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Trump and Clinton are not your only options

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Democratic and Republican parties will be nominating two very unpopular candidates. In the general election on Nov. 8, it is likely that voters will have to choose between what many believe is a xenophobic misogynist — abhorred by 65 percent of registered voters, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll — or a deceitful opportunist that the same poll says is hated by 56 percent of the voters. If only there was another option.

There is.

The Libertarian Party will be nominating its candidate for president over the next few days. If there were ever a time to consider a candidate who is not a Republican or a Democrat, this would be the year.

You may not hear much about the Libertarian Party even though its candidate will be on the ballot in all 50 states. The Republicans and Democrats are fighting to prevent the Libertarian candidate from participating in the presidential debates (although litigation initiated by Our America Initiative may succeed in opening the debates to a third party candidate). And a party that emphasizes government doing less does not attract donations for advertising from special interest groups. So let this serve as your introduction to the Libertarian Party.

Are Libertarians liberals or conservatives? The answer is both — and neither. Libertarians believe in small government. That means that they are liberal on social issues. They believe that the government should not be involved in individuals' decisions about whom to love, how to die or even whether to take recreational drugs. Put simply, liberty means the freedom to do as you please, so long as you do not harm others.

But Libertarians are conservative on fiscal issues. They believe that the government's role should be smaller — that means less regulation, forgoing the country's role as the world's policeman and, consequently, lowering taxes. A more limited government would spend less on corporate welfare, impose a less onerous tax system, imprison fewer citizens, and allow individuals to choose whether to purchase health insurance.

Ultimately, Libertarians are well-described as being socially liberal and fiscally conservative. And this, I believe, is also the middle ground where the plurality of Americans lie.

Many voters might concede that the Libertarian candidate is the best option but will still choose to vote for a major party candidate because a third party candidate "can't win." These voters misunderstand the purpose of voting. It is not to vote for the winner — if one wishes to vote for the winner, then one can ignore the campaign and simply vote for whomever is leading in the polls.

Rather, voting is a method by which citizens send a signal. The signal in this case is that the entrenched parties' monopoly on power is at risk unless they provide better candidates — intelligent, competent, honest candidates who treat others with respect.

Beyond sending a signal, voting for the Libertarian candidate has a very tangible impact in Maryland. The law imposed by the Republicans and Democrats who control the Maryland legislature requires that if a third party wants its candidates to appear on the ballot in 2018, the third party's presidential candidate must obtain 1 percent of the vote in 2016. In other words, when you vote for the Libertarian presidential candidate, you are voting to prevent the two major parties from having exclusive ballot access.

I suggest that, in the state of Maryland, voting for a major party presidential candidate is a wasted vote, given that Maryland is such a blue state that it is a foregone conclusion that its electoral votes will be going to the Democratic nominee.

Isn't it insane that we keep re-electing Democrats and Republicans to office and keep expecting that somehow this time things will be better?

Is voting for the lesser of two evils really what democracy is about?

There is a another option.

Scott Soffen is the Libertarian party nominee for Congress for Maryland's 7th Congressional District; his email is ssoffen@atapco.com.

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