Third-party voters. You’re everywhere. You’re young, you’re old. You’re Independents, or you’re disillusioned Democrats and Republicans. There’s a lot of you this time around.
And it scares the hell out of me.
You might think I’m being dramatic. Or experiencing some longest election year ever hysteria.
But right now there is a racist, bigoted, nationalistic, white supremacist-baiting, Federal Reserve-illiterate, foreign and domestic policy ignorant, dangerous narcissist applying for the job of the most powerful person in the world.
And your protest vote could very well be the reason he gets the job.
I get it. You’re fed up. Frustrated. And you’re going to walk into that voting booth in November and vote your conscience.
But I don’t know if we can afford your conscience.
Your moral vote, your election day purity, your clean conscience, they are all luxuries we can’t afford in this election year. Not when Donald Trump is running neck and neck with Clinton in the polls. Not when polls that include third-party candidates show him taking a lead over Clinton. Not when your protest vote could result in the most dangerous presidency in the history of the United States.
All of you together can disrupt this election. All of you together could have us staring slack jawed with a death grip on our pocket Constitutions while we watch our worst nightmare get sworn in.
So this is a plea to you, a plea for reason.
Because I know you’re reasonable. You know your world history. You know that equal parts Mussolini/Hitler/Joseph McCarthy in an Armani suit would be a disaster for our country. You don’t really want him to win. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think your third-party vote could be the reason there’ll be a 6 foot tall Trump painting hanging in the Lincoln bedroom.
Whether you admit it or not, your protest vote is relying on the herd immunity.
Herd immunity: The majority of a population is immunized, creating a barrier of protection for the vulnerable and immunosuppressed.
The disease is Trump. The vaccination is your vote. The vulnerable? Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, children of Mexican immigrants, Jewish Americans, Women, LGBT, Muslim Americans, and any other minority population within our country. One could argue that eventually the vulnerability trickles up to everyone, the disease eventually will infect anyone and everyone in our country.
So this election is about more than what makes you feel good in the five minutes you spend in the election booth.
It is about someone who is unpredictable and easily riled who has no business holding the key to the nuclear football.
It is about someone who lacks the judgment to make a decision about whether or not to launch a nuclear weapon. A decision that once put in action is irreversible. A decision that can’t be walked back.
And some of you are taking a risk on Donald Trump being that person.
This is about someone who has been deemed so dangerous and unfit for office that over 50 Republican former National Security Officials have signed a letter stating that Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being” and “would be the most reckless president in American history.”
This is unprecedented. Never have more people agreed that a presidential candidate poses a serious danger on so many different levels. Long-time republicans, conservatives, people who’ve dedicated their careers and lives to the GOP are fleeing. And they are being very clear about why.
His words create unease among allies and enemies, they embolden racists, and they create propaganda for terrorists.
A short list of who wants to see Trump in the White House?
Are you scared yet?
THIS IS NOT POLITICS AS USUAL.
This is about a candidate who has tweeted and retweeted racist words and ideas and memes.
Who is regularly throwing out a bone or a “wink wink” to the increasingly prominent White Supremacist crowd. A candidate who hired the proud, self proclaimed leader of the alt-right to be his campaign CEO. In between rabid musings about the “white genocide,” they are gleefully retweeting Trump. They show up at his rallies. They call him “their candidate.” This is about a candidate who not only encourages the alt-right, but emboldens them.
This is about a man has actually recommended doing things that were done in Nazi Germany. Creating a database of Muslims, banning an entire religious group from entering our country, demonizing Mexican immigrants, threatening the press, threatening enemies, building a wall. This is about a man who is openly promoting xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. Sound familiar?
Unless you want our country to look like a Trump rally…unless you want Confederate flags being flown by angry men screaming at black people and Jewish people and gay people…unless you want your grocery store or your kid’s little league game to become a venue for expressing pent-up racist rage, you need to think twice before you press that third-party button. The things happening at Trump rallies? They’re happening everywhere. They are becoming the new normal.
So, yes, your third-party vote scares me.
It is at best a risk. At worst a destruction of everything we hold dear and true about our country.
Your vote is dangerous.
It is the bloodshot-eyed, stale cigarette perfumed gambler laying down his last chip.
It is the Prada bag you’re drooling over, but your credit card is maxed out and you haven’t paid this month’s rent. We can’t afford it.
That vote that you’re throwing against the wall is the petulant toddler who insists on ice cream when staring at a plate of broccoli and green beans.
Your third-party vote isn’t a protest. It isn’t a bold statement of rebelliousness. For most, that third-party vote is a last-minute hookup under the blinding bar lights at 2 a.m. You don’t really know what you’re getting but you’re getting some.
We need all the adults in the room to show up and do whatever needs to be done to keep Trump in his self-congratulatory, phallic tower and out of the White House.
Your third-party vote is dangerous because it is relying on herd immunity. You’re having your feel good moment while you’re pressing a button next to a name you’ve only known for a few months. You’re relying on everyone else to get the job done and keep the mad man from having his finger on the button.
Herd immunity works. Until it doesn’t. And when it stops, when there is a breach, one tiny cough, it can be disastrous.
Your protest vote is the feverish stranger wandering into the ICU when their shots aren’t up to date. You’ll walk out and you’ll go home and you’ll watch your HGTV and you’ll take some aspirin and you’ll go to sleep, but you exposed the vulnerable to your illness.
It’s not a badge of honor to risk the stability and livelihood of the country and quite possibly the world, all because your conscience is feeling some heat.
And sometimes voting your conscious means doing the hard thing. It means looking at the reality you’re dealing with no matter how much you don’t like it, and working within that reality.
Morality is only really moral when it’s dealing in truth.
It means possessing enough self-awareness to consider your station in life, your privilege and how your vote could affect those who are more vulnerable.
I know you’re mad and you’re frustrated. Sometimes I want to burn it all to the ground and start over too. But we can’t. That’s what separates us from the sociopaths. We work with what we’ve got. We operate in reality. We think about things beyond our own angry impulses.
Start your revolution. Build it. Work. Sacrifice.
But don’t tip over the table because you didn’t like the food you were offered.
Don’t saunter, whistling, through the ICU while your skin is beaded in a viral sweat.
Don’t rely on everyone else to do the non-glamorous task of the practical, safe vote.
Don’t engage in the false equivalency of the “two evils.”
Don’t tell me your conscience can’t take it. Your conscience will be fine. Your conscience surely has bigger fish to fry. But if your protest vote, along with all the other impotent third-party votes ends in the myriad of dangerous scenarios that experts of all parties and all stripes are warning of? I fear your conscience may suffer a crippling blow.
If you ever wondered what you would do had you been a German citizen voting in the 1930s… If you ever wondered if you’d have the presence of mind to recognize a virulent danger when it’s looming over you… If you ever wondered if you could stare at racism and fascism seeking power and shrug in apathy or stand up and fight?
Now’s your time to find out. Don’t let the herd down.