The lesser of two evils. I used to think it was just an expression-- what people said to convey their deep frustration with the political process. But not this year. This year, a lot of voter dissatisfaction has turned to disgust. And Americans who would never have considered playing a cynical guessing game with their votes are doing just that. Musician Jerry Garcia died two decades ago, but his words seem spot on for the 2016 presidential campaign. The Grateful Dead guitarist warned, “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils, is still choosing evil.”

It’s easy to see why many citizens have given in to despair and given up on this campaign. Frankly, even those of us who are deeply immersed in the details of the daily campaign feel slimed by the harsh unrelenting rhetoric. Worn down by the assault of ‘he said/she said’ political sniping, and tit for tat criminal accusations from Republican nominee Donald J Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Both look a lot the same to voters like the recent Yahoo poster who proclaimed, “Trump is nuts and Hillary is crooked.”

A lot of voters are walking away from the major party candidates and for the first time looking seriously at third and even forth party candidates. The Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is closing in on polling at 15 percent, the media threshold needed for Johnson to be included in the presidential debates. Even the Green Party ticket with perennial candidate Jill Stein of Boston, and Ajamu Baraka of Washington DC is drawing more attention. There’s also Evan McMillan, a new independent candidate,trying to get on state ballots. But many people I know still believe voting for a third party candidate is a wasted vote.  They tell me they will be holding their noses and making a political Sophie’s choice when they pull the curtain at the polls.

By the way I’m not overlooking the millions of voters who are enthusiastically backing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and are working overtime to get their preferred candidate in the White House. At least they’re committed to voting.

I’m stunned by many who say they plan to stay home on election day.  Add to that voters like Governor Baker who plan to skip a choice at the top of the ticket but mark their ballot for state and local candidates. Sorry, voting is a fundamental responsibility of citizenship. Cafeteria style participation does not a strong nation make.

“Voters have never realistically expected the crème de la crème,” Boston political comedy writer Ben Alper recently commented. But he asks, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “In our wildest imaginations did we ever think we might have to settle for the crumb de la crumb?”  I wish I could laugh, but I’m too worried about how our democratic process is undermined by Americans resigned to a lesser of two evils vote. Eny- meeny- miny- moe might be a great kids game, but it’s not the way adults should pick a president.