Swearing allegiance

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

In the 2012 presidential election, I was 17 years old – unable to vote, but hardly interested or informed about the candidates.

Now, it’s as if I’ve received my driver’s license and been thrown behind the wheel of a NASCAR or given a handle of vodka as my first legal drink.

As you can imagine, this is a rough election for my first presidential vote. While I think myself more informed now, I’m still not the most passionate about politics. I realize, to some, that’s an infuriating statement – shouldn’t every able-minded citizen be revved up about who’s in charge of their town, city, state and country?

Well, in a perfect world, sure. But some people are really interested in politics, and some people aren’t. It doesn’t mean the people who are less interested can’t become more educated and develop informed opinions, but it might take a little longer for those people (like myself) to feel comfortable worshipping a politician and plastering their name on their car bumper.

All jokes aside, I have a point to make: no matter where each voter falls on the spectrum of interest, they have a right to vote that is solely their own.

Half of the people I know tell me that if I vote for a third-party, like Gary Johnson, my vote will go to Donald Trump; the other half tells me my vote will go to Hillary Clinton.

It can’t go both ways, folks, but if it could, it sure would hurt to have my vote go to every candidate except the one on my ballot.

The other alternative, not voting, is met with cries of “But your vote matters!”

OK, so my vote for an elector matters. Scratch that – forget the Electoral College for a few minutes, because my vote for president matters.

So what if I want to go third-party for this shindig? “Well a third-party candidate will never win,” the people cry,  “so you might as well not even vote.”

OK, so now my vote actually doesn’t matter. Or, only if I vote for one of the two most popular individuals representing the entire U.S., but not the one I most identify with. Some people’s votes matter, and some people’s don’t.

“But wait!” they say, “it’s not about you. You have to think about what’s best for the country!”

Well, citizen, I’m sorry to say I don’t know at all what’s best for you. I know nothing about you, your family, health, socioeconomic status, income or taste in education. But I know about what’s best for me. That’s what every voter knows and who every voter is out to please – themselves.

Feel free to disagree, but ask yourself: would I still vote for my favorite candidate if their policies didn’t benefit me? Furthermore, some argue now is not the time to protest the two-party system, and that it will eventually change after a long time. But how can a system change if we continue to support it and ostracize anyone with alternative options.

If you want me to take this seriously, here it is: a vote is a grave thing. Ultimately, it’s my pledge that I believe in a sole individual so much that I think they should be president. A commitment like that is no laughing matter, and it takes a lot of self-evaluation. If I’m going to make that declaration to my government, it’s going to be a genuine representation of who I trust, not a gamble on a candidate I despise for fear of letting in a different candidate I also despise.

In Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Famer’s Liberation Front,” he writes, “swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.”

If you feel confident swearing by the two party system no matter what, so be it. If not, swear allegiance to the candidate who is nighest your thoughts, or don’t swear.