I tend, in general, to your way of thinking Jeffjoe. I suspect it's always been and always will be tough for people who want to cast a meaningful vote based on their conscience rather than their sense of which candidate is less offensive to their principles. To me the real
problem is our political system, both in structural and cultural terms -- we need instant run-off voting, some form of proportional representation, publicly financed campaigns, etc.
In the meantime, though, I've sworn off the protest votes. If nothing else, I have some minimal confidence that the typical big-name Democratic candidate has the public interest at least somewhat in mind. I can't say the same about far too many prominent Republicans these days.
It's better than voting for someone I really don't want just to get rid of someone I want even less. It leads to mediocrity.