Every four years without fail (and usually a little earlier in each quadrennial cycle), both “major” American political parties wind up and toss the same slow, fat pitch across the public’s plate:
This is the most important presidential election of our lifetimes.
Maybe even the most important presidential election EVER.
You gotta vote.
And this time, just like every other time, you can’t risk voting for anyone but Candidate X.
A vote for third party or independent Candidate Y, the candidate you like best, isn’t really a vote for Candidate Y. It’s actually a vote for Candidate Z, the “major party” candidate you like least.
Why? Because it is, that’s why. Didn’t you get the memo? Most important presidential election of our lifetimes, maybe EVER, yada yada yada! Stop asking so many questions and vote as you’re told! Hey batter batter batter swing!
Routinely, more than nine of ten voters do swing. And miss (the point).
Henry Ford offered his Model T in any color you wanted as long as the color you wanted was black. This year, America’s “major” political parties are offering you any kind of president you want as long as what you’re looking for in a president is a creepy, handsy, corrupt, senile, septuagenarian, authoritarian hack.
If your preferences vary from those characteristics, the Republicans and Democrats resort to fearmongering: If you don’t support THEIR creepy, handsy, corrupt, authoritarian, senile, septuagenarian hack, they whine, the OTHER creepy, handsy, corrupt, authoritarian, senile, septuagenarian hack might win.
I don’t find that particular fear-based approach compelling as candidate sales material. I’d rather “waste my vote” on a candidate whose ideas I actually support than hand that vote over to the candidate I loathe less just to thwart the candidate I loathe more (if I can even figure out which one is which).
If you vote for who and what you actually want, sure, your candidate may not win. In fact, he or she probably won’t.
But if you don’t vote for what you actually want, you almost certainly won’t get it either.
The difference is that voting against what you actually want is treason to your values.
Here’s my variant of the “major party” pitch:
A vote for Trump is a vote for Biden.
A vote for Biden is a vote for Trump.
A vote for the Libertarian or other third party or independent candidate of your choice is a vote for things you want instead of for things you don’t want.
It’s also a demand signal for better “major party” candidates in the future, a message to the Republicans and Democrats. Tell them that they if they want your vote, they’re going to have to start EARNING it.
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.