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FALSE: Not Voting For Hillary is a Vote For Trump

Find out how this is possible below.

Find out how this is possible below.

As political arguments rage across the breadth of the internet, an increasingly popular claim is being made by supporters of Hillary Clinton. They're claiming that if you don't vote for their candidate (should she win the nomination), you're actually voting for Donald Trump. Even if you decide to stay home, on your couch, drinking a cold one, your ballot is going to miraculously mark itself for Trump and float into a ballot box. And, even if you don't care about self-propelling ballots, you're still going to receive all kinds of hell for letting it happen. Now, this may sound stupid (and it is; it really is...), but bear with me. Sometimes these things need to be explained in simple terms.

Before we `do the math', however, it's worth asking ourselves the following question. Does this `with us or against us' remark remind you of someone? Because, if you were around in the early 2000's you might have heard Democrats berating George W. Bush for a similar flavor of fallacious reasoning (see video).

Time to `Do The Math'

Let's come back to the merits of that comparison later, and instead dispel the ludicrous claim that not voting Democrat is equivalent to voting Republican. We'll use numbers from the 2012 election.

 Democrat VotesRepublican VotesDid not vote (or 3rd party)Result

US General Election 2012

66 million

61 million

108 million

Democrats won

What if not voting Democrat was a vote for Republicans?

66 million

169 million


Republicans win

Clearly, this landslide victory for the Republicans didn't happen in 2012. So what are these fools on about? Well, a little birdie tells me it's not that simple. Apparently, if you like Bernie Sanders then you're a Democrat and your vote therefore belongs to the Democratic Party. So if you don't vote for Hillary, you're taking a vote away from the Democratic Party. This, they say, is equivalent to voting for Trump!

Well, little birdie, lets see if you're right. We'll use numbers from the 2012 election again.

 Democrat VotesRepublican VotesDid not vote (or 3rd party)Result

US Presidential Election 2012

66 million

61 million

108 million

Democrats won (+5)

What if 3 million Democrats didn't vote?

63 million

61 million

111 million

Democrats win (+2)

What if 3 million Democrats voted Republican?

63 million

64 million

108 million

Republicans win (+1)

Oh dear birdie, it seems you were wrong. I guess your name isn't Birdie Sanders. The claim that "a Democrat who doesn't vote is the same as a Democrat who votes Republican" should have produced the same result in those two `what if' scenarios. It didn't, so they're obviously not the same.

Oh Birdie Sanders, your layers of satire beguile me!

Oh Birdie Sanders, your layers of satire beguile me!

But hang on!... (I hear you pleading), let's not get ahead of ourselves. The non-voters did put the Republicans closer to victory, and, if their number was 6 million instead of 3 million, the Republicans would have won in both scenarios! This is true; however, it still doesn't mean a non-vote is equivalent to a Republican vote.

If you `do the math' (God I hate that phrase, don't you?) you'll see that a Democrat not voting is equal to half of one vote for the Republicans. This explains why the numbers differed in the above example. In other words, taking your vote away from the Democrats is only half as damaging to the Party as giving your vote to the Republicans is. Of course, it relies on it being possible for a political party to own your vote prior to the election, such that you can "take it away" from them.

Can The Democratic Party Own Your Vote?

So far we've learned that "not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump" is a claim that isn't true under any circumstances. It's about as factual as saying "not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary", and I'm sure there are many Republicans saying those exact words right now. In fact, a search of the two phrases produced 8840 results for the latter and 21800 for the former.

"Not Voting For Hillary is a Vote For Trump!"

"Don't worry, I've been told by an equally reliable source that not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. So, I'll be voting for both of them from the comfort of my couch."

Nevertheless, it could still be claimed that a Democrat whose vote belongs to the Democratic Party, but who doesn't vote for Hillary in the general election, is helping Trump (not to be confused with "supporting Trump" or "voting for Trump" which would require active participation of some kind rather than sitting on a couch trying to be neutral).

