In the lead up to yesterday’s election I was fairly vocal that voting third party was an intelligent and influential way to vote. Needless to say I was greeted by no small amount of criticism for that position. In hindsight I think we can look more rationally at third party voting than we are really capable of doing during the emotional ramp up to the elections themselves.
First, for a very obvious case where third party voting makes sense; if someone lives in a state that is going to be a landslide victory, and they are voting in opposition to the landslide, then they above all people are biggest vote wasters. There is no reason for a Californian to vote for a GOP candidate if another candidate offers a platform more congruent with their desires. That seems obvious. Of course if all minority party voters in landslide states would take this to heart we would quickly see a rise of a third party, and they would receive enough popular vote to receive federal campaign funding, as well as a like place at the table during the debates. This goes for red states as well. If you are a hardcore liberal and live in a red state you are better serving your cause by voting for the most liberal third party candidate that you can. Remember that popular vote doesn't (and might I add, shouldn't) matter in the election.
The Second case is when you think that your own party absolutely blundered when nominating their candidate. For instance, say you believed strongly in a much more limited use of military on foreign soil, massive limitations to government, and a truly balanced budget and you were a Republican. The odds are that you supported someone like Ron Paul in the primary. You are a prime person to vote third party. In fact, by voting major party when you fundamentally disagree with the selection that party made, you have given them license to continue selecting those types of candidates. However, if they continually lose close elections because people like you refuse to support their candidates, then they are forced to rethink their views.
The third case is simply a vote of no confidence. There is no way in our system to cast a ‘no’ vote. You can elect to not cast a ballot for any given candidate, but there is only one way to vote ‘against’ both candidates, and that is with a third party vote. Again the vote of no confidence should not be looked as a mere ‘wasted’ vote. In fact it is a potentially nation altering vote (especially in a swing state like Ohio where I live.)
Beyond simply having the potential to swing an election, you also have the potential to bring the third party closer to that magical 5% number which gets them in on Federal Campaign Finance money, and a possible seat at the table for the debates. This is really important. Now granted we are nowhere close to the 5% number right now with any third party. However, by clearly articulating the good reasons to vote 3rd party we can push the number closer to that line. As that % approaches 5, both parties begin to get scared and have to restructure themselves to accommodate you and your views. So in voting third party you have the potential to fundamentally change a party’s platform, while voting major party you give an endorsement of the party’s current platform.
Now naturally there are some large psychological hurdles you need to get over to be able to vote third party. I think the tallest of those hurdles is the notion that the future hinges entirely on one particular election. We hear it every four years “This is the most important election ever”, and with many people, maybe even a majority of people, their vote is cast more out of fear of the opposition than anything else. There are a number of problems with that; the biggest is that voting out of fear promotes supporting things that are not rational. When everyone is in fight or flight mode they will do anything for survival, including voting for someone or something that they adamantly oppose.
My suggested plan for moving forward:
1. Get minority party voters in landslide states to cast 3rd party votes.
2. Get people who honestly believe their candidate got hosed in the primary to cast 3rd party votes.
3. Remind people that dispensationalism is wrong and we don’t stand on the cusp of the end of the world with every election cycle.
4. Get current 3rd party voters to speak rationally and winsomely about why 3rd party voting makes sense at times other than the election cycle. Clue them in on things to look for during the upcoming elections, and try to get people to solidify their stance on various issues prior to the party’s selection of a candidate. This lays the ground work for getting them to vote third party once the madness starts.
5. Finally, if a main party does move their platform because of third party influence, support that main party, and enjoy the fact that your vote really did matter even though it never got close to being for a winning candidate.
Anyone else have thoughts on this?