I posted a link to this Slate article on my Facebook page today, and got an interesting reply from a friend (name withheld since the post wasn’t public):
Trump would mop the floor with her in a General election based entirely upon the attacks he’d use that Sanders has not. There is that email thing which seems to be getting worse (See staffer offered immunity and note that convincing a federal judge to do so isn’t done lightly or for low level things) and a variety of other dirty things Hillary has attempted to sweep under the rug. She’s what america is upset with and she’s part of the reason Trump has risen to power. It’s because of her and her like minded politician friends that the system is being rejected so harshly by the American people, Sanders is Trumps only true competition. At least if you want to win that is.
Leaving aside the questionable assertions of supposed legal wrong-doing on Hillary’s part, I decided to address the fact that Sanders will most likely not be the nominee, so arguing for his superiority in a head-to-head matchup with Trump is sort of beside the point. My reply was:
Be that as it may, the voting has already come and gone here in Colorado and 14 other states. What will happen from here on out is out of our hands. If Hillary, as now widely expected, wins the nomination, then if you withhold your vote from her, you are essentially voting for Trump.
And he came back with:
That kinda depends on how fed up people are. This could end up to be the year of the independent and for exactly the reasons I stated above. People minds won’t change about Hillary, the basis of what Sanders is platforming on prevents this. A vote for Hillary (With or without Sanders in the picture) is a vote against what many of the Sanders fans believe in. I can’t vote for her out of conscience alone. I’d rather vote Johnson than either Hillary or Trump and will if it came down to it.
But at some point, you have to shelve the personal feelings and think tactically. No third party candidate will win the Presidency in 2016. That’s just a fact. The depth of partisan attachment for both parties is too strong. Together they will account for 30-35% of the electorate each, meaning the absolute best a third party candidate could do is 30-40% in the nationwide vote. However, at the state level, it simply won’t be enough. They might be able to steal some electors in a few purple states and throw the outcome to the House of Representatives. They certainly won’t achieve the 270 electoral votes needed to win outright. There are too many deep red and deep blue states that will go Democratic or Republican no matter how much appeal a third party candidate has. A far more likely outcome is that a third party candidate steals 5-15% of the vote, disproportionately from one side, and tips one or more purple states in a direction opposite from where it would have fallen without that candidate in the race. (Nader 2000!) Now, which direction those hypothetical states would tip, I actually couldn’t say. If the only third-party candidate is Gary Johnson for the Libertarians, then I would guess he siphons more Republican support than Democratic, but if Bloomberg jumps in, or a recognizable name tops the Green ticket, then it’s probably Democrats who get the worst of it. And the chaos just increases the more third party or independent candidates jump in.
If it goes to the House, the Republicans are almost guaranteed to have an advantage (unless Trump so thoroughly alienates the Republican base that it has major down-ballot effects). Either way, an election that goes to the House means either Clinton or Trump still wins, with the odds of being elected President something like 20% and 80% for each of them, respectively. (I would say 10/90 for any regular Republican, but the vulgar talking yam might actually be despised by enough Republican Congress members to give it to Hillary if their seat margin is small.)
The fact of the matter is that, especially at the Presidential level, we have a two-party system. Until one of the those two parties implodes (which might actually happen this year), or preferential voting systems finally make it to the voting booth, you are wasting your vote if you spend it on a protest candidate. Find the candidate from the two major parties whom you prefer (or at least despise less), and vote for them. For Democrats (or any Bernie supporter) that ought to be Hillary Clinton.
Yes, I am explicitly arguing for a “lesser of two evils” approach to voting for President. But sometimes that’s just the way life is. Bernie’s (very passionate) supporters are making their voices heard in the Democratic primary this year, and I applaud them for their passion and I agree with them on many of the issues. If he surges back to take the nomination, I will be happy to pull the lever for him on Nov. 2. It won’t even be a “hold my nose” moment. But for those “feeling the Bern,” if he comes up short, please, for the love of God, don’t do something rash and get Donald Drumpf elected President. Those of us who were old enough to vote in 2000 still curse the Nader voters in Florida who thought there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Do you really think there’s no difference in what a Hillary Clinton presidency would look like in contrast to that of the short-fingered vulgarian? Do you really think Trump would be better for the progressive politics Bernie and his legion of supporters are pursuing?