Recently there have been a number of reports about and op-eds proclaiming the possibility of a significant number of progressive-leaning people not voting for president if Bernie Sanders doesn’t make an incredible comeback to be the Democratic nominee.
Unless you don’t have a preference between the presidential candidates (and that’s hard to believe, and, frankly, crazy, given the likelihood it will be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump or Ted Cruz), you should vote for one of the Democratic or Republican nominees for president.
But what if you don’t like either of the nominees? What if you want to “refuse” to “support a flawed political system”? What if you want to vote your conscience? What if you don’t want to vote for the lesser of two evils?
We don’t have a proportional representational system. Elections in the United States are zero-sum games, and except in very rare instances, there are two players, one of whom is a Democratic candidate and one of whom is a Republican one. If you vote for a third party for President or write someone in, you’re casting your vote for someone who will not win, which is about as useful as not voting at all. Either way, you’re not making your preference count and making it more likely that the worse evil wins (logically that implies a worse outcome, which should be avoided).
I realize that many of the people threatening not vote are young and may not remember the 2000 election. They should read up a little bit on it, though. Florida decided the election and Florida was decided by 537 votes. This is such a slim margin that not only would voters who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida have swung the election if they voted for Gore, if the .010% of voters who voted for Socialist Party candidate David McReynolds in Florida had voted for Gore it would have swung the election or if the .009% of voters who voted for Socialist Workers Party who voted for James Harris in Florida had voted for Gore it would have swung the election.
Of the many things that would have been different under Gore than W, we wouldn’t have the much-maligned Citizens United Supreme Court decision that led the way for superPACs and would make meaningful campaign finance reform difficult, if not impossible. Two of the five members who joined the majority decision, Roberts and Alito, were appointed by W and the other three were appointed by other Republican presidents. Of the four justices who dissented to the main part of the opinion, three were appointed by Democrats (Ginsburg (Clinton), Breyer (Clinton), and Sotomayor (Obama)).
This is why I don’t understand or believe in the “vote my conscience” argument. If the race isn’t close and your vote doesn’t really matter (potentially but not necessarily like votes for president in California this fall), is your conscience really any clearer if you vote for Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton? And in the event that it is a close race, is your conscience clearer if you vote for a third party candidate and the worse of two evils is elected? I’d imagine that the many of the 97,488 Floridians who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 feel pretty bad about their vote, as they should.
Some people may not be swayed by the Gore precedent, thinking that voting for a third party or staying home will teach the Democratic Party a lesson. That, however, is not how politics work in the United States. There are two potential ways to change the “flawed system”–work within the party or establish a new party that could challenge the two-party system. Neither one will be achieved by staying home or only voting for a third party every four years (for example, how relevant is Ralph Nader to the Democratic Party, politics, or really anything these days?). Either action would require lots of work in between presidential election cycles. Here is an in-depth article on the lack of a Bernie Sanders movement and the need to work over a significant period of time, within the system to effect change.
Look at the Republican Party. It has been and is being pushed to the right because of primary challenges to incumbent politicians, which has had real effects on American politics and policy. It’s not being moved by people who are staying home or voting for the Libertarian Party. It’s being moved by people, many of them in the oddly named Tea Party, who vote in every election and organize in between. It’s why Ted Cruz has such a good ground game and is picking up delegates even in states where voters favor Donald Trump.
This November, you’re going to be faced with two choices for President who have the potential to be President. You should vote for one of them unless you truly don’t have a preference between them. If you pay attention to the issues and the candidates’ positions, however, it is difficult to imagine that any person could actually be indifferent between this year’s candidates.
Let’s look at few issues:
Bernie Sanders: Bernie’s plan is for a universal, federally administered single-payer health care program with no deductibles or copays.
Donald Trump: Donald’s plan is to repeal Obamacare, modify existing law to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines, allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments, allow tax-free contributions and accumulations in health savings accounts, require price transparency, block-grant Medicaid to states, and remove barrier to entry for drug providers.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary’s plan is to defend the Affordable Care Act and build on it to slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs, crack down on rising prescription drug prices, and protect women’s access to reproductive health care, including contraception and safe, legal abortion.
Ted Cruz: Ted’s plan is to “repeal every word of Obamacare” and then make reforms that reflect three principles: (1) allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines, (2) expand health savings accounts, and (3) delink health insurance from employment.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie would raise taxes on many things (payroll, corporate offshore income, Wall Street speculation, carried interest) and on everybody, with the rich seeing the highest increases. Income tax rates would all increase by 2.2% and there would be new brackets of 37%, 43%, 48%, and 52%; he would tax capital gains and dividends at ordinary income rates for households with incomes over $250,000. He would increase the top estate tax rate to 65% and lower the estate tax exclusion to $3.5 million. The increase in revenue from this plan is estimated to be $9.8 to $13.6 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years.
Donald Trump: Donald would establish four income tax brackets with rates of 0%, 10%, 20%, and 25% with the top rate being for income over $150,o00 for single filers and $300,000 for joint filers, lower the top corporate tax rate to 15%, and eliminate the estate tax. The loss in revenue from this plan is estimated to be $9.5 to $12 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years. The biggest tax savings would got to the rich and very rich.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary would add a 4% surtax on income over $5 million and would increase rates on medium-term capital gains. She would increase the top estate tax rate to 45% and lower the estate exclusion to $3.5 million. Her plan is is estimated to increase revenues by between $200 and $500 billion dollars over the next ten years.
