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Editor’s Note: This article does not representthe views of the ‘Prince’.

There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction on campus and beyond with the current presidential election season, in particular with the nominees of both major political parties. Even the New York Times has opted to run columns from Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, as a way of presenting a fresh voice on politics. A number of news outlets and political figures have declined to endorse anyone from either the Democratic or Republican Party in this election, optinginstead to endorse third party candidates like Johnson or Jill Stein of the Green Party as a form of protest. While people might hold good intentions in endorsing candidates like Stein and Johnson, to do so is to ignore the fact that the two candidates are woefully ignorant of the issues facing our country and would set back the progress this country has made in the past few decades. Your protest vote is actually a waste of a vote and is wholly counterproductive.

There is a perception that the two major party candidates are “unprincipled,” whereas a candidate like Gary Johnson is “a principled candidate,” in the words of the Chicago Tribune. One of my hometown newspapers, the Detroit News, opted to buck a 143-year long tradition of endorsing Republican candidates for president to instead endorse Johnson, writing that that endorsement was one based on “conscience.” But I ask, is it really “principled” to vote for candidates who know nothing about contemporary issues and are proud to live on the ideological fringes?

Gary Johnson, for his part, has demonstrated a total lack of competence on the political stage. When asked if there was a world leader he admired, perhaps the most softball of all softball questions, he failed to recall the name of a single person, calling it another “Aleppo moment,” in reference to a previous gaffe in which he did not recognize the city at the center of the Syrian civil war. Jill Stein also failed miserably in her response, snarkily tweeting out names of world leaders whom she admired (except that none of them actually lead a country).

It’s worth considering what it means to cast a protest vote rather than a vote for the two-party establishment. I can understand the frustration with our two-party system and the lack of choices. But once you cast a vote for a candidate, that means that you are endorsing the person and their package of policies. One might think that you are voting against and rejecting the two-party system, but a vote for the Green or Libertarian parties implicitly means that you are comfortable with a future in which those groups are able to bring their policy plans into fruition. Johnson rejects the federal income tax, gun control policy, and climate change policies. Stein isn’t any better and continues to peddle debunked conspiracy theories about links between autism and vaccines. Now, is that really a world you might want to live in?

The real danger is that the third party candidates are siphoning votes away from the two major party candidates, which could prevent either major party candidate from winning a clear majority in key battleground states. Recent public opinion polling has showed the Libertarian Party polling particularly well among people under 35 years old (millennials). For instance, in Ohio, a key swing state, 22 percent of voters under 35 said that they would choose Johnson in the presidential election, perhaps a high water mark for a third party in opinion polling.

At the end of the day, your vote really does matter, and to cast it for a third party candidate like Stein or Johnson would only be wasteful and counterproductive. It may seem as if we’re bombarded everywhere with calls for us to vote, with many of those exhortations seemingly becoming mundane, but voting really is an important right in this country. It’s one of the few rights explicitly outlined in the amendments to the Constitution. Even the Daily Princetonian Editorial Board weighed in a few days ago on the topic, exhorting everyone to turn out and vote. On Election Day, don’t throw away your shot at choosing the leader of our country. It’s too important a choice to waste on someone like Stein or Johnson.

Nicholas Wu isaWilson School majorfrom Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich. He can be reached at nmwu@princeton.edu.

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