Ed. note – this is a slight revision of a column that I originally wrote back in March back when a third party candidacy was still merely theoretical. I still get angry emails and tweets every day making the “point” that I am helping Hillary win, so I thought it useful to once again point out – no, I am not. I am just not helping Trump win. And I don’t owe him that help, so buzz off.
One of the things that pundits of marginal intellectual heft who are mostly into politics for the bloodsport like to say is that anyone who votes for a third party candidate in November is basically voting for Hillary. Reince Priebus himself made this contention with respect to the possibility of a David French candidacy.
The argument, if you can call it that, would not be tremendously persuasive if it were true. In fact, it doesn’t really pretend to be persuasive; it’s just naked junior-high level peer pressure that proceeds from the erroneous assumption that the Republican nominee is somehow owed votes from anyone who has ever voted Republican before (like me).
However, we don’t really even have to engage that, because it turns out that it’s not true. In order to believe that this were actually true, you’d have to just not understand how elections work in America.
So the simple fact is that it matters to Trump in equal measures that a) you vote for him and b) you don’t actually vote for Hillary. Voting for a third party candidate deprives Trump of positive outcome a) but allows him to preserve the equally important positive outcome b).
Let me illustrate this with a hypothetical state that has exactly six residents.
Imagine that the first five residents all go vote, and the result is Donald Trump 3, Hillary Clinton 2. Right now, Trump is leading 60%-40%. Last guy is trying to decide how he’s going to vote. Trump would probably prefer that last guy votes for Trump, giving him the 67%-33% win. However, if the last guy is making a decision between voting for Hillary (which would result in the race ending up a tie) and voting for Third Party candidate David French (resulting in Trump winning the state 3-2-1), or just not voting at all (resulting in Trump winning the state 3-2), Trump would sure as hell rather have the guy vote third party (or not vote) than actually vote for Hillary.
So, if you are a Trump supporter, then someone voting third party is not as good as someone voting for Trump, but neither is it as bad as someone actually voting for Hillary. Not by a long shot.
And anyone who tells you differently is either not very smart, or trying to sell you propaganda, or both.
Personally, if I were in the position of someone who really wanted Trump to win, I would prefer that people not learn this truth, and so I’d stop saying it. A non-trivial number of people who hear it are going to say, “Fine, screw you, I guess I will vote for Hillary,” and this is going to be worse for Trump than if they had been left alone and allowed to cast a vote for French or Gary Johnson or whoever.
What’s worse is the liberal entitlement mentality of everyone who is making this point. Just because I’ve voted Republican all my life out of my own free will doesn’t mean I have any obligation to continue doing it. I never signed a pledge to always vote Republican at all times and the Republican party has never done me any favors such that I owe them my vote for life. But they and pundits like Hannity act like I do, for some reason, and act personally offended that I’m not going to do it this year.
It’s like if a buddy of mine had a kid, and growing up I really liked the kid, so every year on his birthday I gave him a $100 bill and clapped him on the back and said good job, but then when he grew up, he turned out to be kind of a jerk so on his 20th birthday I didn’t give him $100. If that kid came to me and angrily demanded “his” $100, he would be acting pretty much exactly like every pundit who raises this “argument” is currently acting. And the saddest part is, they don’t understand how liberal they sound.