Election 2018: To the Victors Go the Spoils, to the Losers the “Spoiler” Complaints


I’m writing this column a few days before Election Day 2018. I can do that because the outcome I’m writing about is entirely predictable. It happens every two years. My prediction, which is 100% guaranteed to come true:

In races where a third party or independent candidate gets more votes than the number separating the major party winner from the major party loser, that loser (or at least that loser’s supporters) will whine that the third party or independent candidate “spoiled the election.”

That complaint is based on a pernicious fiction: The fiction that votes magically “belong” to one of the two major party candidates, and that when they go to some other candidate they are “stolen.”

If a Republican loses an election by 50 votes and the Libertarian in the race got 51 votes, Republicans will blame Libertarians. If a Democrat loses an election by 100 votes and a Green opponent got 101 votes, Democrats will blame Greens. And the party that fails to gain, or loses control of, Congress will whine that it was “those other guys” who “robbed” them of a victory they considered their rightful due.

That’s the fiction. The fact:

Your vote belongs to you, and only to you, until such time as you cast it for a candidate of your choice. No candidate is entitled to it. Each candidate has to try to earn it, and the only opinion that matters on the subject of whether or not a particular candidate HAS earned your vote is yours.

Another fact: Some votes are simply never, under any circumstances, going to be cast for Republicans or Democrats. It’s not that those votes moved “out” of the Democratic or Republican column, it’s that they were never in one of those columns.

Mine, for example. The last time I voted for a Republican or Democrat for president — and almost certainly the last time I ever will, unless I fall prey to severe dementia and yet somehow make it to a polling place — was the first time I voted. That was in 1988.

I am a partisan Libertarian, and if there’s no Libertarian running for president, I’ll write someone in or just not vote on that race at all. So when I vote, my vote counts solely toward the hopeful victory of the candidate I support. It doesn’t come “from” the hopeful victory of any other candidate.

As for voters more open-minded than myself, every candidate has the opportunity to ask for their votes, and to explain why he or she  is more deserving of those votes than the other candidates.

Note to Tuesday’s losers: You can whine about your third party and independent opponents if you really want to, but remember, nobody likes a whiner.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.