Should You Vote Third-Party?

JohnsonSteinIn short, no. That is, unless you’re truly fine with either a Trump or a Clinton Presidency. Here’s why.

The appeal of a third-party vote is understandable. Neither Trump or Clinton are particularly compelling candidates. But it’s important to recognize that while voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein may feel good, and may be dutifully registering your protest, at the end of the day, either Trump or Clinton will still be President. This is not just a matter of resignation, but a matter of the structure of American government. Our winner-take-all approach to elections assures there will never be more than two major parties. Who those parties are may change. After all, before Republicans we had Whigs. What those parties represent may change. I’m pretty sure Lincoln’s GOP wouldn’t recognize today’s platform as the same party in anything but name. But in a twist on The Highlander, “There can be only two.” It’s fundamental to the design laid out in the Constitution. Short of changing that document, we are not, and will not be, a multi-party system like the Parliamentary forms of government found in Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.

Further, bear in mind that the best possible outcome of having a popular third-party candidate is that no one gets 270 electoral votes in November. But this means that the House now gets to elect the President from among the top three finishers. The House is presently controlled by the GOP. You do the math.

So if you believe neither party represents you, work to change one of them, or even to supplant one. But supplanting a party doesn’t start at the top. Electing a Green Party or Libertarian President provides no support for that party’s platform in the other branches of government. The Congress, the courts, the states are still all controlled by Democrats or Republicans. So even if they were to win, for Stein or Johnson to actually accomplish anything, they’d need to align with one party or other and settle for nudging that party’s platform a wee bit in their direction.  Otherwise, they’d just sit out their term tilting at windmills. Until we start seeing Libertarian, Green, or other party controlled states electing that party’s people to Congress, a third-party Presidential candidate is just a show pony. It’s a target for your protest vote and nothing more.

The reality, like it or not, is there will be a President Clinton or a President Trump in January, 2017. You may have very well-founded reasons why you can’t stand either of them, but it boarders on inconceivable that you would be equally content with either outcome. There couldn’t be more daylight between the positions these two and their parties are taking in this election.  If you’re truly ambivalent, then you are either too ill-informed or too apathetic to bother voting at all.

It may well be that you only care who doesn’t become President. But you care. Post your protests on Facebook and Twitter, but when you walk into that voting booth in November, make a useful decision. Suck it up. You don’t need to admit it to anyone else. It’s a secret you can take to your grave. But make a difference. Make your vote count. The stakes have never been higher.

20 thoughts on “Should You Vote Third-Party?

  1. I truly have trouble finding anything I like in either of their platforms. They are both a bad combination of nationalism and/or socialism, which is itself a bad combination. Despite what you claim, nothing will change a party faster than having 3rd party candidates get 20% plus in the election. If you are opposed to the direction that these parties have taken, the moral thing to is not to vote for them. I have no reason to rewards either of these turds with my vote.

  2. I’m curious. In ’92, Ross Perot won 18.9% which is pretty close to your 20% target for inciting rapid change. Surely, close enough that some significant change would have occurred. What changes to either party between ’92 and the present do you attribute to Perot??

  3. Compare the and contrast the statement ” If you’re truly ambivalent, then you are either too ill-informed or too apathetic to bother voting at all.” with the justification used for the Jim Crow laws to prevent blacks from voting in the South, besides the obvious connection to Democrats.

  4. Basically you’re saying, “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t deserve to vote,” This post stinks of elitism. Jim Crow laws were justified by saying “If you’re too dumb to read, you’re too dumb to vote.”

  5. No, or at least that’s not what I was intending to say. I’m saying that given the wide differences of policies, positions, and temperament between the two candidates I find it implausible that anyone aware of the distinction doesn’t have a preference, if forced to choose between the two. You may well not like either, but you pretty much have to find one better than the other. I’m not saying you have agree with my choice, just that if you don’t have one, you either aren’t paying attention or don’t care–and in that case, why are you bothering to vote at all?

  6. I think you’re treading in territory you shouldn’t. Make your case and leave it at that, don’t question people’s motives or abilities. Everyone gets to vote, for whatever reason they want. That being said, what policy of Clinton’s would you think I like? Trade barriers? $15 minimum wage? Trump says things I like and refutes them 15 minutes later. He’s awful. They both are. Why can’t you accept that someone can be paying attention and still not have a preference?

  7. I’m not questioning anyone’s motives, abilities, or right to vote. I am asserting two things. Third-party votes are equivalent to not voting, which has a potential impact on the election, but not in the way the vote was intended. And. I find it inconceivable that 4 years with Trump and 4 years with Clinton are equally unappealing to anyone. The rest is just connecting dots between those two assertions.

  8. I’m all for punishing the party elites, ya know, teach them a lesson not to “f” with the people, so I’ve been calling on people to elect Hillary, so she can be impeached! I know the House of Representatives has already drawn up plans.

  9. Yes. Voting for Johnson/Stein and not voting are the same relative to the outcome. This is the Kobayashi Maru. The no-win scenario. Deciding to play a different game isn’t an option.

  10. As I think about it, there is a “hail Mary” play that could be made using third-party votes. Although I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the majority are thinking, but maybe some.

    If Johnson finishes a strong third, and neither Clinton or Trump take 50%, the election goes to the House. The GOP House won’t elect Clinton. They could reject Trump and throw the ball all the way to Johnson. This would install a Johnson/Pence administration, albeit one with a pall of illegitimacy hanging over it. But it is a path to get him in.

  11. In this election, both parties are aware they are running candidates with unprecedented negatives. If Johnson finishes strong, I doubt the takeaway will be they need to adopt more Libertarian ideas. It will just be that they need to run better candidates on their platform.

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