Okay everyone, the final debate is in the books. Moderator Chris Wallace’s 90 minutes of trying to talk over our nation’s two oldest children is mercifully over. Here we are, just a month away from what is widely considered to be the single worst election this century, and we’re pretty much exactly where we feared we’d be back in February.
Here’s the thing — for those of us residing in the state of Utah, this election might actually be our chance to shine. Everyone ought to believe their vote counts for something every four years, but 2016 is peculiar for inspiring Utah voters (as well as many with similar attitudes outside of the beehive state) to actually believe in the significant weight their votes carry — and it has everything to do with the emergence of a legitimate third party candidate.
Talk of third party voting has followed the same unfortunate pattern of twisted logic for years. First, you find yourself 10 months before the actual election, thinking “Gee, anybody but [opposing party’s leading candidate] ought to at least keep the country from falling apart.”
Then you realize your own party’s candidate is, in fact, terrible. What to do now? How strongly do you oppose the opposing side? This is the crossroads we all find ourselves stuck in at one point or another. Dumbfounded, we look to our respective state’s voting history and, with exception of a few so-called swing states, think “Well what does it matter, anyway?”
This year, it does matter. Granted, it matters every year — no vote is ever pointless, even those cast for Ted Cruz — but this year, it really, really matters.
It matters because Evan McMullin just surpassed Clinton in the polls here in Utah and he’s gaining on Trump. It matters because he’s gotten himself on the ballot in more states than anyone would’ve thought possible this late in the game. It matters because even one state rejecting what our damaged political system has to offer would send a message to our fellow states that maybe casting a vote into the sea of third-party underdogs isn’t completely useless. It may matter the most in the future, four years from now when we do this all over again.
Those adamantly in Trump’s corner will find some new, slightly less bigoted but equally frightening figure to elect. Hillary supporters will still be out in full force, blissfully unaware of her deeply concerning character flaws and general out-of-touchness. But perhaps a new faction will arrive, having been born this year, to step up and say “What about something totally different?”
For at least the relatively short time I’ve been alive and able to grasp basic politics, American citizens have essentially been offered a choice between Denny’s and IHOP every four years when really all we wanted was a really good burrito. This is the election we could finally see a state get up out of the car, tell the jaded driver they’re on their own, and proceed to walk across the street to a damn Costa Vida.
Look, it’s not a perfect analogy, all I mean is there are other options on this country’s menu, and for the first time in a long time the consensus in the state of Utah might actually listen. Maybe you don’t like that McMullin hails from Provo — I totally understand. Maybe you’re a Gary Johnson fan instead — I don’t completely understand, but I also respect your right to feel that way. Whatever your deal is, I think we’ve finally arrived at a point where we can shake things up on election day, saying “Ha! No.” to everything the two current frontrunners stand for.
This isn’t an endorsement or an ad, but it is a call to action — a cliche one, but an important one nonetheless. Don’t vote based on trying to keep someone you can’t stand from winning, that’s going to happen this year whether we like it or not. Vote because for a system like ours to work, everyone needs to vote and believe it counts for something — this year, next year and every year.