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    The Fallacy of the Protest Vote/Non-Vote


    zoeWe are less than four weeks away from our U.S. Presidential Election. This will be my ninth election, and the stakes have never been higher. This is not hyperbole, or the media trying to generate frenzied interest to sell more advertising—this is reality.

    The two nominees from the two major parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, could not be further apart in demeanor, experience, expertise or vision. In prior elections we could definitely argue policy differences, or whether candidates were more likeable, or the impact of their vision and positions on the future of our country and the world.

    This year I am perplexed how any voter could be undecided between the two candidates this late in the election season. In fact, I have not heard from many who are still trying to choose between the two. The more typical stance is: “I’m a Republican, but I can’t abide Donald Trump’s braggadocio and don’t trust Hillary.” Or: “I’m a Democrat and supported Bernie in the primaries, but can’t bring myself to vote for Hillary and would never vote for Trump.” The disapproval rating for the two candidates is unprecedented, with Trump’s at 61% and Clinton at 54%.

    As a result of this disillusion with the major candidates, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson are drawing more interest than is typical. The most recent Wall Street Journal poll—conducted after the Trump “locker room talk” video scandal and prior to the second debate—shows Clinton with 46%, Trump at 35%, Johnson with 9% and Stein trailing all at 2%.

    The conclusion from the polls, and anecdotally from my conversations and reading of friends’ Facebook feeds, is that the decision some voters are grappling with is not between the two, but more a choice on whether to vote for one of the major party candidates vs. not voting at all. Or, vote for one of the major candidates vs. lodge a “protest” vote with Stein or Johnson. Or, the disdain for the two candidates is so visceral, that the choice is Stein, Johnson or stay home.

    With the stakes so high, the options above are, in my opinion, false choices. Come January 2017, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next President, with all the power, authority, and responsibility that office bestows. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have no chance—zero, zip, none—to become President. A voter would only choose one of them because they can’t abide the two major candidates and want to lodge a protest vote. Alternatively, they might not vote at all.

    These decisions would have disastrous consequences. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate standing between Donald Trump and our nuclear codes. She is the only candidate positioned between Trump and his potential to put in place some of the most egregiously racist, sexist, harmful policies our country has seen in quite some time. From a national security standpoint, his performance in the debates and in media interviews demonstrates his significant lack of understanding of foreign affairs and the dynamics at play in the Middle East, China, and across the globe.

    I realize not everyone is on the Hillary bandwagon, mostly from doubts created by the right wing’s attack machine spreading false information that has time and time again been fact checked as inaccurate. I unabashedly support her for President, not just because she is a woman, but because she is the most qualified presidential candidate in our nation’s history. Her experience, expertise and temperament make her an exceptional candidate and will make her a great President. That is my opinion and the opinion of millions of her supporters.

    As a reader, you may disagree. I urge you, however, not to be cynical and refuse to vote, or to vote for another candidate in protest. Doing so brings Donald Trump that much close to the Oval Office. Your vote is your most powerful voice. Please exercise it, and exercise it wisely for the good of our country. This election matters, more than perhaps any other in the past 40 years.

    Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and as an elected Delegate for the Democratic National Convention. She is a San Francisco Library Commissioner and is the former First Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.