Should I vote 3rd party in 2016?
The following is not for those of you who are already deeply entrenched in standard party politics. I know there are groups of people who would vote for Hillary Clinton’s dead corpse swinging from the gallows for treason before they would vote for ANY republican, and I would be willing to bet there are plenty of Republicans who do the same for a Bush.
This is for those of you, like me, that feel or felt disenfranchised by the American political system with its hegemonic parties whose positions seem to be composed of random opinions assembled into the shape of a shaky platform. This video is for those of you are considering the green party, and especially for those of you who are considering voting for Gary Johnson, the 2016 libertarian candidate.
Philosophically, I am a libertarian. I was once a registered Libertarian. That’s a third party, and I voted third party. It is only after doing the work of questioning my own beliefs, conclusions, and political stances that I came to understand that voting for a 3rd party, especially in a presidential election, is not logical or productive. It is, in the American political system, actually one of the worst things you could do.
And I would like to explain why.
There has always been a two party system throughout the history of the United States. There has always been more than two positions, and usually more than two actual parties, but never more than two major parties, that is, parties that are capable of winning elections. The primary reason for this is our voting system, which awards victory in an election to whomever garners the most votes, regardless of whether that is a majority or merely a plurality. This style of voting is often called “first past the post,” and you can find out more about it from CGP Grey’s video series on voting systems linked below.
Basically, in such a system parties that represent less popular positions and perspectives are totally disenfranchised. The libertarian party might command 10% of the vote, but that is meaningless when another party commands 30% or more. It is as if the ideas of the smaller party don’t exist when it comes to political outcomes because there are no representatives elected who represent those ideas.
So, what usually happens is that less popular ideologies end up voting for one or the other of the more popular candidates, often wishing to stop a party that they more intensely dislike. You can see how this produces the concept of the “douchebag and the turd sandwich.”
That doesn’t mean that we would all be saved if we all went third party. If we all did that, the two most popular candidates would still be the ones garnering the plurality of votes and the unpopular positions would still be marginalized. So, that is a pointless proposition.
Ah, but what if we all voted for the SAME third party candidate? Well, in order for that third party candidate to succeed in capturing a plurality of votes he or she would have to build a coalition of voters, which would mean representing diverse and sometimes conflicting positions on political issues, which would then lead people to think the same thing about that third party candidate that they did about the original two party candidates. You’d be in the same boat if you were anyone that happened to not agree with that politicians positions – which would again be most people. Let us not forget that there are people to whom Hillary Clinton is an ideal political representative, even if she is rather evil whilst doing the representing.
Ah, but it’s the parties that are corrupt. If we could start a legitimate third party, then we’d be able to sweep away the old detritus and make something legitimate. The problem with that is an extension of the problem of an actual third party candidate that might be popular. In order to build a large enough party apparatus to win elections, especially a national election, you have to build coalitions of diverse perspectives. Then whatever party is least popular just declines and disappears. But where do the members of that old party go? Into the new party, and so you get the same system again.
So, a two party system is an empirical REALITY and the natural, logical result of our current voting system. Presidential elections always have been, and always will be, dichotomous in nature.
Why not change the voting system? GOOD LUCK. To change the voting system would require political action, and to have political action, you have to go through the party system, and the current parties benefit from the current party system, so they are unlikely to change it.
So, given that the two party system is a reality, why would anyone actually vote third party? I can tell you why I did, and my flawed reasoning on why I did so.
First, I thought I was voting with my conscience by voting for the libertarian ticket. Since neither the Republicans or Democrats represented my beliefs, I would vote for those that did. The problem with that is, given that the two party system is a REALITY, that I wasn’t acting in any way that would affect the world in any direction remotely in line with my beliefs. I should have been voting Republican, not libertarian, because Republicans are closer to my position than democrats, and electing a Republican would put forces out into the political sphere that are much more in-line with my interests. And, if I am being truthful, the libertarian party has never perfectly, or even really adequately, represented my personal beliefs. Virtually no party truly can represent any single perspective.
Second, I thought I might at least be influencing party politics by being part of the “objectors” in the voting sphere – those people who essentially (as I now recognize it) refuse to vote because they do not like either of the dichotomous candidate choices. The idea was that parties would see what voters they had alienated and that would instigate a shift toward that political position in order to recapture lost voters. This I believe was very flawed. I would say that what I witnessed in future elections indicated the opposite effect of what I thought. The Republicans moved more to the center, not away from it, I believe in order to convince the swing voters in the middle who actually would vote for their candidate, rather than extremists like myself who wanted to take their toys and go home.
