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First we ruined the workforce, then marriage, then (somehow) the Olympics and now, according to a recent New York Times article, even the election may not be safe from millennials.

In their article, “Hillary Clinton Struggles to Win Back Young Voters From Third Parties,” reporters Jeremy Peters and Yamiche Alcindor claim that, “young people often display little understanding of how a protest vote for a third-party candidate, or not voting at all, can alter the outcome of a close election.” A finding which they scientifically determined by quizzing three millennials about Ralph Nader.

Setting aside, for a moment, the condescending tone of their piece, I think we ought to question the assumption that knowledge of the 2000 election is a necessary prerequisite for understanding third-party voting.

Does one really need to know who Ralph Nader is to realize that not voting for Hillary Clinton means Donald Trump has a higher chance of getting elected? I’d argue millennials can figure that out on their own, even without the history lesson.

And yet, I’ve seen countless articles targeted at millennials, warning us of the dangers of third-party voting — many of which include hyperbolic statements and fear mongering, with titles like “Voting for a third party candidate in this election is the worst thing you can do for American democracy.”

Young people have seen this kind of rhetoric before. It’s a similar brand of scare tactics to the “Just say no” campaign, but this time it’s, “this is your brain on third parties.” And in either case, whether you’re talking about drugs or voting, people make better choices when you give it to them straight, rather than trying to scare them one way or the other.

That being said, I understand why people are concerned. The Bush years were a travesty, and if even 1 percent of the Ralph Nader voters in Florida had chosen Al Gore, those years never would have happened.

To be clear, I don’t think this history is unimportant or useless for young people. But if we’re actually concerned, as Peters and Alcindor seem to be, that millennials don’t understand the significance of a third party vote, then let’s give them all the facts and discuss it rationally. I’m all for learning from history and taking advice from older generations, but let’s make sure it’s good history and fair advice.

Perhaps Peters and Alcindor would have been better served by asking their interviewees a few more questions. For example: Do you know how many registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush? The answer is 308,000; that’s 274,000 more than those who voted for Nader and certainly enough to cover the 537 votes Gore lost by. Or maybe: do you know how many self-described liberals voted for Bush? Again, the answer is more than Nader: 191,000 to 34,000.

None of these other factors excuse the effect Nader’s supporters had on the election, but it certainly means they don’t deserve all the blame we tend to give them. And not only is the extent of this blame unwarranted, but it also discredits the important role third parties play in our democracy.

Speaking in a PBS NewsHour article about the history of third parties in America, historian Sean Willentz said, “[Third parties] are the ones that raise the issues that no one wants to raise and in the process they change the political debate and even policy ...

The article also went on to note the important influence third parties have had throughout history, such as the Socialist Party, which “popularized the women’s suffrage movement. They advocated for child labor laws in 1904 and, along with the Populist Party, introduced the notion of a 40-hour work week, which led to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.”

I’m not trying to convince anyone they should vote for a third party, or even to espouse my own political beliefs — I’m voting for Hillary by the way. I just think young people should be given all the facts and then be trusted to make whatever decision is right for them.

Voting for third parties if you don’t live in a swing state (or using vote trader websites if you do) is a useful way to bring light to an issue without swaying the outcome of an election. And telling millennials that they’re throwing away their vote by choosing a third party isn’t just inaccurate, it’s ineffective. Statements like these are more alienating than they are convincing.

So maybe instead of talking down to young people or shaming them for wanting a third option, we should try discussing voting in a rational way.

Wisdom is a valuable thing, condescension not so much.

CAMERON DICHTER is a College junior from Philadelphia, studying English. His email address is “Real Talk” usually appears every other Monday. 

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