“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties … This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” — John Adams
“The disorders and miseries, which result (from having two political parties), gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individualÉ Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” — George Washington
Translation: A two-party nation is a nation ripe for the rise of a dictator. And even if that weren’t true, the parties are darn annoying enough that people ought to hate them anyways.
The debate Monday night exemplified the warnings of Washington and Adams if any one political event ever could.
Both Clinton and Trump lied. One need not look further than the Google searches of “Hillary’s lies in the debate” or “Trump’s lies in the debate.” Politifact could most likely fill a book of lies for each of the two major party candidates.
To give two quick examples of lies most easily disproven: Trump denied calling climate change a hoax when easily accessed records on Twitter prove otherwise. Clinton denied supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) when she clearly described the TPP the “gold standard of trade agreements” in Australia in 2012.
These are only two of the most blatant falsehoods perpetuated by the candidates during the debate and don’t scratch the surface of the hyperbole, misinformation and false impressions each campaign imposes on the public every day.
According to August polls published in The New York Times, only 9% of Americans actually wanted Trump or Clinton as their party’s nominee. This means 91 percent wanted (just about) anybody else. Third party and unaffiliated candidates have always been present in U.S. presidential elections, but the amount of support they received has been so negligible that often their statistics aren’t even reported in the media. The popular belief among Americans is that voting for a third-party candidate is as good as not voting at all.
In this election, many people believe it is their civic responsibility to vote for the lesser of two evils in order to stop the greater. At Knox, where most students are Democrats, this means we’re voting for Clinton even if we don’t like her because Trump is so, so much worse. Trust me, a lot of Republicans everywhere are voting for Trump because they think the same thing about Clinton. The other perspective may not make sense to us, but it nonetheless exists.
The question for us, then, is this: what is our responsibility as individuals in a republic?
The responsibility of a democratic republic is to represent the needs and wishes of its individuals as accurately and justly as possible.
The right of the individual in the republic is to express their needs and wishes through their vote. This is not a right the government or ruling oligarchs can take away. But the individual can choose to surrender this right.
When the two major parties force the American people into a lesser-of-two-evils election, they are trying to get us to surrender our right to represent our personal values with our vote.
The Commission on Presidential Debates is run by vocal Republican and vocal Democrat, a former head of the Republican Party and a former Press Secretary for the Clinton Administration. The debates are funded by corporate sponsors, also with their own agendas. These “powers that be” keep other candidates out of the spotlight so that you will surrender your right to represent your values with your vote.
James Madison wrote, “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”
Americans whose values, needs, and wishes would be best served by Trump or Clinton have a responsibility to vote for that candidate.
If, however, you look at Trump and he does not represent your values, and you look at Clinton and she does not represent your values, research your other options.
I will vote according to my values. Even if my vote doesn’t make a dent in the popular majority’s decision, I will fulfill my responsibility to represent myself accurately and justly as an individual in the republic.