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Voting Third-Party The Right Way

Aug. 18, 2016
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The November Presidential election is closing in on us, and its approach seems to be that of a senile dragon. In other words, almost everybody is worried but almost nobody is too invested. 

This blasé outlook toward the two main candidates seems pervasive everywhere I look, in social media or outside of it. Most seem dissatisfied with the choice of voting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As a result, some have advocated for a third-party vote, i.e. voting outside the two main political parties, and hence voting for someone other than Clinton or Trump.  

The two main third-party candidates trending nowadays are Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Johnson, who is a libertarian and will most likely be on the ballot for 2016, is a mostly conservative candidate who has supported late-term bans on abortion and is generally pro-life. He has also supported the de-regulation of hate crime, which he thinks of as “thought crime.” 

Jill Stein, on the other hand, is running under the Green Party, and has attempted to appeal to disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters, telling them to “keep the revolution going.” However, she’s probably not the savior the progressive Left is looking for — her ideas are either too mainstream ($15 minimum wage and free tuition) or downright unrealistic (100% renewable energy by 2030). She is also polling in the mere single digits.

So for those who are terrified of Donald Trump’s tirades and mistrusting of Hillary Clinton’s double-talk, there are other options.  But this third-party vote may not only be a wasted vote; it can also be a dangerous vote. In a three-way race, the majority isn’t 34% (and similarly, in a four-way bid, it isn’t 26%). Instead, as a result of voting third party, the vote is split, and final decision-making goes to the now Republican-controlled House of Representatives, who would most likely rather deal with four years of Trump’s vomit of hatred than concede to the opposition party. 

Even the ultimate third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, says this isn’t the year for the third-party candidate.  Nader is still being blamed for the reelection of George W. Bush in 2000 due to the splitting of votes in Florida. Nader ran under the Green Party and garnered enough votes that could have gone in Al Gore’s favor - in other words, one can argue that Nader cost Al Gore the election

Despite this history and his influence as a third-party candidate, Nader believes a whole scale change needs to take place in order for third-party candidates to become serious contenders. These changes include a shift in the media and debating commissions, and even a change in the language itself (i.e. stop referring to these candidates as “third-party” and somehow other). 

While this is all rainbows and revolution, these changes are not going to take place within this election cycle. Hence, every vote that you cast for a third-party is, in turn, a vote that you cast against Clinton. And with the possibility of Donald Trump on the horizon, we as voters cannot afford to cast such votes. Those who encourage a vote based on conscience are speaking from a place of privilege where Trump’s platform does not cast an immediate and real shadow on their daily lives. Those who encourage an ironic vote, a symbolic vote, or even no vote at all, are speaking from a space of safety where their ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and actual presence within the country are not being threatened by a ranting jack-in-the-box.

This is not to say that you should vote for someone with whom you disagree or someone who you do not like. Rather, this is to say that sometimes, revolution comes through systemic means. 

So this election cycle, don’t split the vote. Rather, vote for “the lesser of two evils,” and cast your third-party hopes in the congressional bids. This year, a total of 469 seats are open for re-election, and this is the time to give control back to the progressive Left. Look through your relative state’s third-party candidates, research their platforms, and vote for them. This way, you’ll decide who gets legislative and congressional control over our social, economic, educational, and health-related issues. 

The system might have failed the voting public this cycle, but by using this same system, we can rectify matters and ensure that the decades of progress and change are not wasted on a symbolic act. 

Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman