From the Eyes of a Third-Party Voter

Ryan Zoellner

A month ago, no one cared if I voted for a third-party candidate. No one questioned my motivations. No one told me to check my privilege. No one even really asked me why I would do such a thing. And certainly no one believed I would have any significant impact on the then inevitable coronation of President Hillary Clinton. My party and I were an amusing little inanity, and we were rhetorically patted on the head and sent on our merry way. On Wednesday morning however, I was the Antichrist. As soon as things were not happening in favor of the advantaged party, independents were plopped into the basket of deplorables and made to feel responsible for electing the orange guy. We are not, so just stop that right now.  

For months, I have bemoaned the “by not voting for X you are electing Y” argument, and this week it seems as if that indignant chicken has come home to roost. As the democratic establishment reels from a crippling defeat, blame shifting has occurred at a rate almost unprecedented even for Washington. This, of course, means that everyone’s favorite November villain —  those godless, non-conforming independents —  have gotten more than our fair share of denunciation. I should also note that had Trump lost, we would be getting the exact same lecture from the right. Voting third-party is all fun and games right up until the unexpected happens, and then all of the people who did not vote Clinton are cast in the same light as those who voted for Trump. There is only one problem: my ballot still reads exactly the same.  

As I said in an op-ed from several weeks ago entitled “Defending Independents: Done with the Norm,” “my vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson, just as a vote for the ghost of Barry Goldwater would be a vote for the ghost of Barry Goldwater. There is no subversive implication, there is only you, a ballot and your conscience.” At the time it was written, I like to think that this statement was taken more or less at face value. Now, I have no doubt that it will be taken to mean that I intentionally contributed to what has been described as nothing less than the dissolution of the union. This is wrong.

To speculate on my intentions after the fact is nonsensical, and to rework them into fitting a narrative of bigotry or ignorance is dishonest and offensive. After informing myself of all available options, I voted the way I did because I woefully disdain both candidates and steadfastly believe in libertarian principles (to be clear, it also had nothing to do with Johnson himself, I understand that he is not the sharpest crayon in the box). 

Lastly, virtually no third-party voter wanted this outcome either. If anyone is to blame for abnormal third-party turnout, it is establishment Democrats. Perhaps if Clinton’s victory hadn’t been treated as a given for the last two years, more people would have felt a sense of urgency in voting for her. But rather than take responsibility for a bad campaign (and it was a bad campaign, Clinton lost 209 counties that voted for Obama twice, and 194 that voted for him once) Democratic leadership is choosing to point fingers at the 4.9 percent of voters who chose to vote for someone other than the two, scandal-addled forerunners. Saying that I cannot justify voting for Clinton —  on the grounds of both policy and personality —  is not the same as condoning Trump. I hope to God that political analysts will once again be proven wrong and that his victory will not symbolize all it has been made out to be. I certainly did not mean for this to happen.