The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Be realistic: your protest vote will not work

3 min read
By SHAWNYA PETERSON In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the anti-Hillary “Bernie or Bust” movement began to gain support, with members pledging responses ranging from writing in Sanders’ name on Election Day to abstaining from voting altogether.
Bernie Sanders Rally | Flickr


In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the anti-Hillary “Bernie or Bust” movement began to gain support, with members pledging responses ranging from writing in Sanders’ name on Election Day to abstaining from voting altogether.

Some members of the movement have even gone so far as to turn their support towards Trump or third party candidate Gary Johnson as a sign of protest. Across the country, dissatisfaction with the established candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties is prompting a bipartisan wave of disillusioned voters to support niche independent candidates.

Despite this, there are two possible outcomes of this election: either Donald Trump is elected or Hillary Clinton is elected. No matter how many opinion articles are written to the contrary, neither Jill Stein nor Gary Johnson will be elected. For the sake of transparency, let me tell you a bit about myself: I am not only a registered Democrat, but also the secretary of the UMW Young Democrats. I plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, and the idea of a Trump presidency is abhorrent to me.

Voting is a right and a responsibility; not voting is a selfish act that hurts many and helps none.  The concept of a spoiler candidate is not a new one, but collective memory is quick to forget—even so, historical precedent has shown us: protest voting does not work.

In 2000, presidential candidate Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party’s nominee. In the Florida race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Nader’s vote total was enough to take the majority away from Gore and give Bush the votes needed to win the state, and the electoral votes needed to secure the presidency.

As recently as this past summer, citizens of Britain voted to leave the European Union after the June referendum, commonly known as the “Brexit” vote. In the days after the decision, many “leave” voters expressed regret over their choice, with many saying that they didn’t believe that that Britain would actually cut ties with the EU, and that they had cast their ballot mistakenly thinking that their vote wouldn’t matter in the greater context of the election.

The ballot box is neither the time nor the place to express political opinions outside of the immediately obvious: selecting who you want to be the next president. Voting is not a way to air your grievances with the two-party system, or express dissatisfaction with a certain part of a candidate’s platform.

Idealism is admirable, but when there is a demagogue on the White House’s doorstep, perhaps it is time to be realistic. You do not have to like a candidate or agree with 100 percent of what they say to support them: you just have to agree with that candidate more than their opponent. Every vote for Stein and Johnson is a vote that could go towards a candidate that stands a chance.

Let me be frank: by no means do I believe that Hillary Clinton is a perfect candidate. My intention in writing this article is not to tell you to vote for Clinton, but to vote mindfully—whatever that means to you— and to consider the wider ranging consequences of your choices.

Come November, please keep in mind that you only get to vote once. Do not waste it, do not vote halfheartedly or ironically. While your future may not be the one hanging in the balance, someone else’s definitely is

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