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Protesting Your Vote

The 2016 presidential election has been one of the most divisive and controversial campaign cycles in recent history. Many students and Lewis & Clark have expressed concern about the possibility of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. Some LC students are so frustrated by the two candidates that they have decided not to vote for either Clinton or Trump. Instead, the students interviewed here have chosen to vote for a third-party candidate, write in the name of another politician, or simply refuse to vote at all.

One of the LC students who refuses to vote is Alexander Smith ’19,* who feels that “every single presidency in America” has been a “mess.” Smith said that he that he will have “contributed to this problem” if he casts a vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Smith said that he cannot bring himself to vote for either Trump or Clinton. “Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil, which is a choice I’m not willing to make,” Smith said. “My analogy that I always use is, I could choose either the maggot-ridden muffin or the maggot-ridden scone. Either way, I’m still ingesting maggots and I lose.”

Smith’s disdain for America’s two-party system contributed to his decision not to vote in the upcoming election. “The system no longer works. People are so entrenched [across party lines] that a Republican will almost never vote for a Democrat, and a Democrat will almost never vote for a Republican, unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances … They’re only going to endorse the people who belong to the same party. Bernie Sanders doesn’t endorse Hillary Clinton because he thinks she’ll do a good job. He endorsed her because the only route he can take now and still remain relevant.”

However, Smith also refuses to vote for a third party, as he believes that doing so is “futile.” He reasons that “there is no conceivable way that a third party person would win this election.”

Unlike Smith, James Roberts ’19* intends to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Roberts is a libertarian who supports Gary Johnson’s candidacy. “The main things I like about Gary Johnson is his plan to decrease spending. We’re currently spending money at an unreasonable rate.” Roberts supports Johnson’s plan to cut military spending, as well as funding for medicare, medicaid and social security.

Roberts said that both presidential candidates offered by the Democratic and Republican parties are unappealing to him. “Donald Trump’s foreign policy is insane, and his domestic policy is equally insane, so I don’t think he’s fit to be president at all.” However, Roberts  also said that he does not trust Hillary Clinton and dislikes her fiscal policies. “She doesn’t strike me as a very honest person. She’s also changed her beliefs a lot over the years.” Roberts also disagrees with Clinton’s defense of the death penalty and her support for gun control.

Conversely, Johnson’s opposition to gun control contributed to Roberts’ decision to vote for him. “He’s pretty pro-gun, definitely against gun control for sure. That being said, he’s still in favor of background checks. He’s definitely not gonna propose an assault weapons ban or anything like that, like Trump and Clinton have both shown some support for.” According to Roberts, Johnson does not believe in restricting gun ownership for citizens who are placed on the Terrorist Screening Center’s No Fly List.

“The No-Fly list shouldn’t exist,” Roberts said. “You haven’t been convicted of a crime when you’re put on the No-Fly list, so I don’t think your rights should be restricted, either your rights of freedom of movement, like flying, or your right to have a gun, as long as you’re not a felon or convicted of a crime.”

Roberts acknowledges that Johnson has a slim chance of winning the election in November. However, he also believes that “once you get through the debates and more people hear what he has to say, his chances will increase a lot. Some polls have him at around 15%. The more people hear his message, the more disenfranchised voters will flock to him.”

Roberts does not see his support for Johnson as a protest vote. “I’m voting because I want Gary Johnson to be president,” Roberts said. “I think a lot of people are voting strategically, they’re voting because they dislike Hillary but they dislike Trump more, or vis-versa. They don’t truly feel inspired by either candidate. I think if a lot of those people just voted with their conscience, then Gary would be polling higher and he would have a real chance of winning. But because people are already writing off a third party, unfortunately the chances of that happening are a long shot.”

Unlike Roberts, Monica Williams ’18* doesn’t plan to vote for any candidate appearing on a party ticket. Instead, she plans to write in Jeb Bush’s name when she receives her ballot in November. “I do not like the other three options, including Johnson. I’ve been in line with Jeb Bush’s policies since he ran, and I cannot bring myself to like the other three.”

Williams also said that she appreciates Bush’s temperament. “For one thing, I loved how stable he was. I like his policies on immigration, and his economic policies. I’m a fiscal conservative, not necessarily a social conservative, so we lined up a lot better there.”

Although Williams said that she agrees with much of Clinton’s domestic policy, she disagrees with Clinton’s approach to international relations, especially with Vladimir Putin. “I feel like she’s entering her relationship with Putin in the place Obama is leaving it, which is not a good place. I feel like the relationship right now is sort of keeping Putin at arm’s length, and I think that with each new president, a new relationship should be developed… I don’t have the same problem with Trump’s approach to Putin.”

However, Williams also disagrees with many other aspects of Trump’s campaign. “I do not like his approach to some things I find really important, like climate change and economic policies. I’m not a fan of trickle-down economics, and that’s Trump’s go-to. And I agree with Hillary on the fact that I feel like he steps on the little guy a lot. I’m all about micro investments and such, and that’s definitely not Trump’s forte.” Williams says that writing in Jeb Bush’s name will give her a “clear conscience,” because she “cannot honestly agree” with either Trump or Clinton.

“I cannot definitely say that I support either of them,” Williams said, “And I want to feel good about my vote.”

*Names have been changed

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