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Dear reader,

It's me, David Martin. You're getting a break from me this week. While riding in the car a few days ago, my wife was passionately discussing her take on a recurring theme in this year's presidential election. My response: "If it means that much to you, write a column about it." She took me up on the suggestion. So let me introduce you to my wife, Natalie:

There's been a lot of hubbub surrounding this election. I feel safe in assuming that regardless of your stance, we could agree that there are a lot of wild opinions floating around out there. But it isn't the gunslinging or nonsensical metaphors that I find most exhausting. Instead, it's the misguided notion that a vote for anyone besides Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is somehow a wasted vote.

We've all heard it, right? "A vote for X is really a vote for Y." I've seen a lot of different replacements for those X and Y variables, but I want to discuss this variation in particular: "A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary Clinton."

Before I get much further, I want you to know that unlike my husband, I don't spend an inordinate amount of time reading about politics. I would rather do almost anything than watch a political debate. Regardless, I understand the gravity of my right to vote, and I feel compelled now more than ever to exercise that right. I have put effort into choosing a candidate, and while I'm sure you gathered this from my headline, I'll make it crystal clear: I am voting for Gary Johnson. I'd like to share what my vote represents to me.

A vote for Gary Johnson. First off, my vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson, simple as that. It's not some sort of strategery — it's a stance.

- A vote to end the duopoly. How is it that in a country of more than 324 million people, we are duped into believing there are only two viable presidential candidates? I'm sure you've noticed that Johnson hasn't made an appearance in the debate scene, and that's because he hasn't been invited. The Commission on Presidential Debates will tell you this is because Johnson didn't meet its requirement of 15 percent average polling support. My vote will show that denying a viable candidate his chance to debate doesn't deter his supporters.

- A vote for fiscal responsibility and small government. Libertarians are serious about smaller, less intrusive government, a byproduct of which is less public spending. As a millennial, I'm terrified by our near $20 trillion dollar federal debt, but neither major party candidate seems concerned with seriously pursuing fiscal responsibility.

- A vote. An upshot of the flawed "a vote for X is really a vote for Y" metaphor is the "I can't back either of the two major party candidates, so I'll abstain" stance. I confess: I've done it before myself. But I've since realized that abstaining won't affect change — and boy, do we ever need it. Write in your own name if you have to. But please, don't abstain.

- A vote for my own integrity. When I go to sleep each night, I need to feel like I've done what is right. And regardless of the outcome, I can guarantee I will never wish I filled in a bubble next to Donald or Hillary's name. If you find yourself grappling with the "lesser of two evils" for fear of the "Gary can't win" mentality, I urge you to make your vote count for you. Even if the odds are against you.

Natalie Roy Martin is a lifelong Chattanoogan who works in the Innovation District.

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