Protest Votes Selfish With Trump at Stake

Ohio’s electoral votes have favored the winning candidate in 93 percent of presidential elections since 1900, and most polls currently show Republican nominee Donald Trump winning Ohio by a small margin this November. With so much at stake in the Buckeye state, now is not the time for a protest vote.

While most Obies will likely not cast a ballot for Trump, they might commit an act just as dangerous by voting for a third-party candidate this election or deciding not to vote at all. Perhaps this decision is motivated by a desire to abstain from an election in which many feel like they must choose between “the lesser of two evils.” Or maybe some are still riding Senator Bernie Sanders’ momentum from the primary and believe now is the time to revolutionize and change the system. Either way you spin it, the logic flops.

The reality is that Sanders’ campaign is over, the Green Party’s Jill Stein will not be the next U.S. president and neither will Libertarian Gary Johnson. Like it or not, this is the political reality that voters must reckon with in approximately five weeks: It’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Most voting-age students are too young to remember the 2000 presidential election in which former President George W. Bush defeated Democratic nominee Al Gore by only five electoral votes. Bloggers and political science buffs love to argue over whether the Green Party’s Ralph Nader acted as a spoiler for Gore in the election. While many factors could have swung the results either way, one of them was most certainly Nader, who received 97,000 votes in Florida, likely tipping the state’s 25 electoral votes to Bush. As of Sept. 23 polls, Real Clear Politics estimates 1.8 percent of Ohio votes going to Stein. If those votes went to Clinton instead, the race would suddenly become much closer.

To decline to vote or to vote for a candidate whose chances at defeating Trump are exceptionally slim is not only illogical but an act of privilege. Both President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders have reiterated the importance of voting. To allow Trump to get ahead is to spit in the face of many Americans for whom the election’s result is literally a life or death situation.

“I represent the poor, I represent the condemned, I represent the people who live on the margins of society — for them, their lives are at stake,” said acclaimed public interest lawyer and Equal Justice Initiative-founder Bryan Stevenson in a recent video. “I’ve got clients who might be executed depending on who wins an election. I represent people who might die depending on who will provide health coverage to them or not. I represent people who are facing deportation, whose freedom turns on who wins an election.”

Stevenson makes the point that while most voters have the privilege not to fear for their life at the thought of a Trump presidency, some can only hope that voters won’t throw away their votes.

“If you don’t want to vote for yourself, vote for them,” Stevenson said.

Who we elect determines whether our government and Supreme Court Justices will support all Americans or strip entire communities of their rights. It’s no secret that Trump has called for “punishment” of women who opt for abortions, a ban on Muslims entering the country and erecting a wall at the Mexican border. Who we elect determines whether these plans will have a chance at fruition.

Holding out for a perfect candidate and taking a symbolic stand against an arguably flawed two-party system has no place in the 2016 election when the future of the country is precariously perched at a historical turning point. The risk of a Trump presidency is too great to disengage from the reality that voting for a third party, or simply not at all, will allow him a straight path to the White House.