Ted Cruz: Ted would establish a flat rate of 10% on ordinary income and increase the standard deduction to $10,000 per filer, lower the rate on capital gains and dividends income to 10%, replace the corporate income tax with a 16% business transfer tax, and eliminate the estate tax. He has said he would “abolish the IRS as we know it,” but hasn’t explained what would replace it or how the government would collect taxes without it. Cruz’s plan is estimated to decrease revenues by somewhere between $1.6 to $6.8 TRILLION over the next ten years. The biggest tax savings would go to the rich and very rich.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie is against Citizens United and says he would only nominate a Supreme Court justice who would make it a priority to overturn it.
Donald Trump: I couldn’t find a direct position from Donald on Citizens United, but he has labeled superPACs a “scam.”
Hillary Clinton: Hillary wants to reverse Citizens United.
Ted Cruz: Ted is pro Citizens United.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie would attempt to make tuition free at public colleges and universities, though it would require states to pick up a third of the cost, which is unlikely in every state controlled by Republicans and probably many controlled by Democrats.
Donald Trump: Donald hasn’t released a platform related to college affordability, but given his role in Trump University it would be surprising if he believed the government should make education more affordable.
Ted Cruz: Ted hasn’t released a platform on college affordability, but would abolish the Department of Education so that’s something.
Right to Choose:
Bernie Sanders: Bernie touts a 100% pro-choice voting record and says he would “take on Republican governors who are trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose.”
Donald Trump: Donald has taken just about every abortion position possible; I think it’s fair to see it’s unclear how he would act regarding abortion if he were president.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary is pro-choice and on her own brought up the issue at the most recent debate, saying that it needs to be talked about and that she would defend Planned Parenthood from outrageous attacks.
Ted Cruz: Ted is anti-choice, even against exceptions in anti-abortion laws for rape or incest.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie supports marriage equality.
Donald Trump: Donald is against marriage equality.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary supports marriage equality.
Ted Cruz: Ted is against constitutional marriage equality, believing the issue should be left to the states and democratic votes.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie wants to “dismantle inhumane deportation programs and detention centers,” “pave the way for a swift and fair legislative roadmap to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants,” “enhance access to justice and reverse the criminalization of immigrants,” and expand President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Donald Trump: Donald wants to build a large wall on our southern border, make Mexico pay for the wall, triple the number of ICE officers, make deportation of undocumented immigrants with criminal records mandatory, “no more ‘catch-and-release,'” end birthright citizenship, and increase the prevailing wage for H-1B visas.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary wants to enact comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, conduct humane immigration enforcement to deport individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety, close private immigrant detention centers, and promote naturalization. Hillary would defend President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Ted Cruz: Among other things, Ted wants to “build a wall that works” on our southern border, triple the number of border patrol agents, increase deportations, “end catch-and-release,” add detention space for interior enforcement, suspend the issuance of all H-1B visas for 180 days to complete an investigation and audit of the program, and end birthright citizenship. Ted believes President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are illegal/unconstitutional.
Bernie Sanders: Bernie believes that Middle Eastern countries, particularly rich ones like Qatar, need to contribute more to the right against ISIS. He believes that military action “should always be the last resort not the first resort.”
Donald Trump: Donald has been coy about specifics because he “wouldn’t want [other countries and allies] to know what [his] real thinking is,” but he has said that he would “knock the hell out of the oil and do it because it’s a primary source of money for ISIS,” kill the families of terrorists, and wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS.
Hillary Clinton: Hillary believes that ISIS needs to be defeated by “ramping up airstrikes and making sure local and regional ground troops have what they need to go after ISIS, work with global partners to disrupt and dismantle ISIS’s infrastructure online and on the ground, improve coordination and information-sharing among allies to prevent terrorist attacks.
Ted Cruz: Ted has said that he would “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion” testing whether “sand can glow in the dark,” “using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS.
Iran Nuclear Deal:
Bernie Sanders: Bernie “strongly supported he nuclear deal … because it is the best hope to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
Donald Trump: Donal was against the deal; on many times he has questioned the competency of those negotiating the deal.
Hillary Clinton:Hillary helped ramp up sanctions that led Iran to the negotiating table for the Iran Nuclear deal, and has said that the deal “lowered the threat” posed by Iran but still wants Iran held accountable for its ballistic missile program.
Ted Cruz: Ted was against the deal, saying that it would “endanger U.S. safety and security” and “facilitate and accelerate the nation of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.”
I think it’s fair to say that Bernie’s and Hillary’s positions are a very, very different than Donald’s and Ted’s. Again, how one could be indifferent between, say, Bernie and Ted or Hillary and Donald is beyond me. Assuming you do have a preference, even if you’re not excited about voting for one of the two major candidates, bite the bullet and vote for the lesser evil.
***For what it’s worth, I think that most people on the left will get behind the eventual nominee, as will most people on the right unless there are some crazy convention shenanigans. There were even larger percentages of Hillary and Obama supporters who claimed they wouldn’t support the other candidate in 2008 and that changed rather quickly.