This is a general response to those that insist a vote for a third party is a vote for the “other” candidate–the one you are so convinced must be defeated–in this or any election. (And ignores the view that no individual’s vote makes any difference to the outcome of an election.)
Insisting that people not vote for the candidate they prefer because you think it will hurt your candidate’s chance is basically saying democratic elections in the US are a bad idea. Maybe you believe that. In fact, I do–not because democracy is inherently bad, but because our version of it, at least in national elections, is awful. The electoral college, gerrymandering of voting districts, and the idiotic Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), are all part of the problem, but I can’t here delve into any of them.
Here’s the thing: if you believe our quasi-democratic system is bad, you should come clean about it. Either tell the world you prefer that your party just pick the next president rather than bother with what masquerades here as a popular democratic election or encourage a change in the system. Work to end gerrymandering, the electoral college, or the CPD’s stranglehold on the presidential debates. Or push for some bigger change. In any case, don’t pretend to believe that our system is working well while bemoaning the fact the other half of the duopoly nominated such a terrible candidate (or, as I think, that both halves did).
In short, don’t take for granted that our electoral system has to be the way it currently is. Until 1988, we had real debates between the leading nominees for president. That system was changed as the Democrats and Republicans colluded to change their nature. Part of that is how the supposedly non-partisan (but really partisan for the duopoly) CPD limits the debates to the two parties. Yes, the CPD relies on polls done by others. But those polls are frequently themselves problematic. Sometimes the questions are framed as if there are only 2 candidates–making it near impossible for any third party candidates to score well. Sometimes, the third party candidates are listed, but with their names prefaced with “third party candidate X”–with the likely result that X scores low since people want to think of themselves as supporting a top tier candidate, not someone thought of as in third place or worse–no matter how good that candidate is. (I’m not suggesting intentional collusion between the duopoly and the polling companies.)
Some will say this is all silly because people should vote strategically to get the best possible candidate in office and that voting for the candidate that one happens to like is simply unnecessary luxury or, worse, a childish desire. But there is reasonable debate about how one should vote–strategically, according to one’s conscience, etc–just as there is reasonable debate about what elected officials are meant to do–represent the stated interests of their constituents or act according to their conscience, etc. If you have an argument that we should not vote for the person we think best (or according to our conscience), then–but only then–you might have a case to tell others who to vote for. Then again, you might have a case for just letting your party pick the winner.
To conclude here–almost certainly my last post about the current election–I think it’s clear that the current bad choices are the results of the terrible way the Democratic and Republican parties operate–including colluding to run the CPD and, worse, to incite passionate hatred of the other side amongst their rank and file members. Given that, I do not think independent voters need to capitulate to the duopoly. If Democrats or Republicans want my vote–and I assume the same is true for many of those who think of themselves as independent, libertarian, green, or ….–they should put forward a good candidate. For me, that requires that the candidate be willing to engage in honest debates where they actually respond to what their competitor says and work to make the best case for their candidacy and their policies on their merits, not emotions.
Democrats and Republicans should not expect independent voters to solve the problem their parties are responsible for creating. Whether a new party–or a thoroughly reformed version of one of those two–can make things better is another question. I think the answer is yes, but I don’t see it happening from either Dems or Reps.