I’m talking this year’s Presidential election, of course. What you think? Let’s look at this question briefly through the lens of the most common viewpoints (in no particular order).

It doesn’t matter who you vote for

I’ve heard this position more this election than ever I can recall in the past. There are two schools of thought (with some overlap) that put forward the position that doesn’t matter. The first says that both Clinton and Trump are “flawed candidates” and that neither deserves your vote. The second says that our presidents (along with all our government) are controlled by a wealthy elite who will continue to call the shots no matter which person is elected.  So vote or don’t vote they say, it doesn’t matter who wins.

You must vote for Hillary Clinton

If you’re a staunch Democrat, then you’re probably supporting Hillary. If you’re a progressive who was probably supporting Bernie, then the odds are you’re settling for Clinton as closer to your ideal. In either case, you probably resonate more with Clinton’s position on issues than you do her opponents. You may be voting for Hillary to support the historical moment of the first female president. You may be voting for Hillary because you so dislike or fear Donald Trump. Any or all of these reasons call you to vote for Clinton.

You must vote for Donald Trump

If you’re a staunch Republican, then you’re probably supporting Trump. If you find that you resonate with Trump’s position on most issues, then you are voting for him. You may be supporting Trump because you are dissatisfied overall with our governmental system and feel like he will shake it up. You may just find him entertaining on some level. Finally, your support of Trump may be based on your dislike or distrust of Hillary Clinton. Any or all of these reasons call you to vote for Trump.

You must vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson

Both the Green party and Libertarian party candidates are drawing more support this year than the typical third-party candidate receives. No doubt, you read their party platforms and resonate with their positions on key issues. Now is the time to send a message and give support to a viable third party. Yet, I suspect, that many people who have turned to Stein or Johnson this year have done so out of protest over Clinton and Trump.

You must not vote

There is a growing number of people online I’ve noticed that are encouraging others not to vote, at least not for President. Their thinking, as I understand it, is that the more people who don’t vote for President, the more we will express our dislike over the choices.

Conclusion

I suspect you fell into one of the categories above. I also suspect that you judged negatively some or all of the other categories. That is fine. If you have emotion around your choice, then it’s normal to feel negatively towards the other options.

So, does it matter who you vote for – or whether you vote or not? In my opinion, yes, of course it does.

Even if there is some truth to the belief that a wealthy elite will continue to run things no matter who is elected (and there is a lot of evidence to support this)… and, even if there are aspects of the background or actions of both major candidates that give you pause in calling you to lend your support to one or the other…the individual who is elected will still have a good degree of power and a large voice on the world stage. One of these individuals will represent America to the world. One of these individuals will have the bully pulpit of the position to present a particular worldview. One of these individuals will be on our nightly news for at least the next four years.  Certainly you have an opinion in which candidate you want in that role.

So my conclusion is that it does matter who you vote for and that you should most definitely vote. This is the same conclusion drawn by others within the Coffee Party USA as we launched a “#VoteAnyway” campaign to encourage voting.

Your vote is a statement of your intention for the direction of our country in the world. A choice not to vote is a statement of your intention to withdraw from assisting in setting the direction of our country.

I’m not here to tell you who to vote for (although to be transparent I did publicly endorse one candidate here). No, the real take away from this article is that it is important that you vote, no matter what your feelings are about the candidates. Watch the debates. Follow the candidates. Read their positions on issues. Weigh the pros and cons. Make a decision.

I am a political and spiritual progressive. One of my beliefs is every person matters. Every person deserves to be heard. Every person needs to vote. Yet I also believe that every person has a responsibility —  to stay informed, to thoughtfully weigh the candidates and their positions, and to wisely exercise their “rights as a citizen”.

I don’t often agree with Texas senator Ted Cruz, but I do on this matter when he stated at the Republican convention – “vote your conscience”.  Yes indeed, be and stay engaged….and vote your conscience.

#VoteAnyway

Mark Gilbert

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