This year we have had two dreadful candidates from the major political parties, giving us a choice of a corrupt warmonger and a racist buffoon. The major political parties failed to nominate acceptable candidates. Voting for Clinton is essentially a vote for war, while Trump has shown no coherent understanding of the issues and the results, of his election are quite unpredictable. Voting for one of them will only perpetuate the problem.
Hillary Clinton looks likely to win, leading in the polls, and showing an even stronger position in the electoral college. Clinton is only likely to win because the Republican alternative looks even worse to most voters. Despite leading in the polls, a majority of voters continue to have an unfavorable view of Clinton. There is no reason for the major political parties to offer better choices if they can win with the types of candidates they now offer.
Voting for a major party candidate this year means either returning to the horrors of the Bush years with Clinton, or the unacceptable choice of Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the neoconservative status quo. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. While Trump has entertained the idea of ending the drug war in the past, he has not raised this during the campaign. Clinton remains a hardliner on the drug war, and is probably too conservative on cultural issues to change. Bill Clinton moved the country to the right on many issues when president, and Hillary is probably more conservative than Bill.
The best solution is to vote third party. Historically third parties have been among the most effective ways to force the major parties to listen to outside views. In the twentieth century, Democrats often adopted progressive positions to avoid losing votes to third parties of the left. Without that pressure, we are seeing the Democratic Party move steadily toward the right.
This year, only third party candidates such as Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party have shown any interest in issues such as reducing foreign interventionism, curtailing the surveillance state, or ending the drug war. Jill Stein also supports the progressive policies of Bernie Sanders, while Johnson has problems on numerous issues.
Voting third party is not about whether you can win. In most states it is clear only one candidate can win. Nobody would expect all voters to vote for Clinton in blue states and Trump in red. Democracy is about voting based about your principles, not based upon who is likely to win.
It is not even necessary to win the election for a vote to have meaning. For third parties, it is about reaching 5% this year so that they can get matching funds and help with future ballot access. Jill Stein has reached 4 percent in one recent poll, and could reach 5 percent if more Sanders supporters would turn out to vote for her. Gary Johnson has exceeded 5 percent in multiple polls, and has an even better chance of achieving 5 percent in the election. State laws differ, but better results this year can also provide ballot access in the next election. The third parties can more effectively raise issues if they both have more money and do not have to devote as much effort to simply getting on the ballot.
This isn’t about whether a third party candidate can win as there are huge benefits for a third party to reach 5 percent, which is possibly achievable even if victory is not this year. It isn’t even about whether you want Jill Stein or Gary Johnson specifically to be president. Neither will be, and the vote is really for their party platforms and to influence the direction of politics in the future.