Once upon a time, citizens of a major Western democracy found themselves reeling from having to choose between two unpalatable presidential candidates. One was a centrist lifetime politician, a consummate insider, who had been in the public eye long enough to weather a fair amount of scandal and to develop a reputation for being untrustworthy. The other was a carnivalesque, ultra-nationalist demagogue exploiting an undercurrent of social unrest, while astounding political commentators and the general public alike with his controversial remarks.
The year was 2002, the country was France. In a landslide, the center-right incumbent Jacques Chirac defeated the far-right leader of the anti-immigrant National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, with 82 percent of the vote. Thirteen of the 14 political parties on the first-round ballot, notably the Socialist Party and other far-left parties, called on their supporters to vote against Le Pen by supporting the austerity-touting Chirac.
A majority of French voters put aside their differences for a day, and united to reject a far-right candidate whose principles so starkly flouted the French Republic’s motto of “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood.”
Fast forward to 2016, and polls show that U.S. voters are finding it less of a duty to simply vote against the candidate widely seen as a threat to national ideals, global stability and democracy: Donald Trump. But undecided and third-party supporters can take a lesson from the 2002 French election and re-frame a vote for Ms. Clinton as a defensive one against Trump.
Instead of supporting a third party as a protest vote against the two major parties, a common-sense approach would be to take a step back and rethink what is more worthwhile to protest. An effective protest yields results, and a protest vote against Trump would be put toward ensuring the relative safe haven of a Clinton presidency.