So, if we ignore the obvious contradiction that makes it impossible for a person to be pledged to a Party but unable to vote for its candidate, can the Democratic Party own anyone's vote?

Steady on Hillary. This isn't Nevada. Well, some of it is, but not all of it!

Steady on Hillary. This isn't Nevada. Well, some of it is, but not all of it!

In a democracy, no, of course they can't. That would be fascism you're thinking of there. The moment representatives of political parties are no longer obligated to earn your vote is the moment democracy ends. That's the reason we have televised debates, political ads, campaign speeches, rallies, phone-banking, leafleting, and so on. It's to earn your vote. If you've taken the slightest interest in a candidate's platform, and you don't have a `D' or `R' tattooed on your forehead next to a bar code, then your vote doesn't belong to anyone other than you.

No matter how many times you've voted for a political party in the past, you're probably still making a decision based on the issues they support. Democrats may align with your issues most/all of the time, which is why you vote for them most/all of the time, but, if Hillary isn't progressive enough for you, then you aren't (and never were) obliged to vote for her. That isn't your fault; it's hers for not earning your vote.

Scroll to Continue

Parties can and do change over time. Long ago, the Republicans were the progressive party! Now, Democrats seem to be following them over to the right. Such changes have left a lot of people feeling unrepresented. For example, it's sometimes claimed that Ralph Nader voters handed Bush the 2000 election because their votes supposedly belonged to the Democratic Party. It would be more accurate to say Gore didn't earn the votes of people who voted for Nader, and that those votes never belonged to any Party before the election. If Nader hadn't been on the ballot, they probably wouldn't have voted at all, which brings us to the next point...

Bernie or Bust

Most Bernie Sanders supporters have never and will never support Hillary Clinton. Many have actively despised her for years. They cite her hawkish foreign policy, corporate connections, and countless flip-flops on issues that should be black and white to any genuine progressive. In other words, even if Bernie wasn't in the race, and even if they'd voted Democrat all their lives, they wouldn't have voted for Hillary in the 2016 general election anyway. Thus, it can be said that the Democratic Party never `owned' their votes; Bernie supporters were always deciding on the issues, not the Party. Essentially, they're independents who often vote Democrat, but can't this time because of Hillary's positions on the issues they care about. So Bernie supporters are not taking anything away from the Party by not voting for Hillary; rather, by fielding Hillary, the Party is being taken away from Bernie supporters.

Partisans Don't Like Democracy

The partisan mantra is: "if you're not with us, you're against us", and this is essentially what's being said with: "not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump". In both cases, your lack of support for one side is labeled as shame-worthy support for the other side. Neutrality doesn't exist for the partisan, so staying home and not voting is, for them, equivalent to voting for the other side.

If you watched the video at the top of the page, you'll see that George W. Bush was a fan of this mantra. Indeed, the tribalism and divisiveness of the message makes it a tool for war, not peace; to be used by conservatives; not progressives. This makes its use by Hillary supporters alarming; but when considered alongside the hawkishness of their candidate, and the fact that many appear to agree with her interventionist foreign policy, it's not too surprising (see video above).

The point of the partisan mantra is to shame, ridicule, guilt, scare, or demonize people into doing what the partisan wants. In other words, it's a way to manipulate people out of exercising their democratic rights by eliciting emotions that constrain their choice. The partisans who do this don't really believe in democracy. For them, winning is more important than how the game is played. Unfortunately, this isn't just the attitude of some of our citizens; it's also the attitude of our leaders. As I've said elsewhere: democracy is a tool for the establishment, not a principle. When that tool doesn't fit the hole they want to screw, it becomes an obstacle.

In summary, not voting for Hillary certainly isn't a vote for Trump. Reveal such people for the clueless tools they are. Also, beware partisans and those who want to push you down that road. They're typically armed with a can of face paint and a condescending attitude. Lastly, remember that democracy is more important than who wins. If we keep chipping away at it, we all lose.


Remember2016 on September 24, 2018:

Well, now.

Between the column above and the contributions from Mr Swan below, there are a lot of words.

