Oh yes, I can hear the Republicans and Democrats now. “Stupid third party-goer and your fantasies. No third party has ever won, and no third party ever will win.” Well, before you subscribe to this narrow method of thinking, why not take a step back and consider a few factors outside the norm. First, what constitutes a wasted vote? If you believe in something and you support it, can you be wasting your vote? Second, consider the election cycle this year around. When has there ever been so much animosity and hatred thrown around? Have two “major party” candidates ever been so disliked by the voter base in the United States?
Before even getting into whether or not a vote is a wasted vote based on the possibility of winning, the first thing to address is this seemingly forgotten concept of principle. In today’s society, people have become so obsessed with finding gray areas that they seem to forget there is sometimes a right and a wrong. In fact, some things can be very clearly defined. If you have principle, you likely understand this first reason on why a vote can’t be wasted. But, let’s avoid the deep philosophical comparisons and start with something simple. What happens when you find out that a company is doing something you find morally deplorable? For many people, a boycott of that product or service is the way to go. You find that someone or something you previously purchased is doing something you do not support, so you stop supporting them with your patronage. Even if you haven’t done this yourself, you have likely heard of people doing this. It’s part of taking a moral stance, and if something really matters to you, you do it.
Now, when you cast your vote, you may not be putting any money towards a candidate, but you are arguably supporting them even more than you would in that initial example. This is especially true when you are voting for the President of the United States, as whoever wins becomes the Commander in Chief. That means he or she controls the entire might of the US Military and in today’s world it also means he or she has plenty of other executive powers. Why is it this way? Because people feel they need to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat. My father always put it an interesting way. If Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin were running for Republican and Democrat, one of them would win. And, the way people vote today, that seems painfully true.
So, what do you do? Instead of looking at the “lesser of two evils,” you search for a third option. In the 2016 election, that third option is more viable than ever before.
In an historic first, this year’s election cycle is seeing some startlingly high disapproval towards the two “major party” candidates. In fact, Politico recently shared that 6 in 10 American dislike both Trump and Clinton. For those who might not be that great at math, that is a whooping 60%. In other words, only 40 percent of the people in this country even mildly support what these two stand for. Yes, this is just one poll, so you can’t go by those numbers alone, but they are not an anomaly. There are various polls that show disapproval ratings around 50% for these two, and some that show Trump even higher. If you are looking for a more conservative estimate, you can find those as well. Regardless, the numbers show something that you don’t usually find -not many people really like either one of these candidates.
With such a situation, why are so many willing to support them? Do they feel that there is no reason to cling to principle? More likely, they are operating from a place of fear, worried about what might happen if the other party is elected. But, what might happen if there was a viable third party? Would people be willing to go out and vote for someone that is actually fighting for their interests? Or, would they stay trapped in the endless cycle of partisan politics? For the first time ever, there may actually be a viable third party.
What if people in the United States could stop looking at politics as a team sport? What if team red and team blue where just two of the options, and we instead could choose from a third, forth, or fifth option? This election, people all around the United States will have a third option on their ballot: Gary Johnson. But, who is Gary Johnson and can he really hope to win against these “major party” candidates? If you look at the numbers, the answer seems to be “yes.”
On the issues, Johnson is classified as a “Libertarian.” By modern standards, this would be considered fiscally conservative and socially liberal. A more accurate statement would be that he is fiscally responsible and socially accepting. Unlike the “major party” candidates, he doesn’t believe in driving up our debt and just printing off more money. He doesn’t believe in the rampant corporatism that both Trump and Clinton have supported over and over again. He also doesn’t believe that the government should have any say about what you smoke, who you sleep with, or anything else you put in your body. In a word, he believes in one thing: liberty.
Oh, and if that isn’t enough, he is the only candidate with actual governing experience. He was the Governor of New Mexico for 8 years and his VP happens to have 8 years experience as a governor too. In case you weren’t aware, being a governor is like the state-level equivalent of being President. It is an executive position, and you have to understand how these things work to make an effective president. Trump has…zero experience in government at all (except through his corporatist donations). And, Clinton has zero experience in a an executive role (though, she is used to be on the receiving end of corporatist donations). So, with a candidate that would seemingly appeal to the majority of people in the country, why is he not yet on the main debate stage?
What if people showed enough support to get him there? Well, after pulling in over $3 million dollars in campaign donations in the month of August alone, Gary Johnson is hoping he can get that support. This way, he finds his way into the debates and being on all 50 state ballots, he gets the opportunity that no other third party candidate has had. Oh, and that $3 million dollars he raised in one month is more than the total donations his platform received in the 2012 election. So, if you are judging a third party’s legitimacy on the past, you may want to reconsider the facts of the situation. With more funding than ever, he might actually have what it takes to pull it off.
OK, that is all great, but what does getting into the debates have to do with a wasted vote? Despite what party Republicans and Democrats will tell you, the debates can make a huge difference. Historically speaking, televised presidential debates show two parties. For the average citizen, this leaves them with two voting options. Since many ballots only have those two options as well, they fall into what psychologists would call the availability heuristic. This means that they equate what they see to what is real. Said differently, if all they see are two candidates, they don’t believe a third party has a chance.
Now, consider these same people, millions upon millions of Americans, watching a debate with three candidates. They like some of the things that Johnson has to say, especially since he is focusing on issues rather than name-calling (with Trump and Clinton, you can bet staying on topic will be tough). Then, they get to vote and they see that third name. Instead of casting their vote for the lesser of two evils, they actually have access to a viable third party candidate. When it comes down to it, you don’t have to agree with everything that he says. Rather, you have to realize that he is fighting for the people rather than for special interest groups. If he makes it into the debates, the idea of a wasted vote on this Libertarian candidate is simply idiotic.
Contrary to what people suggest, the real wasted vote is not voting for a hopeless candidate. In fact, there was a time when fighting for something you believed in, no matter the odds, was considered admirable. Keeping that in mind, the real wasted vote today is all of those people who vote for the “lesser of two evils.” In this case, you are admitting that your vote is going to someone you don’t really believe in, yet you are casting it anyways. You are voting out of fear rather than out of support. This is the exact opposite of the what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they sought to create a country where “all men are created equal.” You are betraying your own principles and exchanging the potential to thrive for the hope that you might survive. Instead of accepting that “A or B” must win, why not create an alternative? More than ever before, this is the one year that an alternative could actually bring home the victory.
So, if you are going to ask the question “can a third party win,” the answer should be swift: “absolutely.” Unfortunately, the possibility of a third party winning and the reality are two very different things. To pull this off, a third party would have to appear on the ballot in all 50 states. Realistically, that third party candidate would need to get onto the main debate stage to speak his part. To secure a victory like this, people who don’t normally vote will have to stand up and make their voice heard. They will have to declare that they are no longer willing to live with the status quo and the steady decline of the country. Anyone who says “well, I would vote third party if they had a chance,” needs to put their money where their mouth is and cast that vote. This is the first year that a third party actually might stand a chance, so don’t let this opportunity slip away. More important, remember that a vote for your conscious is never a wasted vote.
In this election, there is one candidate who might actually turn the tables. There is one candidate that has secured his place in all 50 states and is polling just below the threshold to get into the debates. Get vocal. Get him onto the stage. If we can do this, maybe that partisan gridlock that holds the country hostage could finally be torn down.