Something very interesting is happening in the US Presidential Election. Despite recent victories on behalf of Bernie Sanders and the GOP’s ever increasing efforts to destroy its own front runner, it is still likely that the general election will be fought between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. That would be a rather depressing, but also a very interesting climax; not least for the following reason: Hillary Clinton has the second highest unfavourability ratings of any presidential candidate since records began. The highest? Donald Trump. In other words – never before have the American people been given a choice between a pair of candidates as unpopular as these.
This of course brings out one of the fundamental problems of America’s two party system. Tribal loyalty aside, in most Western democracies, the extensive range of different parties and candidates means that the electorate always has a viable alternative. There are exemptions to the rule of course, namely the UK, which has many different political parties but also a voting system that overwhelmingly favors the two largest ones. Coming back to the United States however, unless Bernie Sanders manages to pull off a surprise victory in today’s New York primary, November’s general election will present the American people with a truly awful choice. A choice that will see most people voting not for the candidate they like the most, but for the candidate they hate the least.
That’s not to say that the only options available on the ballot paper are Trump and Clinton, however voting for some utterly insignificant third party candidate (e.g Green Party) would not only be futile but also directly against the voter’s personal interests. This is called The Spoiler Effect. That is, when a third party candidate stands in a previously two person race, voters on one ideological side split and the candidate they don’t like the most wins. This has been the overwhelming reaction to the so called ‘Bernie or Bust’ movement (which maintains that they will not vote for Clinton if Sanders fails to get the democratic nomination). “Sure, Hillary isn’t exactly ideal”, their critics will say, “but do you really want Donald Trump in the White House instead?”.
Supporters of that point of view have been labelled as “stubborn”, “self-indulgent” and even “dangerous”. After all, what could possibly be worse than Trump? This man wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and is openly bigoted towards Muslims! Oh, for the love of God, you pathetic and selfish little brats, come and embrace our savior Hillary instead of pointing out her obvious corruption. Don’t you realize that every attack you make against her only increases the likelihood of a Trump administration? So shut up, join Team Clinton, sing Kumbaya and get with the fucking program.
But here’s the thing; it doesn’t have to be that way. Hillary Clinton is not entitled to your vote, she doesn’t deserve it purely on the basis of not being Donald Trump, and if you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter refusing to back her at the general election, you have my full support. Go vote for the Green Party, or perhaps draw a little cat and vote for that. Maybe scribble in your own name, or that of Bernie Sanders, and hence participate in the great art of ‘the spoiled ballot’, but whatever you do, don’t fall victim to a system which requires you to choose between a lesser of two evils.
Wait a second, but won’t that mean I’m effectively voting for Donald Trump? No. Abstaining from a vote is not the same as voting for the opposition. Okay, but won’t it at least mean that a Trump victory is more likely? Yes, very much so, but frankly that’s a gamble worth taking. The political system in the United States needs to change, and that change will never come about if people continue to play ball by tactically voting for a candidate they despise.
Jerry Garcia pointed out the obvious when he said that “constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil”, and while there are many unflattering things we can say about Donald Trump, what you certainly can’t deny is the earthquake effect he would have on the political status quo of America. You could vote for Hillary Clinton, a corporate shill who embodies the political establishment, or you could vote for Donald Trump, a pathological liar who will blow that establishment apart… God help us all.