No, the Democrats don't own the votes of Progressives.

And it's certainly the right of every voter to vote their conscience.

But while there is a single reference to Article I (Congress) in these comments (see: down ballot elections), there's not a single reference to Article III (Judicial).

People who didn't vote for Hillary kept her out of the White House. Full stop. You might find that a good thing.

But I'm actually interested in the opinions of Progressives on how the whole Trump Train of judges (headed by Justice Gorsuch and current nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but at this point over 65 federal judges) placed in the courts with Mitch McConnell's blessing.

Many of these seats were kept vacant my Senator McConnell.

I suspect exactly none of these justices will be inclined to rule in a way supportive of progressive viewpoints. And they'll be on the bench for many, many, many years.

I agree that elections have consequences. Progressives who didn't vote for Hillary need to understand that whether they hated her personally, or felt "disrespected" by the corporate/moderate Democrats, she lost the election, and the consequences of that are that there will probably be over 100 federal judges who are more than likely to set back progressive causes for the next several decades.

Hillary lost. But so too did progressive causes.

Tony Muse from Texas, USA on March 23, 2018:

2016 was the first time in my adult life that I did not vote in the presidential election. I couldn't then, and can't now, stomach either candidate.

Gerald on October 18, 2016:

Thanks for this post. We should always vote our conscience and stand by our principles.

Person on August 05, 2016:

But you didn't mention the electoral college at all? We don't use the popular vote, we use the electoral college. You cant just add up all of the popular votes across all the states, every state except 2 is a winner take all state. This system favors 2 parties, so a vote for someone other than Hillary is only enabling Trump to win because Hillary is the only one who can beat him. So, no, a vote for someone else other than Hillary is not an actual, literal, vote for Trump, but voting for Hillary is the only way to defeat him, third parties, or write-ins don't stand a chance in our two party system. Here:

Val on August 02, 2016:

I"m for Donald Trump, He's exposing everything not only that, He's not part of that Secret Society which lead to the New World Order,

Discerment and Wisdom, is needed for this election folks

Galen Barbee on July 31, 2016:

vote gary johnson and bill weld

John Mackey on July 29, 2016:

If Trump wins, it'll be because some liberals will waste their votes on Stein or Johnson. No load of verbiage can refute this statement.

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on July 27, 2016:

There are 7.5 BILLION people on the planet.... and only around 3000 key individuals that basically run the monetary system and thus ALL political parties oof the whole planet. It is totally asinine that 7.5 Billion people continue to believe they only have two choices. Absurd.

I say

Goodbye Communism - it didn't work as people had no incentive to perform

Goodbye Socialism - it didn't work as as the middle class got taxed to death while puppets ran the government

Goodbye Capitalism - as the gap between the rich and poor became so wide it has become communism through wealth control.

Hello and welcome Thrivalism

Whats Thrivalism? - I wrote about it.

Sandy Patterson on July 27, 2016:

It is as if for some partisans, you have the right to vote, but you don't have the right to NOT vote. Strange.

Jill Spencer from United States on July 27, 2016:

Yes, I am sick of this spurious logic too. It's insulting and backward. Voters should not vote because they're part of a club, but from their consciences. I joined the Democratic party years and years ago because its values represented mine. Since the 80s, that has been less and less true, and now I'm going Green. When it comes to economic and environmental issues, the Dems are in the thrall of corporations just as surely as the Republicans are. That's why Bernie seemed like such a miracle. He's an old-time democratic, who's all about equality and fairness-- not just socially, but economically as well. The latter is the sticking point for neo-Liberals. The Green Party is the People's Party now and Jill Stein the obvious true liberal candidate for the presidency.

