In an electoral system like ours, the natural state of affairs is one where two major parties are dominant, and independent or third-party candidates have little, if any, chance of electoral success. But this belies the fact that a large portion of Americans are dissatisfied with the two major party candidates. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have abnormally low favorability ratings. Third-party interest, especially in Libertarian Gary Johnson, is surging, while the Green Party’s Jill Stein has siphoned off some of Bernie Sander’s supporters who felt betrayed by the Clinton camp.
Every stage of this election has been an indictment of this system by voters. The fact that a self-proclaimed socialist had such heavy support shows a strong dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party by the progressive left. His loss was, to them, suspicious at best and flat-out betrayal at worst. Trump winning the nomination was once a long shot, but his support shows Republican discontent with the political establishment as well.
If one good thing has come out of this election, it is that conservatives and liberals are capable of criticizing their own candidates and seeing how deeply flawed they can be. It leaves voters with no specific ideological orientation or those with much smaller support, like libertarians and socialists, even more frustrated. As a devout Catholic, I am frustrated.
Clinton not only represents all that is ethically questionable about the left (like unflinching insistence on abortion, identity politics and destructive moral relativism), but also advocates the same aggressive foreign policy that neoconservatives have been pushing for years. Aside from this, she has a reputation for dishonesty and corruption.
Trump represents an even more challenging case. His stated positions are on constant rotation of whatever he thinks will inflame his constituents the most. His positions on immigration are problematic, not to mention the fact that the mass deportation he has advocated would require a huge expansion of government power. He has displayed dangerous levels of narcissism, and his paper-thin skin is ironic considering his penchant for railing against political correctness. His embrace of torture and flirtation with a more lax nuclear policy sends up red flags for anyone who doesn’t want to usher in World War III. Closer to home, this is a candidate with unusual levels of support among white nationalists and the ugly internet political subculture known as the alt-right, all while America is coming to grips with a still-very-palpable latent racism. Even to social conservatives, Trump displays an apathetic disregard to their interests.
Clinton and Trump both represent two sides of a morally bankrupt coin. So what is someone, disgusted by both candidates, to do? I can’t tell you. I can’t speak on behalf of God, the Catholic Church or your own conscience. You could, of course, pinch your nose and vote for the candidate who you believe will do the least damage. But doing that got us where we are today.
You could also follow the advice of Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his essay “The Only Vote Worth Casting in November,” in which he states , “When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither.” This could mean not voting as a protest, or this could be mean voting for a third party, being fully aware that they will not win. But consider what is more important, being on the winning side or your own conscience? You do not owe any politician or political party your vote, your allegiance, or even your respect. The moment you do is the moment you live in a tyranny, not in a constitutional republic. By choosing the lesser of two evils, you are still choosing evil.