America’s third National Pastime, after baseball and memes, has emerged as shaming unconventional voters for their choices. Especially in this upcoming Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes, pundits and trolls of all persuasions have become more self-righteous in their denouncements of people who make different choices than them. It’s time for this to end. Leave voters alone.
The most prominent and arguably least sympathetic target of this demagogic ire are conservatives who plan to vote for Democrats in order to rebuke and stonewall President Trump’s antics and agenda. This phenomenon is common among conservative pundits, especially #NeverTrump Republicans, though by no means widespread. And it’s understandable. If you believe that the leader of your party is doing irreparable harm to the country through his reckless actions and to your party by his toxic rhetoric, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to support the opposition party in the short term to hold out hope for the long term. Trump (or Pence) will still hold the veto pen for at least another 2 years, so it’s not like the Communist Manifesto is going to be enacted if Democrats take back the House, or even the Senate.
But these temporarily Blue Republicans have faced withering criticism from other Republicans, both Trump-friendly and Trump-agnostic. And that’s understandable too, from the purist conservative perspective. You’re going to vote for tax-and-spend, anti-gun, statist, abortophile Democrats “just to spite Trump”?! Maybe. It’s none of your damn business.
A group much more historically used to being the target of vote-shaming rhetoric is third party voters. Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election! Jill Stein voters let Trump take the Midwest and thus the Electoral College! Libertarians need to suck it up and vote Republican (or Democrat)! Or so we’re told. Constantly. No matter how close the election or how indistinguishable the outcome.
In one sense, voting third party serves as an answer to the previous question. “You don’t like Trump, fine. Just vote third party if you can’t vote for Republicans. At least you won’t be supporting Democrats.” And yet they’ll be criticized for that too. Every time.
No candidate or party is entitled to anyone’s vote. You have to earn them. Libertarians aren’t required to vote for Republicans just because they agree on a few regulatory issues and (fewer and fewer these days) fiscal issues. They also aren’t required to vote for Democrats just because Democrats have finally come around to lukewarm support for a few positions Libertarians have championed for 50 years (justice reform, sexual liberation, drug decriminalization, etc). Greens aren’t required to hold their noses and vote for Democrats just to more reliably and immediately stop Trump. They certainly can if they decide on that tactical goal instead of their broader ideological priorities, but that’s up to them.
And that’s the point. It’s up to each voter to decide what issues they care about, which candidates best represent those issues, and even whether those issues are as important as other more procedural priorities (“owning the libs”, anyone?).
Pundits, strategists, family, and friends are free to try to convince voters how to exercise their solemn right, but they should do so constructively and on the merits, not with mockery, scorn, and shame. Reflexively relying on the latter is more likely to turn short term spoilers into long term enemies.