Editorial dissent: A threat to democracy


This editorial dissent was written by Madison Gouveia and signed by Austin Vitelli and Gaby Morera. They did not agree with the majority opinion expressed in the editorial. That editorial can be found here

Regardless of whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 presidential election, more than half the nation will be unhappy.

After the second debate, 58 percent of voters said they disapprove of Donald Trump, and 53 percent said they don’t like Hillary Clinton.

Many voters have even resorted to casting a ballot in spite of the candidate they hate most, as opposed to in support of the candidate they like most. A vote which by definition is a protest vote.

The 2016 election is no longer Republican or Democrat — it is Hillary or Donald.

So what do you do if you find yourself in the group of undecided voters who would rather cut an arm off than have this election? Or if you’d like to keep your arm, but absolutely can’t bring yourself to vote for either candidate?

Some would argue that rather than cast a vote for a third-party candidate that statistically may not count, an undecided voter should vote for “the lesser of two evils.”

If you can determine who you feel that is, and it behooves you to vote accordingly, then you should. But if you feel that neither is “the lesser of two evils,” you should not be bullied into voting for one out of fear of being blamed for the other’s victory.

Casting a vote for a third-party candidate is frowned upon because it is believed the vote is a waste, as a third-party candidate has never obtained enough votes to win and is “taking votes away” from one of the traditional candidates.

In the 1992 election Bill Clinton was elected with 43 percent of the vote, to George H.W. Bush’s 37.5 percent. When Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote, the most in third-party history, Bush supporters believed he “took votes away from Bush”.

But, according to an MSNBC report, in the exit poll conducted on Election Day, only 38 percent of Perot’s backers said Bush was their second choice. Thirty-eight percent also said Clinton was. While this misunderstanding became known as The Perot Myth, its flawed logic is still used to discourage third-party voting.

The idea is third-party voters will swing the election “the wrong way,” but who is to determine what the wrong way is when the nation is divided on which candidate is the “right” choice? If the “right” choice were abundantly clear to all, there would be no need for an election.

Voters who support the candidate they have determined to be the subjective “lesser of two evils” do not criticize third-party voters because they are wasting their vote, they criticize them because they are wasting a vote that could go to their choice candidate.

But what if it doesn’t? If you force an undecided voter to choose between the two major-party candidates, and they choose your opponent, do you still discourage their third-party vote?

If all of the undecided voters in the nation transferred their vote to your opponent, would you recant your criticisms to keep your candidate safe? If yes, can you really argue that a third-party vote is a waste, or is it only a waste when it detracts from your choice candidate’s chance of winning?

And would one also argue, that if a vote for a third-party candidate is considered a waste because the candidate will not win, is casting a vote for the traditional candidate who ultimately loses also a wasted vote? Second place is just the first loser, and by the logic you are not supposed to vote for the loser.

Other critics say voters can cast votes for third-party candidates, but they forfeit their right to complain when the popular candidate they did not vote for becomes president. But what if the candidate they hated, but voted for to avoid voting third party wins? Can they then complain, or are they left to suffer in silence because they made the decision to hand the win to a candidate they hated?

The third-party voter is often seen as defiant, a civilly disobedient citizen “throwing away” his or her vote in protest. This is a harsh generalization rooted in neither logic nor fact.

More than 500 days of election season have left many voters with significant doubts in both candidates, so why should they be forced to settle?

Surely there is someone else in the roughly 136 million Americans aged 35-74 more “fit” to lead. And if a voter feels there is, this is who deserves their vote.

To support a candidate means you have formed your rightful opinion attached to your right to vote. You cannot then attempt to control the rightful opinion attached to another citizen’s vote.

Not a single citizen in this nation reserves the right to tell another citizen whom they can or cannot vote for.

The decision to vote third party is less a move of defiance and more a move of desperation. Desperation coming as a result of America’s two-party system failing, on both sides, to produce a candidate voters feel confident enough to support as the person who will represent this nation.

It is not your civic duty to vote for “the lesser of two evils.” It is not your civic duty to vote for the winner.

It is your civic duty to vote and vote responsibly. This means it is your civic duty to vote for the candidate whom you deem most qualified, not the least unqualified, to lead this great nation — democratic, republican or third party.

Encouraging a voter to do anything else is a threat to democracy.

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  1. Good dissent (which I did not read prior to my comment on the majority editorial). The information on Mr. Perot voters second choice was interesting. His platform was one that should have appealed to conservatives. I think why one voted for Perot would be more important than their second choice.

    I would not be surprised if people who voted for Perot would be voting for Trump. Third party candidate goes prime time, much to the dismay of party regulars.

  2. Amy Charles '89 on

    Would’ve been a much stronger editorial if it hadn’t been for the inconvenient truth you had to drive all the way around: the first election you were alive for. Nader absolutely did cost Gore the election, thanks to his supporters’ insistence on voting their (generally woefully uninformed) hearts rather than paying attention to reality. The cost: permanent war since 2002 (I take it you young men have registered), refusal to acknowledge climate change when the rest of the world needed our leadership, the lovely No Child Left Behind testing panics of your childhood, and the continued erosion of the middle class, which is now an unrecognizable shadow of its 1990s self. Oh, and you’ve never known privacy, which got pushed off a cliff in the name of security before you were out of diapers. Sooner or later, you’ll find its loss to be important.

    In fact all these sorts of things matter, which is why Gore was in Florida last week reminding people that every vote counts, and why Nader voters have been going around trying to persuade people not to be stupid about this. (It’s the only reason they admit to having been Nader voters in the first place.) You have a duty to be a responsible citizen and consider not just the intent but the effect of your vote, and not just on you but on people more vulnerable than yourself.

    • From someone who is not a Brown and White but is definitely old enough to remember the election you present as your “counterexample”, let me ask you —

      Is the purpose of a vote to elect the most popular candidate, or is the purpose of a vote to communicate to the elected officials?

      (The fact that Bush deliberately misinterpreted his election as a mandate should be considered carefully.)

      Further thoughts here if you care to read them:


      • Amy Charles '89 on

        The purpose of an election is to elect the best candidate possible, emphasis on possible. If you want to communicate, write a letter or run for office.

  3. I am 47 and finally going back to college. The following was written for Comp II. We were to analyze 1 editorial, but both sides of your editorial staff done such a good job, I could no longer follow instructions!

    One may find it odd that the most logic I have found in editorials about the upcoming election is from non-other than the so-called Millennial generation. These college students wrote two excellent editorials on differing views of the viability of a third party candidate. I suggest reading both; they are chocked full of opinion that can be argued properly on both points of view. Both editorials are written rooted in logos, with many offshoots in pathos. Much like the American public, the editorial staff is divided when it comes to this election. Each side of the editorial points of view makes very well presented arguments about voting for a third party candidate, as well as pointing out it is every American’s civic duty to vote and vote responsibly.
    Written pro-third party candidate.
    Written anti-third party candidate

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