I keep hearing from Trump supporters that if I vote for a third-party or write-in candidate — for convenience’ sake let’s say Evan McMullin, though I may not choose him — in this election I’m “really” or “effectively” voting for Hillary Clinton. When I ask how that works exactly, I am told that it’s because Hillary is leading and therefore my McMullin vote isn’t allowing Trump to catch up. But in Texas, where I live, Trump is leading, so by the logic held out to me a vote for McMullin is a vote for Trump. So the Trumpistas ought to be pleased if I vote McMullin. They can scarcely argue that it’s the national vote count that matters, since the United States does not elect its Presidents by national popular vote.
So, then, the argument must be that if you vote for McMullin in a state where Hillary is ahead, you’re voting for Hillary, but if you do it in a state where Trump is leading you’re voting for Trump, whereas if you do it in a swing state I guess you won’t know until after the election who you voted for.
It ought to be palpably obvious at this point that the “effectively voting for X” argument is what Father Neuhaus, of late and cherished memory, used to call “nonsense on stilts.” A vote for Hillary is a vote for Hillary. A vote for Trump is a vote for Trump. And a vote for Evan McMullin is a vote for Evan McMullin. It’s simple as that. So, as my Senator Ted Cruz used to say back when we thought he had a conscience, you should vote your conscience.