I have voted in every election since the 1980 presidential election. I’ve often been unhappy with the choices presented by the two major parties. This time both of those choices have fallen far below an acceptable level for me and for many others. I think this election presents a rare opportunity and so I have decided to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, even though I’m not a Libertarian or a strong adherent to any political party platform and even though I don’t think the Libertarians will win the election, at least not in the first round. If you find yourself in a similar position, you may want to read on…
Here is the crux of the matter: If Johnson can just win enough electoral votes to prevent either Trump or Clinton from getting a majority, this election becomes a whole new ball game. According to the Electoral College rules, if no presidential candidate gets 270 electoral votes:
If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House. (Source)
This should be interesting. So, the lack of majority would provide an opportunity for our elected representatives in congress to decide. We would have a 3 way race for President. I think Johnson will press the issues in the ensuing debates more than either of his opponents have done in the past. Each candidate would have to justify themselves on a stronger basis than the ad hominem attacks on each other that we’ve seen from Clinton and Trump. We could also end up with a President and Vice President from different parties. (It’s been said that all three vice presidential candidates are more popular than their running mates.) If Johnson is elected, he will have to cooperate with the Democrats and Republicans in congress to an extent that no other President has because party loyalty would be much less of an influence on both sides of the isle. On the issues, there are definitely somethings on which I would strongly disagree with Johnson and agree, at least to some extent, on others. But, we’re electing a President, not an Emperor. I would much rather have elected representatives cooperate more in resolving these issues than have the deadlock or single party domination that we’ve had in the past.
In spite of the lack of media attention, Johnson seems to have enough grass roots support in some crucial states to make this happen. He’s the only 3rd party candidate who is on the ballot in all 50 states. Both he and his running mate have experience as elected (Republican, not that it matters) state governors (the executive branch of government). Several newspapers have endorsed him instead of Clinton or Trump, most notably the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News among others.
Even if it doesn’t come to a congressional election of the President this year, there may still be some long-term benefit for the future. If a third party candidate gets at least 5% of the popular vote, the party qualifies for some of the federal supporting funds that the major parties get to help them get on the ballot in all 50 states. This could help break the duopoly held the major parties and open the way for a more representative electoral system.
My reasons for voting for Johnson this time really have nothing to do with the Libertarian Party platform that he’s running on. For me, it’s about checks and balances in government and about diversity and cooperation. The argument against voting for 3rd party candidates has always been that those who do so are wasting their vote because the outcome is binary. Many people lament the two choices we are given, and grudgingly accept this argument and “hold their nose and vote” for the lesser of two bad alternatives. Given the unpopularity of both major party candidates in this election, I don’t think that argument is as persuasive as it used to be if it ever really was (see here).
I’m not writing to change anyone’s mind about who to vote for. I know I have family and many friends who are happy with one or the other major party candidate and I respect that choice. For me, faith, family and friendship go deeper than politics. For others, though, who are less happy, like me, I just want to explain my reasons for voting a third way. I’m not going to go into the reasons why both candidates are unacceptable to me. Those interested can find links to several articles posted on my Facebook page in the past several months. You may have your own reasons. Given that both candidates are unacceptable, and that not voting at all is definitely wasteful, I think the above reasons make a vote for Gary Johnson a meaningful strategy, not necessarily a wasteful one. It may be a long shot, but I think the opportunity that this election presents makes it worth a try; better than doing nothing or going along with politics as usual.