Why I Will Vote Neither…Nor…


Halfway through the presidential primary season I decided I would not and could not conscientiously vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. As a political scientist, this was not an uninformed decision. I have been observing, and studying, the degeneration of American party politics for the past two decades and nothing has reversed this trend.

Today, faced with the reality that these are the two major party nominees, I have carefully reconsidered my position but have come to the same conclusion. I do not believe Trump has the temperament, nor do I feel Clinton has the integrity, while neither display the requisite political skills to lead this nation.

So what is one to do? Flip a coin and hold one’s nose? However, as I will argue here, there is a meaningful alternative.

My decision to vote neither-nor is based on several assumptions which all voters may not share. First, I equally disapprove of both presidential candidates offered up by the Democrat and Republican parties. You may not share that sentiment and thus should vote your conscience. (BTW, if you are truly enamored of the status-quo, perhaps you should cast a write-in vote for Ben Bernanke. Our current economic fate has little to do with Obama, Clinton, or the Congress. In geopolitics it seems we’ve just blindly bumbled along.)

Second, I live in a state where the Electoral College votes are not really in contention. More simply, I live in CA. Thus whether I vote for Trump or Clinton will have no impact on the outcome and thus can be considered a wasted vote. Unless you live in a closely contested swing state, such as FL, PA, or OH, your vote for either candidate is also a meaningless vote.

But do neither-nor voters really have a meaningless say in this election? Only if you hold your nose and vote for one of the above. If you are dissatisfied with the choices presented, this may be the first time in our lifetimes that an alternative vote has meaning – and it matters not which alternative you prefer. An abstention, or a vote for Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein, or a write-in for Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders is a protest vote – a vote that neither major party can count on and must respond to as the tally grows. What is the signal sent if Clinton and Trump both get 30% of the vote and 40% is captured by a neither-nor protest? How will either President-elect govern with such a dearth of public support? It’s political suicide to ignore upwards of 70% of the country.

This strategy is a slightly different argument than support for a 3rd party. A 3rd party can’t win unless it displaces one of the two major parties. Thus it’s success depends on the failure of one of those parties. However, a protest vote is different in that left and right anti-establishment groups coalesce on their dissatisfaction with the status quo. In other words, Sanders and Tea Party voters can combine as a force to influence the two major parties.

Others may apply a different logic. Some will claim a protest vote is an irresponsible waste of a vote, but I consider voting against one’s conscience while knowing better is the true irresponsible action. (A more erudite exposition of my sentiments was written by Jonah Goldberg at National Review, but his is an internecine conflict on the right. One wonders what the leftist Bernie Sanders voters are thinking at this point.)

Our society’s future is more important than an emotional partisan showdown. Things won’t change unless we change from the ground up. With enough protest votes, perhaps the Washington establishment will finally have to respond to a majority of Americans voicing dissatisfaction with the political status-quo.

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8 thoughts on “Why I Will Vote Neither…Nor…

  1. A protest vote at this point puts Trump in the White House. The time for protest is between the elections. Your feelings toward Hillary are misplaced. Forget the thirty years of hateful rhetoric put out by the right. Just think what they are writing about Michelle, another likely candidate.

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    • Oddly enough, each partisan thinks sincere voting hurts their party’s candidate more. Perhaps partisans are too emotionally invested and biased to view this election objectively? I don’t believe sincere voting really hurts the Dems or the Reps unequally as a majority of voters disapprove of both candidates. The point is that a strong protest vote sends a shot across the bow of both parties, which is exactly what’s needed.

      What exactly was the point of Sanders entire campaign if he decides to abandon principle and vote strategically now? You don’t think Sanders voters are smart enough to figure that out?

      Strategic voting in this election is merely kicking the political revolution down the road to 2020 0r 2024.

      BTW, I’m not alone in my assessment of HRC or DJT, so perhaps their supporters are the ones misplaced?

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        • Mr. Bishop – you seem to have a problem expressing yourself. Please keep those problems to yourself. The essay above does not excuse either candidate for their shortcomings. I grant that Clinton’s misdeeds are actions while Trump’s are verbal miscues, but voting against rather than for a candidate is strategic, not sincere, voting. My argument holds for those who sincerely have no candidate they can support willingly, only a candidate they cannot abide. Be well-reasoned and civil or be banned.

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  2. Pingback: Why it’s impossible to predict this election | Casino Capitalism and Crapshoot Politics

  3. Pingback: The Degeneration of Political Discourse | Casino Capitalism and Crapshoot Politics

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