The best thing about the 2016 election is that it will be over come November. The worst thing about it is that one of the candidates will have become president. As it stands, it looks like the campaign will come down to who voters hate less, with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump working very hard to ratchet up the negativity. So, who to pick? On one hand, you have Trump, whose nomination-clinching victory in Indiana on Tuesday had Republicans burning their voter registration cards and even thinking about supporting Clinton. On the other, there's Clinton, whose hawkish foreign policy views, ties to Wall Street donors, and habit of attempting to keep her emails secret have many liberals and leftists thinking they might be more ready for anyone—even Trump—than Hillary.
But voters don't technically need to choose between the lesser of these two evils, even though it's a given that one of them will wind up in the Oval Office. If your conscience compels you to not lend your ballot to Trump or Clinton for whatever reason, or if you just want to have a "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos" excuse later on when the country really slides into hell, you have options. Here are a few:
Like a spurned lover drunkenly swiping through Tinder the evening after a breakup, many potential Republican voters were apparently googling "Libertarian Party" on the night of Trump's ascension. The LP, as its friends call it, is the most popular third party in the US at this point, which is to say it's incredibly unpopular. In 2012, the party's presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, got around 1.2 million ballots (full disclosure: including mine), which equalled a mere 1 percent of the popular vote. Johnson—who is on track to get the LP nomination again—is a former Republican who served as governor of New Mexico, giving him better credentials than most third partiers.
In the past, the LP's blend of policies—it's anti-surveillance, anti-tax, anti–big government, pro-immigration, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun, pro–drug legalization, among other things—hasn't appealed to many people, but with Trump at the head of the GOP, even some conservatives who blog at RedState are thinking about throwing in their lot with Johnson, despite his qualified support of abortion. This is the best chance in decades for a third-party candidate to crack 5 percent of the popular vote, and Johnson knows it. "If nothing comes of this election with regard to the Libertarian Party, then nothing is going to ever come of it, I don't think," he told MSNBC in March.
Since that whole Ralph Nader thing in 2000, the Green Party has faded from view, but it's still out there waiting for liberal Democrats to come around. Activist Jill Stein, the Green Party's presumptive nominee, has for years been promoting an agenda that's basically Bernie Sanders–plus: A $15 federal minimum wage! Free college! An end to the war on drugs! Single-payer healthcare! Nuclear disarmament! No more blind support of Israel! A "Green New Deal" that would give everyone a job plus end our dependence on oil! Voting Green, like voting Libertarian, has always been an exercise in imagining the world as you want it to be rather than how it is. However, for a lot of people, backing Stein over Clinton is the ethical choice, like eating local or putting solar panels on your roof. (In case you were wondering, yes, there is what-if-Bernie-teamed-up-with-the-Greens fan fiction floating around out there.)
Hey, whatever happened to the Prohibition Party, you ask? Nothing happened to it, it's still with us, still calling for a ban on all alcohol and also some other stuff. The party's 2012 candidate ran on a platform that was just the King James Bible; in 2016, it's backing a 78-year-old former professional tuba player who once told VICE weed is safer than alcohol and supports both a wall on the Mexican border and a bunch of financial reforms that would turn banks into government institutions, I think? It's a little confusing, but citizens in the three states where the PP is on the ballot so far (Colorado, Arkansas, and Mississippi) will have an exciting choice to make.
WHOEVER THE REFORM PARTY NOMINATES
Reform Party candidate Lynn S. Kahn
Reform Party founder Ross Perot made his organization briefly viable in the 90s, but things took a turn in 2000 during a bitter nomination fight that was won by noted racist Pat Buchanan. "The Reform Party will acknowledge that the party was taken over by the far right in 2000," reads a recent press release explaining all that unpleasantness. "Some of the people responsible for this take over were White Supremacists. After years of infighting and lengthy court proceedings, we successfully regained control of our party, and those involved with white supremacy organizations were marginalized, removed from leadership positions, and systematically forced out." So the Reform Party is BACK, baby, and the party's one presidential candidate with a working website, Lynn S. Kahn, sounds basically like a Republican. Vote for her if you want!
As profiled for VICE by Mike Pearl back in March, Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik is a former guitarist in a "stoner metal band called Pill Shovel" who is the Socialist Party's nominee. He admits he's going to lose the election, and he told Pearl, "In a very hypothetical fairytale situation where we won in this system—we'd have to fire ourselves on the first day... If we actually made it to that spot in this system, we would've have had to so thoroughly compromise who we are to get there, that we would've betrayed everyone." What's not to like?
Just like voting, not voting is a time-honored American tradition. Nothing says fuck that quite like staying home and playing Destiny while everyone else is lining up at the polling station. If you want to really drive the point home while participating in the process, leave the top spot on your ballot blank and vote for state and local offices (though you should double-check with a poll worker to make sure that won't invalidate your ballot somehow). Your apathy will go unnoticed by whoever wins the election, but who cares?
You can trust a toaster. A toaster won't let you down. A toaster won't make paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. A toaster won't ban Muslims from entering the country. Stick the bread in the slot and press the thing down, then out comes toast, just like that. Simple, reliable, dependable—the way America should be. And if your bread gets jammed in there, and the room fills with smoke, it's probably your fault, not the toaster's. What, did you put a bagel in there? Don't be greedy. Vote toaster 2016.
Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.