An idealist prefers to vote for the platform they most believe in (or to not vote at all), sometimes regardless of its chance of winning, the quality of the candidate representing that platform or the likelihood they would be able to enact their policies through government.
A pragmatist will cast their vote strategically to maximize the odds of a positive outcome, taking into account the quality of the platform, its viability, the quality of the candidate, the odds of victory, and other factors.
Most people are a mix of these two philosophies. I tend to think as an idealist, but act as a pragmatist. I have approached presidential elections from both extremes. I decided to start this project with the pragmatist perspective in the forefront of my mind, but it is important to acknowledge the dangers inherit in both philosophies:
Against Idealism, the primary argument is that keeping to the political high ground personally, while being willing to sacrifice the practical good nationally, can be read as selfish. This is exacerbated when the voter is demographically unlikely to suffer from the brunt of the consequences. In this election, for instance, women, immigrants, African-American, Muslims and students may consider 3rd party voting a luxury, since a 3rd party spoiler would disproportionately affect their livelihoods.
Against pragmatism, the question becomes: if you are willing to compromise your ideal platform in the name of victory, or other gains, where do you draw the line? It can be a slippery slope. 1st party voting bolsters the status quo and can be perceived as abandoning those the mainstream parties under-serve in the name of expediency. Further, pragmatic compromises aren’t guaranteed to pay off. The Republican Party could still win. Or, as president, Hillary Clinton could, for example, take us into war with Syria. These possibilities have to be taken into consideration.