The question of whether or not one should vote for a third party candidate leaves me with a not insignificant amount of cognitive dissonance. The two major candidates in the 2016 US presidential election are well known: ‘The Donald’ for the Republicans (who, as The Huffington Post states in a caveat at the end of every article surrounding him, “regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, and birther”), and ‘Crooked’ Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. Lesser known, however, are other third party candidates standing against the two headline nominees, with arguably the most notable of these being Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, and independent candidate Evan McMullin. Together, these candidates hold around 15 per cent of the popular vote.
A large part of me wants to implore every single US voter to vote for Hillary Clinton. Preventing Donald Trump from ascending to commander-in-chief is of paramount importance, and electing Hillary to office is the only way to stop that. Plus, a female president is long overdue. And yet, in last summer’s UK General Election, I was not imploring people to vote for Ed Miliband, so as to stop David Cameron and the Conservatives from continuing in government. Instead, I supported the Green Party, and while I did not actually campaign for them, Green Party election materials covered around 90 per cent of my Facebook timeline. I would have rejected any arguments for voting for a candidate based on gender, and have simply said to vote for the best candidate.
So therefore one could, quite reasonably, argue that this was no act of bravery or moral high ground, but that in sticking to my principles and supporting a party with an ideology to the left of Labour’s, I let David Cameron and a party with an ideology far to the right of my preference in through the back door. In reaching for the stars, rather than going for the option of compromise, something worse was allowed to grasp power with its angry (right) fist. This is why I am conflicted when considering the US presidential election. I want to beseech all environmentalists and left-leaning socialists to vote for Jill Stein. And yet, I feel that if I were an American voter myself, I’d ultimately vote Hillary Clinton.
Jill Stein has next to no chance of winning any states, whereas at only three points ahead of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton needs to win every state she can. It’s also argued that in the 2000 race, Democratic nominee Al Gore (who would have been the almighty saviour from above for environmental and climate change policy – just think how different and greener the world would be today if an environmentalist was president of the US as far back as 2000) lost the presidency to Republican George W. Bush because Green Party candidate Ralph Nader ate into his vote in the pivotal battleground state of Florida.
The comparison of the UK Westminster system to the US presidential system is one way I can rationalise these conflicting views (the fact that I was too young to actually vote in the 2015 General Election also helps). With the Westminster system, third parties have a chance of winning a seat (although less so under first-past-the-post as opposed to proportional representation), and coalitions can be formed, whereas with the presidential system, you really only have a choice between two.
So, call me a hypocrite, and maybe when 2020 (or sooner) comes around I’ll even end up voting Labour, not Green, for precisely the same reasons that Americans must elect Hillary Clinton. She may not be perfect, she may not be as good as what came before (I’ll miss you, Obama), but she’s a lot better than the alternative.
And for the love of God, don’t let The Donald in.