To The Daily Sun,
The Protest Vote Fallacy goes like this: "My state is so far tilted toward candidate X or Y that my vote for candidate X or Y won't make one bit of difference, so I'm going to cast a protest vote for candidate Z to make a statement!"
Ignoring for a moment the chance that too many "protest" voters could sabotage the apparent lock held by the leading candidate in any given state, examine the significance of a protest vote for a third-party candidate.
In most states, there are four parties on the ballot for president this year: The Democrats (Clinton/Kaine), the Green-Rainbow (Stein/Baraka), the Libertarians (Johnson/Weld), and the Republicans (Trump/Pence). Two of these, the Democratic and Republican parties, have a chance of winning. The remaining two "third parties" stand a slim chance of securing a noticeable protest vote, meaning 5 percent or more of the votes cast.
Let's further ignore for the moment that both Johnson and Stein are truly fringe candidates. Johnson got tripped up wondering what Aleppo was or who any of the world leaders might be, while Stein has ridden her overzealous energy policies to a stunning record of losing campaigns for Massachusetts state representative, secretary of the Commonwealth, governor of Massachusetts, and president of the United Sates. Neither of these outliers has any chance of gaining significant national support.
So what does registering a protest vote for one of these candidates actually accomplish? If Stein or Johnson somehow manages to break through the mythic 5 percent barrier, will the country suddenly awaken to the fact that our political system is broken? Hardly. Will the people of our country rise up and impeach the leading party candidates for being puppets of the ruling class? Not a chance. While not voting for one of the flawed leading party candidates may feel more palatable, it's really only a craven refuge from having to participate in the hard choice that faces our country this November.
Our only real hopes to improve future elections lie in our opportunities to be involved in local elections and party primaries. Voting in local elections encourages candidates who share our values to remain involved in public service, develop political experience, and champion ideas that better align with our beliefs. Participating in party primaries can assure that the candidates who emerge from the Red and Blue are actually people we can support with respectable ethics, thought-out policies, well-developed political acumen, and a real chance to win.
For those truly wanting to protest the state of American politics, there is real opportunity. Protest the dumbing down of America by checking facts, listening to those with whom you disagree, learning about the issues, and developing informed positions. Protest the lack of qualified candidates emerging for senior national offices by participating in local and primary campaigns. Protest apathy by becoming involved: Hold a sign, make phone calls, or canvas a neighborhood. Real change won't be accomplished by casting one vote for a fringe candidate; it requires dedication and sustained effort.
Either Clinton or Trump will be our next president. We have the choice to participate in that decision by voting for one or the other of them, or not. Casting a vote for anyone else is just a waste of time.