On November 8th, the American people are going to cast a relatively unimportant vote that nevertheless will tell us 1) how bigoted they are, generally, and 2) whether they understand ‘logic’ and ‘opportunity cost’. While the former should be fairly self-evident, I’d like to talk about the latter a little here.
If you read around on the internet, you’ll find many articles claiming that a vote for a 3rd party candidate is a waste of a vote, or a vote for ‘the other candidate’, and people defending that choice disagree.
I had originally written up a long post with a logical analysis of the voting system, but after spending some time speaking with people who insist on voting 3rd party, such an analysis seems to be a waste of time. Here’s hoping an analogy will work better:
A local farm is on fire. Multiple buildings are blazing away. Your community has gathered to try to save the farm. If they fail, the fire will likely spread to other farms. A large section of your community have formed a bucket chain, to quickly and efficiently pass water from the local lake up to the source of the fire. Your community wants you to help.
But it’s hot in the bucket chain. There’s soot everywhere. Water has been split, and there is mud everywhere. If you join the bucket chain, you will be dirty.
You’ve spotted a different place where you can pour water, on the other side of the building. Sure, it’ll take you longer to pour water because you’ll have to run to and from the lake yourself (maybe there’s a few other people who might help, instead of the thousand-person-strong bucket chain), and given the quantity of water you can manage you won’t affect the flame in any meaningful way, but anyone pouring water on the flames is helping, right?
How will your community react to this? When they see that you are doing something completely useless in the face of imminent danger? That you’re willing to risk the whole community burning down just to avoid ‘being dirty’?
In case it needs spelling out, in this analogy:
the people working the bucket chain are Clinton voters,
the people ‘being independent’ are third party voters,
Trump voters are pouring gasoline on the flames.
Given the US electoral system, when you vote 3rd party in this presidential race, you’re saying “Sure, Trump is a danger to us all, but voting for Clinton makes me feel bad. So I’m not going to oppose Trump in any meaningful way, and instead I’ll vote for someone who isn’t likely to score even a single electoral college vote. Because it’s more important to me that I feel clean than it is that I effectively oppose Trump”.
You can do something useful, and join the bucket chain to put out the raging inferno that is Trump.
Or you can be fucking useless. Your call.