LyaNox on July 26, 2016:

I've been told this countless times in FB discussions. Another thing I hear a lot is that Bernie supporters don't live in reality and that we have been brainwashed by the Republicans. I have found them to be condescending and assume things that waste time and energy refuting. I'd rather argue issues than defend whether or not I am qualified to have an opinion that differs from their 'establishment' view.

izzydoesit on July 25, 2016:

Thanks for this, Thomas. I'm writing on the eve of day one of the DNC after Bernie's speech gave his speech urging his supporters to vote for Hillary while they continue the revolution. I wanted to find a good deconstruction of the either/or fallacy to post for Hillary supporters who have been using it as a scaremongering technique to get votes for her.

This is a great page! It breaks it down well and in the perfect context I was looking for. I agree with all you said in your comments. I only wish the Kool-Aid drinking public had a similar perspective. I love Bernie but I will never vote against my interests or my conscience. IOW, #neverhillary

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 22, 2016:

Thank you for the comments everyone.

Roger, as long as those Democrats support progressive principles, I'd expect progressives to vote for them. But, there will be no improvement in our lives if corporate Democrats can expect everyone left of center to support them. People have to vote their conscience, because you get out what you put in, and politics without conscience is tyranny. If fewer and fewer people are voting for what they really want, it's a sign that the system is failing, and power is being centralized into the hands of those who are still getting what they want. The destruction of representation for the left, that began with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, can't go on. Either the Democratic party changes, or it dies. If it refuses to change, let it die. Something better will replace it. The only people grieving will be those who couldn't disconnect themselves from the `tribe'. This is a turning point in history.

Thanks Kathleen. I think we're given as much freedom and democracy as is needed for the majority to believe they are free. Unfortunately, the powers that be have convinced us that having one more viable party than a dictatorship is quite enough freedom. They've convinced us that not having a choice on economic matters is fine. They keep the illusion of democracy alive by having the two parties fight over social issues, like guns, abortions, and transgender bathrooms, because the wealthy elite don't care about that. They only care about their money; and we have no choice but to accept their wishes for it.

Thanks Wilson, yes there are so many reasons to vote 3rd Party. Unfortunately, the same corporations who own the two parties also own the media, and they bombard us with the idea that it's a "wasted vote". Although really, it's a symbolic "give up and submit" message.

J Sousa, I'm not sure you understand. The Democratic Party doesn't own anyone's vote before the election. To say that a vote for the Greens is equivalent to a Democrat staying home is to assume that (1) they're Democrats. (2) They would vote Democrat if they didn't vote Green. I think most who vote Green are registered Green (or will be soon...), so they're not Democrats. Also, most are #NeverHillary, so there's no chance of them choosing her. They would rather stay home than vote for a warmongering, corrupt, corporatist. So, with the Greens, at least they have some representation and can actually vote for someone. Voting for a lesser evil guarantees an equal or worse choice of evils next time, because, as intimated above, they will keep stripping away your freedom and democracy if you let them... just enough to avoid a revolution. Perhaps Trump will tip the scales too far. Fear-based voting is what they do in places where democracy is a sham. America's so good at it, they don't even have to threaten you with the gulag.

mio cid, it depends what polls you're seeing. The widely publicized "Pew" poll didn't even give Jill Stein as an option. It just said "other". How you phrase the question makes all the difference. The polls I've seen where Stein is an option have shown either equal numbers going to Stein and Hillary, or twice as many going to Stein (Guardian poll). #Demexit was trending the other day, and I expect it will only get worse for the Party after they coronate Hillary.

Tom, I agree. There is little chance to save it now. Bernie may have been our last shot. Independents now represent about 45% of the US population, so you'll be in good company.

Thanks for commenting Rob. I'm not afraid of Trump. People should vote for who they want to win. Even if you don't win, you did your part for a better democracy.

Thanks Randy. That's exactly it. They have to earn our vote. It's a sad day when ordinary people start being blamed for the failures of politicians.

Roger Wiltfong on July 21, 2016:

I am more concerned about the down vote. This could hurt us in the senate and the house. If you don't want to vote for Hillary or Donald, don't. But go vote for the rep's in the down ballot and the local elections. They are the backbone of everything we need to get done. If we don't vote for them we are shooting our selves in the foot. Basically it will not matter who is elected as President.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on July 19, 2016:

"democracy is more important than who wins. If we keep chipping away at it, we all lose." Great line.

