Here’s an argument we’ve heard approximately twelfty jillion times (especially on this blog’s comment threads): If you don’t vote for Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump, you are giving a vote to Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton.
This argument of course ignores a number of factors, chief among them the fact we don’t actually live in a political duopoly even if it usually feels like it. The two major-party candidates may be 99.999999 percent likely to finish one-two in the election, but it doesn’t follow that if you don’t vote for one the other is entitled to your vote.
Necessity being the mother of invention, a new website has sprung up to accommodate #NeverTrump/#NeverHillary voters and give them a kind of permission to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Here is the (at times slightly crass) explainer video:
In the name of journalism, I went to the site and went through most of the sign-up process (I didn’t go through with the matching part … yet). According to the final screen, there are “44,078 other rebels voting for Gary Johnson without risking Trump winning.” I’d have thought it would say “without risking Hillary winning” for me, since I indicated I’d normally vote Republican, so I don’t know if only 44,078 people have signed up or if that number should be doubled to account for #NeverHillary and #NeverTrump.
Whether it’s 44,078 or 88,156, you might not be impressed. Consider, though, that the above video has been on YouTube only since Aug. 25, just six days as I write this. That’s a pace of either 50,000 or 100,000 a week. Neither would be a fast enough pace to change the race with just under 10 weeks to go before Election Day. There would have to be a snowball effect, where people’s act of signing up itself brings awareness of the site to multiple people in their circle. That may be possible, because the site’s matching system incorporates Facebook a pretty powerful tool for getting the word out about things like this.
The better goal might be simply raising Johnson’s profile to the point he is able to qualify for the debates, which would require him to be at 15 percent on average in five national polls. That’s still doable, although he’s running out of time.
Finally, the other thought this brought to my mind is this is the ultimate political version of the prisoner’s dilemma. Being matched with someone from the “other side” is an interesting concept. But, as with a pair of prisoners brought in separately to talk to the police, each person is depending on the other to stick with the original plan — while having some incentive to deviate from it and serve their personal interests. Would both sides of this “match” stick with the pledge to vote for Johnson, risking the chance the other side would go wobbly and end up voting for someone “dangerous” to be president? It’s a good question.