Also, if a major party happens to win a major election without the “objectors,” what signal would they have that courting such voters is valuable. Again, reality shows me something different than what I thought.
So what effect does voting third party actually have?
Well, the only possible effective outcome of a third party candidacy is the SPOILER EFFECT. This is when a third party candidate takes so many votes away from another candidate that he loses the election – really, both candidates lose the election – and the LEAST popular candidate is elected. The spoiler effect occurs because third party candidates draw votes primarily from one party or another, not both. This goes back to coalitions. Most green party voters have their platform somewhat represented or expressed by the democratic party. Choosing to vote green party in effect takes votes from the democratic candidate, cementing a Republican win. The Libertarian viewpoint (not the party anymore – that’s become a bit of a clown show and deserves its own discussion) in mainly represented in the Republican party, and so a Libertarian candidate is going to mostly draw votes away from the republican candidate.
As a side-note, I should say that the Libertarian party of the last 20 or 30 years has been trying to capture more and more of the democratic base. This makes it both an inconsistent coalition-type party and also removes its only possible effect as a result of existing – being a spoiler.
We’ve seen the spoiler effect play out several times in American politics. Ross Perot almost certainly costed George HW Bush his second presidential term. If he hadn’t run, or if he had captured the republican nomination in going the traditional route, or if voters had understood the reality of the dichotomy, Bill Clinton (in reality the least popular candidate) never would have captured a plurality and we wouldn’t today be experiencing the political force lightning from the female Darth Sidious that is Hillary Clinton.
It also happened famously in 1860 when the democrats split the party bill along the north/south line. If their votes had been combined into one candidate, Lincoln probably wouldn’t have one the presidency, and there might have been no civil war.
That’s a big effect, but is it a good effect? For those who choose vote for that third party candidate, almost assuredly produces the exact opposite outcome desired. Instead of getting a president who slightly represents your values you get one is the total opposite of what you wanted.
Voting third party is the exact opposite of your interests.
Think back to Ross Perot. Voting for Perot let in Clinton, and that spoiler effect didn’t prompt the Republicans to change anything except to go further to the center. The next republican president was ANOTHER Bush. There were absolutely no positive effects from Ross Perot’s candidacy from the perspective of those who voted for him.
So are you just screwed if you have an unpopular opinion? Not necessarily. In 2012 Ron Paul ran a great primary campaign and was ultimately stopped by his own party as much as the voters. However, that proved that there was a strong liberty-minded constituency within the Republican party, and that paved the way for Donald Trump, who was able to build his coalition and gain the nomination despite those who run the party’s best efforts to stall him.
Maybe Bernie Sanders was the Democrats’ Ron Paul, and if you’re a Donkey you’ll get to see a shift in politics closer to your own position. Given the latest leaks, I doubt it, but you never know.
There are also local and regional elections, where you can get a candidate who is a much closer representation of local values, regardless of what party affiliation they have. These are the ways you change party politics.
You do NOT try to change party politics during the general election. As I’ve demonstrated, voting third party will not have any positive effects from your perspective. In the general election, you vote for the candidate that best represents you, even if they only represent you a little bit. To do otherwise is to act against your self-interest and, presumably if you aren’t a complete egoist, the interests of those whom you love.
So, should you, my like-minded libertarians, vote for Gary Johnson? Absolutely, without a doubt, you should NOT. Even if he perfectly represents your values. Even if you hate Trump, you should vote for him, because he is closer to your values than Clinton is.
Then at last, you are left with two choices. Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton. Vote your conscience in that dichotomy. You know where your values lie, but what else? What about the scandals?
I imagined as a thought experiment what I would think and do if things were reversed. What if it was Bernie Sanders against Jeb Bush? What if all the things that have come out against Clinton were revealed in Bush? The collusion, the corruption, the lies. Hell, they probably would come out. Would I change my vote? Would I actually vote for a democrat? For a socialist? For socialism – the ideology I consider the most dangerous to human life and prosperity? It didn’t take much thought to realize I would fill in that “D” bubble and vote for Sanders over another corrupt, Bush. I would much rather fight a war of policy than a wary of bullets and bombs.
To my fellow Libertarians, cast away the illogical positions of “voting your conscience” or “Not voting for two sides of the same coin.” Vote for Trump.
To the “Never Trump” Conservatives. Don’t act against your own interests. Remember that when you
To the disenfranchised Anti-Hillary Democrats. To the Followers of Bernie. Don’t vote along your party lines just because they had the candidate you really wanted in the primary. Don’t put evil into power just because there is a D by the name. Vote Trump and spend the next four years developing a candidate who isn’t so damn wicked.
Vote for Trump. It is the logical thing to do.