Listen to your conscience when voting

Anthony Pasella

It’s that time of year again for the ‘Nova Nation. The calendar has turned from October to November and students are replacing their salmon shorts and Sperrys with Patagonia jackets and Timberlands. While the University community may not be looking forward to the coming months of colder weather, many are certainly excited to see the months of political advertising and solicitation come to an end after election day. The University’s location in a battleground state has instantly transformed its students into highly valued political commodities as campaigns realize that college constituencies are the key to swinging the vote their way. 

What is perhaps most unique about this year’s presidential election is the historic level of dislike for both major candidates. When asking a person why he or she has chosen to vote for a candidate, you are likely to hear Trump supporters saying they are voting against Clinton, and Clinton supporters saying they are voting against Trump. Both sides seem to be making the argument of being the lesser of two evils as central to their campaigns.

 This idea of voting out of opposition rather than approval is a perfect example of the damage the two-party system has on our democracy. Limiting ourselves to two options at the ballot box is no more practical than having to choose between only vanilla and chocolate ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Some may prefer the two most contemporary choices and the simplicity of limiting options to get a clear distinction between messages. Nonetheless, there are many others who seek new choices especially after years of legislative quarreling and gridlock. The number of people who fall into this latter category has grown tremendously this election year, with a recent Associated Press poll showing that only 44 percent of voters viewed Clinton favorably while Trump’s favorability was at an even more dismal 33 percent.

 If all these people who viewed the major party candidates unfavorably decided to pledge their support to one of the minor party alternatives like Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, such a contender would win easily. Unfortunately, there is an incredible stigma around supporting these third party alternatives, because one has not made a serious bid for the presidency since 1912. Cynics contend that a vote for a minor party candidate is equivalent to “throwing away” or “wasting” a vote and that people should instead compromise their beliefs to support the major party candidate whom they dislike the least. 

Third parties are thus caught in a political catch-22. They can only gain legitimacy by winning a major election but can’t accomplish this because today’s voters will only support candidates from parties that have previously won major office positions. It is only through this pessimistic disregard of anybody without an (R) or a (D) next to their name that the two party system is able to exist even amongst such high disapproval.

The American democracy is one that prides itself on its strength, integrity and commitment to preserving the ideals of liberty. This year’s election cycle, however, has been one of juvenile bickering and animosity that has turned fellow Americans against each other. Amidst all this, the Republican and Democratic parties are promoting the notion of “us against them” and convincing people to vote out of anger and fear. This is not a sound political expression and only serves to undermine the right that millions have fought and died for in order to preserve.  Abraham Lincoln was a minor party candidate when he ran in 1860, campaigning on behalf of the little known Republican Party. Imagine where this country would be if people had shunned Lincoln because he was from a less popular political faction that dared to challenge the status quo. Keep this in mind next Tuesday as you fill out your ballot and remember: The only way a vote can be wasted is if it is for something you don’t believe in.