Timothy Egan has a warning for ‘contrarian voters’


Timothy Egan of the New York Times has a warning for “contrarian voters” who cast a protest vote because they do not like the two major party candidates. The Conscience of the Contrarian Voter:

I met Gary Johnson, the somewhat-surging Libertarian Party candidate for president, years ago . . . I liked him instantly. And as I’ve followed him since then, my regard for Johnson has grown. Now that he’s running for president, and polling at 15 percent or better in at least 15 states, would I ever vote for him?

cartoon_31Not a chance. And this was before he blanked out on national television on Thursday in a question about Syria. Johnson favors many things a thoughtful independent could agree with — a less interventionist foreign policy, an end to the insanity of the drug war, calling out Donald Trump for his racism. And he favors many bad things: no immediate action to counter climate change, health care cuts to the most vulnerable, repealing Wall Street regulations.

A voter of conscience, in a normal year, could go for Johnson and feel O.K. about it. But this year, in a tight election, any vote by an independent or a Democrat for Johnson could burden that citizen with a lifetime of guilt for handing the world over to Trump. His presidency could “lead to the end of civilization,” as his own ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz has said.

Commendably, Johnson has stopped using pot during his run for the White House. “I want to be completely on my game,” he says. But too often, he offers the stoner shrug when asked what he stands for, saying you should just Google him. When you Google him, you’re likely to find something about pot and Googling him.

That’s not a serious campaign. But again, I find Johnson personally refreshing, as he showed with his reaction to the Syria gaffe, saying that his response had removed “any doubt that I’m human.” And I’m assuming that Johnson is taking away slightly more votes from Hillary Clinton than from Trump. But if you’re leaning toward Trump, by all means make the switch to the affable Gary Johnson.

Well then, what about Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate? She’s polling in the low single digits, but she still might get more votes than the 2.9 million that Ralph Nader received in 2000. You remember those Nader voters who insisted there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The world is a far sadder, far more tragic place, in part because the Naderites helped to tip the balance to a man who, like Trump, is cocksure of only one thing — his ignorance. Forget about the mess of Florida. In just one state, New Hampshire, the Nader vote was enough to give the presidency to Bush.

Stein said she would put Edward Snowden in her cabinet, because, I guess, there would then be no state secrets at all! Her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, has called President Obama an “Uncle Tom.” Stein is a protest candidate, recently arrested for protesting [Stein was charged Wednesday in Morton County with misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. The same charges have been filed against her running mate, Ajamu Baraka.] It’s an honorable role, and I wish her well in future protests.

I get that a majority of Americans think the current two-party system is failing us. Clinton is not inspiring. Trump is a monster who lies the way some people clear their throat. But if you want failure, give Trump the White House. If the global emergency of climate change is your issue, as it certainly is for many Stein supporters, your Green Party vote may be just enough to ensure that the man who calls climate change a hoax hastens the end of nature as we know it. You may feel good about it; the planet will not.

I asked Bill McKibben, who may one day win a Nobel Prize for his decades of alarm-sounding about life-altering changes to Earth, what a progressive drawn to a third-party candidate should do.

“My thinking is that the point of elections is not to find a savior,” said McKibben, who was a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. What matters is the movement toward change, he said. But this year is different. Trump “is bad in a unique (in American presidential history) way that scares me to the marrow.”

And that’s the crucial point. Trump should scare anyone with a brain and a heart. Just this week, he showed again how far he would move the United States to the dark side, gushing about his soul mate Vladimir Putin, and dreaming of a plunder force under our flag, stealing oil from the Mideast. In years to come, every American voter will be held to account for what they did in 2016. There’s no free pass.

This election is too important for self-righteous protest votes.  Donald Trump and “Trumpism” must be defeated.


