Why I Voted Third-Party
And Why You Should, Too
The 2016 presidential election. If you’re like me, those words leave a bit of bad taste in your mouth. Like many Americans, I’m distressed at the state of politics in this country; like many of my fellow students, I’m disheartened at what appear to be the only two options for the very first presidential election in which I can actually vote. Even though I followed the race from the very beginning — right from the earliest campaign announcements of Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz — I still look back on the past year and a half and wonder, “How did it come to this?” With twenty-one other candidates, most of whom possess greater character, more experience, or higher qualifications than the nominees, it seems impossible that the race has come down to the two candidates we have now.
Without question, the election has lapsed into one of the nastiest battles ever displayed on television (and I’m including Suzanne Collins’ fiction). Both nominees have a higher unfavorable rating than any other presidential candidates in history, so both have resorted to name-calling and personal insults in order to draw attention away from their own flaws. This display of classless behavior has frustrated the millions of Americans who wish the discussion would return to issues more substantive. Many voters are now even considering a third-party option.
If you’re a voter who still feels the disappointment from the elections in 1992 or 2000, you’ll probably say that such consideration is a waste of time and, more importantly, a wasted vote. You’ll remember the seemingly pointless campaigns of Ross Perot or Ralph Nader that handed the election over to the opposition. If you’re young enough that these names are unfamiliar to you, you may instead be seriously exploring the third-party options with the mindset that the only truly wasted vote is a vote against your own conscience. With such differing perspectives, how is the average voter supposed to determine which ballot to cast in November? One has to take a careful look at the facts of the current election, as well as the long-reaching effects of the vote for future elections.
The first important fact to remember is that, according to the polls in this election, third parties are pulling support equally from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Therefore, even if you are leaning slightly more in either Trump’s or Clinton’s direction, your third party vote won’t add to the so-called “spoiler effect,” which simply doesn’t exist in an election where both candidates are so unpopular. A vote for a third party is not “a vote for [Trump/Clinton],” as some staunch partisans might tell you (and even if it was, the effects of the electoral college prevent that particular vote from having a far-reaching effect on the outcome).
The case for the third-party ticket has never been stronger. The current nominees of the two-party system have fulfilled the danger John Adams warned against so long ago:
“ There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
The Founding Fathers realized the injustice and absurdity of a mere two parties representing the entire U.S. population in all its diversity, and they strove to maintain a fair and equal system where all voices could be heard and recognized by the political system. As a new generation of Americans united with generations past, we have no greater opportunity than now to reclaim the equity lost in the current two-party machine. This year, in an election cycle plagued by the most hated candidates in American history, we can restore justice to the corrupted election process.
In order to accomplish this bold feat, we have to be willing to beat the system at its own game. Not voting is simply not an option. Although it may appear to be a message of protest, it doesn’t translate into a structure where the only voice that is understood is the ballot. Millions of people choose not to vote every year, and every year the two-party system remains unchanged. That strategy isn’t working, so it’s time to change tactics.
In the way the system is set up now, a third party must achieve 5% of the popular vote nationally in order to be granted broader ballot access and federal funding for its campaign in the next election. These assets will impact the presidential race enough that the third party will also receive substantially more media coverage, which is essential to propel the candidate onto the debate stage — and, subsequently, into the White House. In order for this to happen — in order to at long last break the iron grip of the of the two-party machine — the third-party candidate must attain 5% of the vote.
The Libertarian Party ticket, consisting of former Governors Gary Johnson and William Weld, is poised to do just that kind of damage to the two-party system. Their support in the polls is growing, and all they need is the turnout on election day that would push them over the edge of the 5% threshold and finally grant a third party the legitimacy it should have always had.
To put things into perspective, in this election cycle, Johnson and Weld have raised roughly $11.4 million through individual campaign donations (an incredible accomplishment for a third party). If they break 5% of the vote, the next Libertarian Party nominees could be granted federal funds in the range of $10 million — just to start with. Imagine how much more Johnson and Weld could have raised if they had begun with an advantage like that. That kind of campaign money translates directly into easier ballot access, increased media coverage, debate presence, and —at long last— election victory.
Perhaps this all sounds like a worthy and exciting goal, but you’re just not a fan of Gary Johnson personally. You might have heard some of Johnson’s recent gaffes and questioned his ability to lead. These concerns are valid. Keep in mind, however, that the goal is not to win the White House in 2016: it’s just to gain at least 5% of the vote. The enormous advantages that this achievement entails will be granted to the next Libertarian nominees, not the current ones. Imagine what the next nominee could do with that many resources as he or she leads a third party to legitimacy.
(Also keep in mind that if the current ticket is elected, vice presidential nominee William Weld, a respected leader who excels in every area in which Johnson lacks, has announced that he will share responsibility with Johnson, and they will work together in an equal partnership.)
On the other hand, you may not believe in the ideals of libertarianism and would prefer a nation not governed by them. You may be solidly in the camp of conservatism or liberalism, or perhaps you more closely agree with the ideas of Jill Stein’s Green Party. If this is true, remember that your third-party vote is not for a particular ideology — it’s against the two-party system. When viewed this way, the Libertarian ticket, which is the only third party actually in range of the 5% threshold, is the only feasible choice. Once one third party has paved the way by breaking the two-party system once and for all, other parties that may align more closely with your particular ideology will quickly follow suit.
This year can be the dawn of a new political revolution. Already we see it picking up steam. Whether you’re a disgruntled Republican who supports the #NeverTrump movement, or a devoted but disheartened Bernie Sanders fan who just can’t get behind the system that cheated him out of the nomination, you are welcome in this unifying campaign for equity of representation and an end to the corruption of the electoral process — which is, after all, exactly what the Founding Fathers intended from the beginning.
Don’t waste your vote this November. Vote against the two-party machine. Vote Libertarian.