It has become a thing, apparently, for some people to say they’re going to vote for Bernie Sanders even if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, even though this will increase the chances that a Republican will win (as, arguably, happened in 2000 when Ralph Nader was on the ballot), even though they really, really don’t want a Republican to win and would really, really prefer any Democrat to that, no matter how they felt about Hillary Clinton in 1999 and how they might feel about her now.
In one way this doesn’t make sense. Their goal should be to make sure the Democratic candidate gets more votes, and the way to do that is to vote for the Democratic Party candidate. Voting for a third party or independent candidate, at least in a state where the vote is contested (in other words, not a state like Massachusetts), is likely to make sure the Republican candidate gets more votes in the state, which means the Republican candidate will win all the state’s electoral college votes, which will give the Republican candidate more votes in the electoral college and make that candidate more likely to win. This is pretty basic. Someone who takes a vote away from the Democratic Party’s candidate makes the Republican Party’s candidate more likely to win.
What are they doing, then, if they really don’t want the Republican to win? I suppose it might make sense if they don’t believe their vote matters. If nothing they do can affect the outcome, they may as well vote for the candidate they prefer, regardless of the likely consequences. They might not believe those really are the likely consequences. On the one hand, it seems obvious that one vote by itself can’t make a difference. It’s a logical fallacy to conclude that my vote can’t make a difference, but maybe people do think that way.
Or, I suppose they might believe their vote matters, but not in the ordinary sort of way. Maybe by voting for their preferred candidate, they feel they generate positive energy in the world in their candidate’s favor. Maybe they feel this will push the country, and the candidate who wins, in their preferred direction, regardless of the vote count. Maybe they feel that for everybody who acts as they do deliberately, somehow ten extra people will be influenced to vote for the same candidate, or to act as if they preferred that candidate. But that’s not the reality of how voting works.
Voting works in a very complicated way, having to do with statistics and stuff, and statistics is hard. It’s paradoxical. The difficulty understanding this poses for pretty much everybody doesn’t mean, however, that it’s delusional or paranoid to believe voting works at all.
The best guess as to why people prefer to have the Republican candidate win, rather than have to personally hold their nose and vote for someone they don’t like for some reason, actually is that they prefer to have the Republican candidate win. Maybe they really don’t see a difference between Hillary Clinton and a Republican. Maybe they really do believe that Clinton is more tied into the national center-right establishment than Biden or Chaffee or any other potential Democrat, and believe she’ll therefore implement Republican policies. It’s bizarre, but less so than the other possible explanations.