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It's Done

       "IT'S DONE!  [more quietly] It's done."

           - John Adams upon the Continental Congress voting for
American Independence, 

Well, as John Adams said, (at least in the imagination of the writer of that musical play) it's done.  The contestants in the 2016 American Presidential race are now determined, barring an unforeseeable Act of God or the Justice Department.  New York businessman and reality show star Donald Trump and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana for the GOP and former Senator and cabinet member Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia for the Democrats.

This outcome leaves many including myself, with an unpalatable choice in November.  Should we force ourselves to vote for the lesser of the two evils (and both certainly are that, each to what degree is a question that will be debated nonstop between now and November 8th?)  Or should we follow our consciences and vote symbolically, for a third party Presidential candidate or write-in the name of the individual we wish had been nominated by our party?

Since history shows that no one has been elected President for more than 150 years who was not the nominee of one of the two major political parties, some would argue that a vote for a minor party candidate is always going to be a wasted vote.  I would disagree.  There are ways that a vote can be important without actually electing an individual to some political office.    The Prohibitionist Party of the late 19th and early 20th century only elected a handful of its candidate to any office and its national vote in the Presidential elections of the time never broke into double digit percentages.  Yet it achieved the passage of something that seemed highly unlikely at the beginning of its crusade, the adoption by the country of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.  Likewise, the Liberty and Free Soil parties of the mid-19th century served as the first political vehicles for the abolitionist movement and helped lay the groundwork for the abolition of slavery just a few decades after they began running candidates for office.

Even if a minor party is only active in one or two elections, it can be important as a portent of the changing mood of the country.  George Wallace's American Independent Party in 1968 served as a way-station for southern whites and northern blue-collar workers who were making the change from Democrats to Republicans.  H. Ross Perot's runs in 1992 and 1996 demonstrated the electorate's dissatisfaction with both parties when a President won election and re-election to two terms, but each with less than a majority of the popular vote, the first time this had happened since Woodrow Wilson won two terms in 1912 and 1916.  Some even believe that Ralph Nader's Green Party cost Al Gore the 2000 election (in which he actually received a slight plurality of the national popular vote) although no one has made a convincing case for this.

So a vote for a third party candidate is not always wasted, even if the candidate loses, while a write-in vote for exactly the kind of person you wish was running usually has no impact at all.  Unless there is an actual campaign being waged on behalf of your write-in candidate (which are occasionally successful, in the recent past, former Congressman Joe Skeen of New Mexico and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, were respectively first elected and re-elected by means of write-in campaigns), write-in votes, while they may be officially recorded by election officials, are seldom reported publicly.

So, for those dissatisfied with the heads-you lose, tails-you-lose choice of Trump and Clinton, I would recommend voting for the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld.  While I, and many other traditional conservatives, do not agree with all the positions of the Libertarians, both Johnson and Weld are honorable individuals, who have executive experience as the former governors of the states of New Mexico and Massachusetts, which cannot be said of either the former Secretary of State and the reality TV star.

I do not at all expect the Johnson-Weld ticket to be victorious in November.  I do expect that as a result of the vote for the Libertarian and other third party candidates, whichever of the two bad choices wins the Presidency in the fall to do so with considerably less than a majority of the popular vote, which I hope will deprive them of any sort of a mandate to make major changes to our nation and will reduce the damage the winner will do to the country in the next four years of what I am absolutely certain will be a one-term Presidency, whether the President is named Hillary or Donald.

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