After watching the Republican party sell its soul for the sake of party unity, it is baffling to see that there are still “Democrats” who do not plan to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Whether members of the ‘Bernie or Bust’ movement or last-minute Stein supporters, these ideologically-liberal voters, largely college-aged, have deemed that the outcome of this election is less important than their so-called symbolism. A decision so senseless and shortsighted that it nearly makes a case for raising the voting age.
Though it would certainly be equally senseless and shortsighted to dismiss silent protest as a means of shaping society, an election situation is not suited to its use. Silent protest, since not reliant on being heard, is fundamentally reliant on being seen. Picketing polling places may have some effect, but not being present at polling places at all will be little noted by the general public. Write-ins are considered a means of voting the bottom of the ballot without also voting the top of the ticket, and, with hundreds of ‘Mickey Mouses’ scribbled each time, granted little credence. Protest votes or lack thereof are a particularly futile way of trying to claim a piece of the issue.
Many try to reconcile their unwillingness to vote for a major party candidate with their instinct to cast a vote by voting for a third party candidate. Of the critical 18-29 demographic, nearly a quarter plan to vote third party, more than among any other age group. However, with neither such candidate claiming even a meager ten percent in polls, that decision is merely a cheap way of skirting the issue. The argument that the only reason two parties maintain power is because everyone assumes that no others have a shot, though valid, does not provide a reason for an individual to vote for a third-party, particularly not with the numbers looking the way that they do less than two months to election day.
Sure, many of this election’s potential abstainers and anomalies find it unconscionable to support Hillary Clinton, aghast at party primary procedures, seething about every scandal when she speaks, but every election is as much about the candidate being voted against as it is about the candidate being voted for. Those who vote for the person and not the policy do not understand democracy. Those who disdain Clinton more than they dislike Trump simply aren’t Democrats (and so none of this is applicable anyway).
At this point in the process, complaints about the choice that’s on the table are irrelevant. Current 20-somethings have faced much derision as the supposed entitlement generation, but even without speculation on the term’s general truth, the current election cycle feeds into that impression quite significantly. In a democracy, citizens are not entitled to vote for their all-time favorite candidate, they are entitled to a choice, and as goes the majority, so too that choice is narrowed; the entitlement isn’t individual, but instead collective. Inevitably, there will always be many dissatisfied with both options, but all are obliged by civic responsibility to then vote for the lesser of two evils.
Furthermore, this election cycle represents a failure to recognize that actions have consequences, practical, tangible, consequences. Depending on who is soon chosen to head the executive and legislative branches, the nation and the world will assume one of two very divergent appearances in four or eight years. Those who do not vote in November will regret it by February when they begin to realize that they will see no student loan amnesty, no increase in the minimum wage, and no action to address climate change.
As pundits are fond of saying, politics is a turn-out game. It isn’t a spectator sport. It’s designed for those who bother to show up, armchair quarterbacks be damned! College democrats, Duke democrats, whatever the result of this election, it’s on you.