Wilson D on July 16, 2016:

Great article! It is funny how both sides claim that not voting or voting for a 3rd party is a vote for the other side. I'm glad people are fighting that idea, because it's nonsense. Give us candidates that represent our ideals, and I will gladly vote for them. Until then, I will vote 3rd party for a number of reasons.

J sousa on July 14, 2016:

It's not that a vote for not Hilary is a vote for trump. It's that a vote for green is equivalent to a democratic vote staying home. Clinton is s progressive party candidate whose beliefs likely match yours very well. Voting for a 3rd candidate in a tight first-past-the-post race just increases the likelihood that the most organized team will win. This has happened before in an election with teddy Roosevelt. Even though you want to send a message with your vote, you are better served in the election system by avoiding your least favored outcome.

A vote for your most preferred candidate could support your least favored scenario.

A left vote for green is a wreckless action that could lead to you not only not eating your cake, but not even getting your cake in the first place.

mio cid on July 08, 2016:

Good article.I disagree that most Bernie voters will not vote for Hillary the stats and polls say the opposite although there will be a minority of them that won't vote or an even smaller minority that will vote for trump.As far as abstaining from voting in the US is irrelevant because of the low percentage of people who vote.In countries with high voter percentage, it is an actual protest vote but here it goes unnoticed as it gets lost in the sauce.

Tom on July 03, 2016:

I have been a Democrat but thinking of becoming an independent as the Democrat Party is now in the pocket of billionaires and I will never vote for Hillary.

Rob on July 01, 2016:

I appreciate your "doing the math". However, my concern is that the Bernie supporters don't represent 3 or 6 million out of 66 million, as in your example, but about 42% of the Democrats according to the latest Huffington Post polls. It's that big a percentage because Bernie is great, and IF he were a candidate I'd vote for him. But he's not. And if any notable percentage Bernie supporters sit home to send the establishment a message, Trump will will. And then the nightmare of living in a country run by Trump will start sinking in. There are TWO people running for president, and they don't include Bernie or Obama. That's regrettable but that's reality. So please considering voting for Hillary, the best candidate by far of those who are running for president. Thank you.

RandyChilders on June 26, 2016:

Thank you. Someone else gets it, even if it's from the other side.

(a vote against Trump is a vote for Hillary.....)

I'll be voting Gary Johnson this November because Trump didn't earn my vote. Nor did Hillary. Nor did Bernie.

Toldya on June 11, 2016:

The fix is in however you do the math.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 08, 2016:

Agreed Alice. In those more fascist-like states where democracy is restricted more than elsewhere, the best bet may be to vote Green if they're on the ballot, or not vote at all. This may be the lowest turnout election in history, and that would make Trump/Hillary appear rather illegitimate. There's a chance Bernie may still get the nomination if superdelegates or the FBI save him, but that's unlikely. He may still join the Green ticket with Jill Stein, or go independent. If none of that happens then I'd recommend Green.

Alice Looney on June 08, 2016:

I will NEVER vote for Shillary! I've already lost my right to vote for the candidate of my choice! I live in NC, where state law prohibits the counting of my write in vote for Mr. Sanders because he lost the primary election here! The Wave of Change is coming! Either ride the wave and elect progressive legislators now or be drowned in the unrest that will follow the election of a lapdog (Shillary, Mein Trumpfh, Ryan, etc.) of the $1% oligarchy and Con$ervative Chri$tian$, Let the revolution begin!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 05, 2016:

Thanks for commenting Christin. Yes, anyone who's taken part in a political discussion on facebook seems to know what I'm talking about; as you do. Whether it's bullying, shaming, or emotional blackmail, it's wrong and an affront to democracy. I agree that Jill or a write-in would be the way to go.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 05, 2016:

It seems you're straw-manning me. Nowhere did I say "the Democrat leadership has made this their mantra" and it's not the point of the hub. I claimed Hillary supporters are saying `not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump' (or variations of it). On your request (QUOTE: "can you name any other specific Hillary supporters who are quoted as saying that? "), I found the most recent examples I've seen of Hillary supporters making this type of argument. Now, you seem to be requiring that the Democrat leadership be saying it. Well, I don't know if they have. Robert Reich has, as you pointed out... if he can be considered a prominent Democrat. Regardless, I didn't claim they're saying it. My hub is about the large number of Hillary supporters who seem okay with making this absurd, fallacious statement.