  1. I keep seeing posts about an “honest 3rd Party Vote”, what is that? Is it honest to vote 3rd Party when you know you “cannot win” and might just tip the scales to a lunatic megalomaniac? If you know Trump will be a disaster for this country and will cause immeasurable harm, it is far more honest to do all you can to see that he doesn’t win. If there was a chance in hell that Jill Stein or Gary Roberts would win, you might have an argument but, in reality, you know you are throwing your vote away if you vote for either one. How is that honest or moral? You can stand in the middle of the road to your house holding your children’s hands and saying, “there’s a car speeding down the road, but it’s our road and we aren’t moving”. You’re being honest about your rights, but you will be just as dead and so will your kids.

    • Huh? I must have missed a step or two in your logical progression. Right from third-party politics to dead children in the road.
      If a voter does not approve of a candidate’s positions or proclivities, that voter does not need to “morally” vote for the candidate. That lesser-of-two-evils dead horse has been beaten enough, thank you. Not goin’ to do it again.
      Generally, I think HRC is a hawk, and a Wall Street whore.
      Generally, I think Trump is two bricks short of a load.
      I do not have a moral obligation to vote for either one of them.

      • Well said, sj.

        It’s sad that some otherwise liberal folks have sunk to right wing AM hate radio levels, using fear and hate to motivate people to vote for Clinton.

  2. Could we tone down the self righteousness when calling others self righteous?

    My reason for asking is that you are putting the blame for Trump/Clinton on a few people who want to vote their conscience, instead of lying blame on the RNC/DNC/media where it belongs.

    If you want to hold someone to account for the 2016 election, start with those folks.

    And FYI, I keep trying to find a reason to vote for Clinton but I swear the woman hates me.


    She literally hates me.

  3. also besides jill stein’s arrest warrant amy goodman of democracy now has an arrest warrant from north dakota. clinton campaign put pressure on president obama to stop pipeline so hillary didn’t have to go there and get arrested!

    • The warrant being issued for Amy Goodman is chilling and all the more reason to get corporations out of politics.

  4. the answer is if you were afraid a third party vote would allow trump to win why did you vote for clinton? your answer is you have to be responsible and not vote for jill stein so we can vote for hillary. not good enough. my vote for ralph nader is the best vote I ever made and voting for jill stein will be next! azbm you ask me not to vote for jill stein I have been asking you to defend hillary clinton;s iraq war vote so republicans couldn’t use it against her when she ran for president. and her phony apology when anti war democrats went to obama. I am still waiting and waiting and…

  5. OK, I’ll bite.
    Who gets to decide which election is “too important” for an honest third-party vote?
    Why is your vote sober and well-reasoned, while mine is immature and self-righteous?
    I’m tired of choosing the lesser of two evils. I’m tired of Wall Street, oligarchs and beltway mavens deciding the elections ahead of the voting. The time for ditching the two-party system has come.
    You vote for your candidate, and I’ll vote for mine.

    • Exactly, sj.

      Perhaps if the Democratic Party thinks elections are too important for an honest third-party vote it should get behind ranked voting, instead of engaging in a game of chicken with progressive voters. After all, if they really, really thought Nader tipped the 2000 election to Bush, they could have started a movement to remedy the problem. Oh, but wait, that would free people up to vote third party without misgivings. We can’t have that.

  6. There is always a reason not to vote for a truly progressive candidate like Jill Stein. It is obscene that the US is one of the few developed nations in the world that does not have proportional voting and representation and is locked into a two party system, both that are dominated by corporate donations and Wall Street investments. President Obama’s zeal for the TPP and offshore oil drilling is a perfect example why we need to get big money out of electoral politics. I am proud to call the Green Party my political home and no longer have to 1)hold my nose and vote 2) vote for neoliberals who have been destroying our economy and planet for years and who have led the movement for mass incarceration of people of color 3) vote out of fear. We should all wish the Green Party well this election cycle and hope it grows an independent, permanent. electoral voice and choice – a progressive party in Arizona and nationally. Our planet depends on progressive independents (like Bernie Sanders is now) getting elected. Thanks and I’m very accountable for my vote, choice, support of down ballot candidates and voting for the greater, good. I also wish fellow progressives who choose to work inside the corporate dominated Democratic party – there is room for multiple strategies in politics and life. Thanks

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