To vote or not to vote?

September 23, 2016

Cartoon by Julianna Scionti

Cartoon by Julianna Scionti

This election cycle has brought about a wave of political vitriol and polarization; jingoism and nativism confront the corrupt status quo. In the wake of this political mess, many well-meaning students have absolved themselves of the issue entirely, having not found a cause with either of the nominees. Discussion on a liberal college campus seems not to center around voting Trump or voting Clinton; rather, the polemics lie in debating the efficacy of a third party vote or succumbing to the apathy of abstaining. To many of the former discussion, the vote seems pointless: Third party candidates are not predicted to garner any appreciable percentage, and perhaps would only participate as “spoilers” by diluting the votes of the primary candidates. I sadly would have to agree with this position, as much as I would like to stand by them on a moral high horse.

With such a short amount of time until Election Day, third party candidates represent the non-pragmatic, feel-good vote. Ultimately if there is a preference for either the Republican or Democrat nominee, that vote should be made. The rebellious vote that shows a discontent with the political system raises no eyebrows and affects no change unless it wins. It will not win.

The main argument I see around campus is whether it is even worthwhile to vote at all; after all most of us do not come from swing states, so the outcome is almost a fait accompli. Why vote if the outcome is already determined, and voting for one candidate must be done while holding one’s nose?

Every four years we have hyperbolic statements declaring that this is the deciding election of the generation, even superciliously going so far as to say our election will determine the fate of the free world in a way no other has before. However, despite the circus and exaggerated claims that have plagued this election, I would argue without hypocrisy or partisanship that this election is one of the deciding elections. I’m not saying that because Trump will cause a nuclear holocaust or Hillary will catalyze a path to corruption reigning supreme in politics. Objectively, there is already a vacant seat on the Supreme Court of the United States that Obama will not be able to fill now or in his lame duck period, and another seat is likely to become vacant in the next four years due to the aging RBG. The social policy of this election thus has the potential to bear sweeping change and have influence over laws for the next 40 years. While the president will have a great deal of say in the choice to fill these seats, without congressional approval the president will find it immensely difficult to install a hardline justice, just as Obama currently has been unable to even appoint a moderate.

My urge then is that you vote, vote this election, vote your conscience, if not for the president then for all of the congressional seats up for re-election. The climate of Washington surrounding the next president will guide the choices and ultimately decisions for the Supreme Court going forward.

Many of us will be eligible to vote for the first time ever in a lesser-of-the-two-evils election—what a time to be alive. Do not let your disillusionment translate into apathy, and do not lose sight of the ways in which your vote still counts.

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