I heard it again today.
You’re wasting your vote.
I suppose if the question is whether or not my candidate has any chance of winning the election, the answer is no–and therefore, I am, in a sense, wasting my vote.
Unfortunately, for every Republican that tells me that a third party vote is “a vote for Hillary,” there are equally as many Democrats to tell me that it is “a vote for Trump.” And listen, I get it. I really do get it. My heart is equally divided on the matter of not wanting Trump or Clinton as my next President, so I feel the tension and the temptation of desperately wanting to vote against one…and then the other. I really do get it.
I suppose most people who vote outside the safe bubble of the two-party system get it. That’s probably part of the story of how they became third party voters. I can’t say that for certain, because I have neither studied the history of third party voters in the U.S., nor the history of third party platforms. All I know is what I’ve observed, which–I freely confess–is a limited and somewhat controlled perspective. That being said, I really do believe that most of the third party voters I’ve encountered (whether in person or online) didn’t begin as staunch representatives of the party platform; most began as deflectors of a main party.
So do we understand the desire for some ginormous egomaniac to not become the next president? Do we understand the desire to not elect the next person in a dynasty? Sure. We get it. I get it. And we understand that you’ll think it’s our fault if your guy or gal doesn’t win. Fine. That is…what it is.
But I want you to understand…I honestly do…why I’ve come to a third party position this year. I want you to understand why it’s important–even necessary–for me to go this way. And I want you to understand why it’s unwise to tell a free American that her vote is wasted.
I recognize that many of the Christian leaders in America that I highly respect have come out in recent weeks and months to encourage Christians to vote for Donald Trump–not because he stands for everything we stand for, but, unfortunately, because he is Hillary’s opponent and we must stop her. And if that’s your conviction…I strongly encourage you to vote that way. I understand where your heart and spirit are on this, and I do not feel any animosity or judgment toward you.
When this election cycle began–even before it began–I promised myself one thing: That I would not give my vote to someone who was a name-caller, who slung mud, or who turned the conversation into sarcastic belittling of another person. I have seen how such things can ruin relationships…families…friendships…churches…it is not pretty, and it is entirely not necessary. If my expectation in my own life is to speak words of truth and honesty–even in heated moments of disagreement–without attacking a man himself, then that is going to be my expectation of my President, also. Are we, any of us, perfect? Certainly not. But there’s a big difference between a stumble and a habit. So my promise to myself was that I would not vote for any candidate that I knew to be a name-caller, because I think when we’re trying to decide who our next Commander in Chief should be, name-calling and belittling distracts us from the things we really need to know. And unfortunately, it tells us far more about the person speaking the words than the person at whom the words are directed. For additional thoughts on this, please see my post from earlier this year entitled The Search for a Presidential Candidate: A Prologue.
Ladies, if you’re being pursued by two men, do you fall head over heals for one who badmouths the other? Hopefully not. Hopefully you see it as a tactic to try and make one look better by making the other look worse. At best, it is simply impolitic; at worst, it is an indication of insecurity (and likely, thus, a promise of future manipulation). And if they both belittle one another, do you say to yourself, “Oh, well…? I suppose I have to marry someone!” I sure hope not. My point here isn’t that we fall in love with a candidate; my point is that we would never follow such loose standards in other important relationships in our lives–why then do we allow it in our governing hopefuls?
But no matter how you feel about all of this, my conviction is simply this: That a man (or woman–I’m not assigning gender based on experience; I’m using “man” as a generic term for “a human being,”) who is concerned with speaking respectfully of another man, whether they agree or disagree, is likely more trustworthy, and will likely pursue stances (politically) that I can support–whether or not I fully agree, because such a man values the most important thing: His fellow man.
So how can I, with clear conscience, vote for Donald Trump? He has had belittling, rude, disrespectful, and flippant remarks about almost every other person on the campaign trail. And how can I, with clear conscience, vote for Hillary Clinton? Her very behavior in having a private server and then trying to cover it up by deleting thousands of emails and feign innocence with America has proven, to me, that she counts herself above you and me. Neither of these attitudes suggest to me that these candidates value his/her fellow man.
Therefore, for myself alone, I cannot–and I will not–give my vote to either of the main party candidates in this presidential election. It is quite unlikely that my vote will make a difference to them; but it will make an enormous difference to me.
If I vote against my promises to myself, then my vote, indeed, is wasted. I will have violated my own convictions and principles.
And I hold the same regard for each one of you–my friends, my family, my co-workers, my neighbors, and my fellow Americans. Your vote is your voice. And no matter who you vote for, I implore, vote your conscience!
All of this wasted vote talk reminds me how beautiful and precious a thing it is to even have a vote, to live in a nation where my voice–though it may affect no change–is allowed to speak truly of my convictions without fear of harm or imprisonment or even alienation.
Being forced to vote one way or another? Being forced to vote at all? Being forced not to vote at all? Being forced to support ideas and values which make you swallow bile? These are wasted votes.
Let’s try to remember what a blessed freedom we still hold, and what an amazing thing it is that you and I should have a voice in the governing of our nation.
My personal apologies to Dr. Livingston for my blatant overuse of ellipses, em dashes, and sentences that begin with “and.” I try not to overdo it, but I confess–sometimes I use them when I know I shouldn’t, just because it makes me think of you and smile.