Christin on June 05, 2016:

I agree, this line of badgering is all over the facebook groups and news article comments. I won't be bullied into supporting Clinton. The whole "lesser of evils" mantra is also a way to strip away democracy and keep people voting fear instead of progress. Not going to do it. If Bernie can't get this nomination then I will vote for Jill Stein or abstain from the presidential vote. (My state doesn't allow write ins)

Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor on June 05, 2016:

These aren't well known Democrats, it's not like the Democrat leadership has made this their mantra which appears to be your point in the Hub page. Voters can say any nonsensical thing they want, it's meaningless to take issue with jibberish from the public, what matters is if THE PARTY is pushing a point and as far as I see they aren't. You've shown me nothing to change my opinion "Seems to me that this HP, no offense, is an exercise in entertainment, well done I might add, but nothing to do with reality."

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 05, 2016:

There's at least three instances of Hillary supporters saying it on this one facebook post alone:

These are the one's I see:

"Then you're handing a vote to Trump, because you know Bernie or Stein won't win on a write-in." - Cynthia Drew

"The thing here is that Bernie backers who stay home are helping Trump." - Frye Gaillard

"then that may be a (non) vote for Trump. Refusing to choose is a choice in itself and had consequences. Can you live with Trump?" - Jill Harlan-Gran

That's just from a facebook post I can remember reading recently. There are dozens of others from the past six months. I'm not going to dig them all up. Try joining a few Democrat/liberal/progressive groups on facebook. Go through some of the posts and you'll see it being said plenty. I expect most of those don't get listed by google, so the number will no doubt be even higher than what google reports. Also, the search numbers I reported were only for that exact phrase. As you can see above, there are many variations of the same argument.

Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor on June 05, 2016:

Well looking more closely at the search I see only one democrat to whom that statement is attributed, Robert Reich. Maybe there are others in the search but it looks like all there is is anonymous repeats of that quote by bloggers, people like you, attributing it to no one who is actually saying it, except in a few instances, Reich.

That's why I asked if you had a source of specifically who is saying that but you didn't even answer that question. You say it's "being made by supporters of Hillary Clinton." I found only one, Robert Reich, who made that statement, can you name any other specific Hillary supporters who are quoted as saying that? I'd suppose by what you say you could name many Hillary supporters who have been attributed to making that statement, I can't. Can you name anyone else?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 05, 2016:

That's up to you. Personally, I couldn't have either of their deeds on my conscience. Green or write-in for Bernie seems like the best bet in that scenario.

j williams on June 05, 2016:

That's why if those are the choices, I'll vote trump - it's the only way to actively vote against clinton if she's the candidate.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2016:

Thanks for commenting. I googled it again and got 21800 results for that phrase (in quotes), even with the exclamation point in there. I've also had it said to me dozens of times in Facebook discussions, which is why I described it as as increasingly popular claim. It really is the go-to phrase for Hillary supporters.

Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor on May 28, 2016:

I Googled "Not Voting For Hillary is a Vote For Trump!" and did not get one hit on that phrase or anyone having said those exact words (or the equivalent). Do you have a source for alleging that this is what the Democrats are saying. If not aren't you arguing against a straw man statement?

I have heard Republicans say if you don't vote because you don't like Trump Hillary will win the election. That is a reasoned statement, if no one votes for Trump of course Hillary would win the election (even if she is sitting in jail in November). It's not the the same as saying not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary.

Seems to me that this HP, no offense, is an exercise in entertainment, well done I might add, but nothing to do with reality.

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