In an election cycle where the two major American political parties have nominated the most unlikeable candidates in history, interest in 3rd party alternatives is edging higher. While polls show third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein potentially having a very real impact in the election, talk about why voting 3rd party is a waste has never been more prevalent.
As someone who most strongly aligns with the policies of a 3rd party candidate, and strongly detests what both the Republican and Democratic parties have respectively become, I feel part of my due engagement in the political process is sharing my justifications for voting outside the lines. I hope you’ll find these reasons compelling and valid if you too are tired of the candidates churned out by corrupt, democracy-sidestepping major parties.
Reason 1: Your vote is already wasted
Thanks to the electoral college, your vote will go to whoever wins your state, regardless of the ratio. A nearly 50/50 race is exactly the same as a landslide. If we extend the “wasted vote” philosophy to its natural end, everyone might as well just vote for whichever party won the 2012 cycle in their state. You wouldn’t want to waste a Democrat vote when your state is heavily Republican, right? The exact same logic applies to 3rd party candidates around the nation.
Reason 2: No vote is wasted
On the flip side of #1, where you consider essentially every non-winning vote “wasted,” we have this reasoning – no vote is ever wasted. Even if your vote ends up changing nothing more than the margin of victory, a strong showing from other candidates sends a message that your vote isn’t free, that you can’t be ignored or violated, and that if candidates don’t consider issues vital to you, they can lose. It may not affect things now, but over time, enough people voting for what they believe in instead of voting “against the greater evil” can make a real difference. The strength of outsider campaigns in the current cycle is proof of this. Don’t talk yourself out of your beliefs because of the votes of other people. As kids we’re told not to kowtow to peer pressure, but we seem to forget that at the ballot box.
Reason 3: Your vote matters more if you vote 3rd party
This one is a simple matter of math. Casting the 101st vote for a smaller candidate makes a much larger incremental difference than casting the 1,000,001st vote for someone with major support. Small candidates receiving more votes is a movement that you can be a part of. Major party candidates receiving more votes is the status quo. If you’re happy with the status quo, by all means, cast your vote to maintain it. If you’re sick of it, your vote goes farther with a 3rd party than it would “contesting” the election with the other big party.
Reason 4: You don’t control outcomes, only yourself
It’s a bit of a more personal argument, but it’s an important one for me. I try to live my life by principle, and one that’s seen a lot of mileage with me has been to only worry about things that you can directly control. You could spend all your time worrying about meteors striking the earth, supervolcanoes erupting, nuclear war breaking out… but your worry doesn’t change what happens, so why do it? Preparation for some unexpected but realistic outcomes is wise, but living in constant fear of what may or may not happen, and what you can’t change anyway, is emotionally crippling. The same philosophy applies to elections. I’m not in control of who gets elected. No voting scheme where I support the lesser evil is going to really impact the outcome – but it does impact me. You owe it to yourself, and ultimately your nation, to vote with your conscience, according to your values and ideals, and not take your cues from what’s happening externally. A vote for a candidate or a cause you believe in is far less a waste than a vote that violates your beliefs.
Reason 5: If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
It’s widely acknowledged that people are absolutely sick of the current direction of politics. Candidate approval is at an all-time low. Divisiveness and entrenchment are at all-time highs. How long will we stand for it? If we keep voting in spite of what we believe, we’ll get more of what we’ve been getting. We’ll continue to perpetuate the system that we all hate. It’s on all of us to leverage our votes for what we want, and not just what we’re offered from on high from the self-interested major parties. I find it enlightening (and sickening) that both major parties this election cycle made intentional efforts to sabotage the will of the people. Republicans openly discussed strategies for bypassing Trump’s lead in the primaries, contesting the convention, and handing the nomination to someone chosen solely by the Republican elites and not at all by the people. Democrats secretly worked behind closed doors to quash the Bernie Sanders threat to their preferred candidate Clinton, wielding insider superdelegates like a weapon that could freely bypass the will of the people. Pathetic. Pathetic to both of them. Unless you, every one of you, uses your vote, your voice, to stand up and say we’ve had enough, then nothing will change.
Reason 6: Would you rather give up your heart, your brain, or just your vote?
The number of people I’ve spoken to and read opinions from who find the prospect of either major 2016 candidate to be completely deplorable is astounding. Many people find both Clinton’s corruption and Trump’s demagoguery unconscionable, and yet are willing to side with the one they find to be less disgusting by any tiny, infinitesimal margin they can imagine. If you truly cannot cope with the ideals, policies, or messages of these two candidates, then you owe it to yourself to sacrifice your vote to preserve your conscience. If your intellect, gut feel, study, intuition, or any other important barometer tells you that both major parties are wicked, please don’t give up those important internal markers just to feel like you made a feeble stand against the tides. Keep your beliefs, keep your heart, keep your mind, and toss your vote to whomever you believe to be best equipped to lead our nation.
Before signing off, I want to say a few more things very quickly. First, all of these arguments are intended for the many people who want to vote for someone else, but feel obliged by whatever force to vote for a major party candidate that they don’t align with. If you’re a huge fan of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, by all means, vote alongside your ideals. You owe it to yourself to vote your beliefs, just as someone who wants to vote for an alternative candidate owes it to themselves.
Second, not all of these reasons are intended to build a cohesive, syllogistic case for voting 3rd party. Some of them even appear to be conflicting. My goal isn’t to build an impenetrable argument for voting 3rd party, only to give plenty of potential reasons to identify with, and perhaps repeat in defense of your vote if someone asks why you would vote 3rd party (as if their opinion should drive your vote anyhow). I don’t need you to agree with all six of my points. Just one is enough if it resonates with you.
And finally, keep in context how little the President really matters. It’s an important position, yes. It matters, yes. But it’s a tiny sliver of impact on your own life, and a tiny sliver that you have no practical control of anyway. As much as you owe it to yourself to vote with your conscience, you owe it to yourself to not let other people control you, whether it’s your friend, neighbor, or the President of the United States. If you’re a person of faith, you believe that God has control over our destinies, regardless of who is currently Emperor Caesar King Fuhrer Mayor Judge Ruler President. And if you’re not, you should know that there are still checks and balances in our governmental system, and the President, while influential, isn’t King Under the Mountain, with full and uncontested executive power. Whoever wins, it probably won’t affect you very much. Live your life. Don’t worry. Be happy.
Since finding it, I’ve been a huge fan of the site isidewith.com. On this site you’ll answer questions about your opinions on a number of political issues, and rate their importance to you. You can go as deep as you want or as shallow – answer as many or as few questions as you like. When you’re done, the site will compare your views against the candidates, and rank them for you according to your alignment. You can compare your answers to theirs and see where you align and differ. It’s a valuable and fun tool for getting a snapshot of where you stand with the remaining candidates. My results are below:
Myself, I’ll continue to proselytize for 3rd party voting, and will be casting my vote for an outsider candidate in the fall. I hope you’ll consider joining me.