Do I Waste My Vote If I Vote Third Party?

With the presidential election coming soon, one of the arguments made against NeverTrump voters (of whom I am one) is that a vote for a third party candidate (such as the independent Evan McMullin, for example) is a wasted vote because, in the absence of any real possibility of victory, such a vote is meaningless. It is better, so it is argued, to opt for the lesser of two evils between the two major party candidates and achieve at least the possibility of some political gain, or at the least the possibility of doing less political damage than the alternative.

I disagree with this reasoning for two main reasons:

(1) It is never a waste to opt for honor over pragmatism. While every candidate for President is flawed, and thus every vote involves some degree of compromise, the situation is altogether different when confronted with the sad reality that neither major candidate is even remotely qualified for the office. Christians are not simply being asked to vote for an imperfect candidate in 2016; they are being asked to vote for an unfit one. The pragmatic impulse in us desires some kind of political victory in this terrible situation, even if it is only a victory that can mitigate damage over the next four years. But pragmatism, taken on its own, is not a solid basis for making ethical decisions. King Ahaz took the pragmatic route of paying tribute to Assyria in order to enlist its support against the Syro-Ephraimite alliance (Isaiah 7), but in doing so, he clearly put his trust in a corrupt earthly power rather than in the God of Israel, and he was condemned for doing so. Instead of pursuing political victory at all costs, let us seek to do what is honorable instead and leave the consequences to the Lord.

(2) Even by the standards of pragmatism, a third party vote is not wasted. Imagine two different possible outcomes of this upcoming election. On the one hand, if everyone who opposes Hillary Clinton unifies behind Donald Trump, he might win. Then what? Donald Trump, a vulgar, arrogant, sexual predator of a man who has virtually no grasp of conservative principles will become the standard bearer of the Republican party for the next four years, as well as the presumptive GOP nominee for President in 2020. Republicans in Congress will be pressured to support him and to dismiss or defend his crude, bizarre, offensive behavior. The Republican party, as a result, will be degraded and, to some degree, stamped with Trump’s imprint for the foreseeable future. Not only would that outcome run contrary to the political objectives of Christians who desire righteousness to prevail, it would also likely lead to massive GOP defeats in the future and a swell of support for the Democratic party.

On the other hand, let’s imagine that a large number of those who oppose Hillary Clinton refuse to support Donald Trump because he is unfit for the office and instead vote for third party candidates. Hillary Clinton will be President for the next four years, which will be bad, but the Republican party will have the opportunity to rid itself of the Trump cancer, possibly retain control of Congress, and begin to rebuild itself for the 2020 election. In that scenario, third party votes matter, because the number of votes given to third party candidates will communicate the relative strength or weakness of the movements that stand with those candidates as the GOP starts to rebuild. If, for example, Even McMullin, who is the closest thing to a conservative we have in this race (and appears to be a man of genuine honor), receives a surprisingly high number of votes for a relatively unknown candidate, Republican party leaders ought to take notice and recognize that in the future, turning their backs on conservatives is not a winning strategy. Whether they will or not remains an open question, but at the very least, a sizable movement of voters registering clear disapproval with the nominees of both parties is something that cannot go unnoticed. If the possibility of a good outcome in 2016 has already been foreclosed, it is not a waste to cast a vote with 2020 in view.

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