More than a year out from the 2020 presidential election, we're already starting to see "spoiler" fear-mongering from supporters of America's two largest political parties and their candidates.
Will formerly Republican congressman Justin Amash of Michigan run for president as a Libertarian or independent in 2020?
How about formerly Republican, formerly Democrat, formerly independent, former Rhode Island governor and US Senator, now Wyoming Libertarian Lincoln Chafee?
Or former Democratic congresswoman and 2008 Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, urged by some to seek the Libertarian nomination?
What if former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz finally gets off the fence and runs as an independent?
Could one of those candidates "spoil" the election in favor of President Donald Trump or of his Democratic challenger?
The message of the Republican and Democratic parties and their supporters to the rest of us is: If you don't like what we're offering you, tough. Vote for us anyway.
Instead of voting FOR what you want, vote AGAINST what you hate.
There are only two real options on the menu: Liver and broccoli.
Ignore the prime rib, chicken cordon bleu, and ice cream. Don't "waste your vote" on them. You're getting liver or broccoli no matter what you order (in fact, we work hard to keep those other choices off the menu with our control of ballot access and debate inclusion so that you won't get "confused" about your real options).
And no matter what you do, don't stay home. It's your civic duty to come to the restaurant, choose liver or broccoli, and clean your plate. Because we say so.
Earn your vote the hard way, by convincing you that our ideas and policy proposals are the best on offer? Don't be silly. We're entitled to that vote. Hand it over.
Don't listen to them.
Whatever value your vote may have (and realistically, one vote isn't very valuable in terms of affecting election outcomes), that value resides in its power to reflect YOUR preferences.
The only way to "waste" your vote is to cast it for a party or candidate you don't really support. Better to cast no vote at all than to cast one for someone or something you don't want.
In an election, your vote is your voice. In next year's presidential election it will be one shout among 130 million. Shout for what you want, not against what you fear, and let the chips fall where they may.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).