country. With third party polling numbers in the low teens in the most ambitious of polls, I can do nothing but agree that no third party candidate has a chance of winning. But what does this mean to me when I head to the polls? Am I obligated to vote for Donald Trump?

For the sake of transparency, let me inform you as to where I stand. I am a conservative from the deep red state of Texas living in the significantly blue city of Austin. Being in such a politically diverse environment with the far right, the far left, and everything in between coexisting together gave me a comprehensive backdrop on which to paint my political ideology.

That being said, I ultimately will be voting for Gary Johnson come Election Day in November. I am not ashamed to admit that I have settled upon a third party candidate whom I know will not win. What I am ashamed of is the culture we have grown for ourselves where anyone who

speaks against the masses is immediately shot down with comments like “you’re throwing away your vote”. Democracy has failed if we let ourselves become convinced that our vote is meaningless unless we are voting for whomever is the popular vote at the moment. Voting for a candidate who best aligns with my views is not “throwing away my vote,” it is doing my civic duty to vote for what I believe in. “Throwing away my vote” is voting for someone that I am vehemently opposed to just so I can say that I voted for the winning team.

I agree that a Trump presidency would be abhorrent, but what I find equally abhorrent is guilt-tripping people into thinking that if they don’t like Trump their only option is to vote for the democratic nominee. Personally, I do agree with several of the major points of the Democratic Party.

Campaign on those points! Use the appeal of the values on which you stand to get people to vote for your candidate; don’t harass and blackmail them with threats of committing “selfish acts that hurts many and helps none.” By starting off with the need to tell people that their protest vote will not work, you miss the point of voting entirely.

It is not just to flow with the tide. With your logic, no democrat in Texas should every bother voting because the state is already decided. Yet, the blue bubble that is Austin continues to grow larger every year. Is the fall of a red Texas imminent?

Probably not. Is it still important for every democrat in the state to vote if not to show that there is still opposition? Of course. Protests by nature start off as a small movement with no victory in sight until one day they have changed the minds of enough people to start to make a difference.

Before you know it, tea in the harbor becomes a constitution in our hands and a truly horrifying election cycle becomes the spark that could change the status quo of democracy in America.

The ballot box is where every American, republican and democrat, white and black, male and female, have the opportunity to express their political opinion whether that is the immediately obvious, or something that has never been put into the public light before.

The only way to end the ailments of a two party system is to vote for the change. Vote for a third party, keep voting for a third party and perhaps enough people will start to listen so a real third party can arise. With an election that has come down to candidates fighting to see who can be more insulting, now, more than ever, is the best time to opt for something new.

Yes, either Trump or Hillary is going to be our next president. Yes, the opposing side will blame all those who voted third party for letting it happen, but don’t let yourself become their scapegoat. Take a stand, exercise your right to vote, exercise your right to vote independently of any party.

Don’t let anyone tell you what your opinion is. Sure, if you vote third party you will not be voting for the winning candidate. That is not the aim. Vote to invest in the future of our country beyond the next election.

Support of a third party now shows the leaders of tomorrow that more and more Americans are looking for real change. Idealism is admirable, especially when someone has the courage to wade against the tide and strive for real change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. True leadership is pushing for what you believe in even if everyone else is against you.

Don’t be afraid to try to change the system even if everyone says that you’re stuck with it the way that it is. While your future may not be on the line, the future of the United States is. In the words of Rob Siltanen, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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