The lesser of two evils. The less repulsive candidate. The only slightly more honest candidate. The slimy political operator with the charity slush fund, or the scuzzy real estate tycoon with diarrhea of the mouth.
That sums up the choice American voters have in the 2016 presidential election, when the two major party candidates are also the most disliked candidates in American history.
But what about the people who supported Bernie Sanders? The Vermont senator, a nominal Democrat, may not be youthful, and he almost certainly never had a chance to win, given what we know now about the forces at work against him during the primaries. But he was probably the only honest candidate in the race, and he enjoyed the support of a passionate base.
Conventional wisdom, at least among the talking head class, says that Sanders' voters should've flipped en masse to the Hillary Clinton camp, supporting the Democrat because she ostensibly shares values and outlook with Sanders. And that's happened, to a degree.
However, a third of Sanders backers still haven't become supporters of the former Secretary of State, according to a report by stats guru Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eighty. Depending on the poll, Clinton gains more Sanders backers in a two-way race where she's matched up directly with Donald Trump.
But add libertarian and green party candidates to the mix, and Clinton only gets about 63 percent of all Sanders backers, according to an aggregate of polls.
The indecisiveness of Sanders supporters makes sense when you consider the Vermont senator isn't strictly a Democrat. As a senator, he's caucused with the Democrats and he technically joined the party for his 2016 run. But at heart he's always been an independent. He's the longest-serving independent in congressional history, and in late June he told reporters he would return to the senate to serve out the remaining years on his term absent the Democrat label.
“I was elected as an independent," Sanders said, per The Wall Street Journal. "I’ll stay two years more as an independent."
It's not a surprise then that Sanders voters are behaving like, well, independents. The usual breed of cable TV bloviators and talking heads like to think as if independents are rare beasts, like cryptozoological animals that no one's sure exactly exist. That mode of thinking persists on the internet, as well, where the majority of blogs and independent sites delineate themselves along the familiar right/left divide.
When they talk about the independent vote and which way independents will swing, it's as if they're talking about inscrutable Pokemon that have to be chased down in obscure pockets of society. The reality is that independents are everywhere. The reality is that fidelity to the country supersedes allegiance to one party or one ideological cause.
So, no matter how much independents feel the pressure, and no matter how many times the ideological automatons try to shame them into stepping onto either side of the divide, they have free will and can vote how they like. If some former Sanders supporters want to pull the lever for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein, then that's their right.
It doesn't mean they're traitors to some political cause. It means they've exercised their right to make up their own minds. If record numbers of independents stray from both major parties, it's testament to how awful the two major-party choices are this year.
Whatever they decide to do, it's their vote, and their right as Americans.