As published in the Northern Express Why are Americans still stuck with the same dysfunctional two parties year after year?
In other words, why won’t many Americans look beyond the duopoly to vote for some of the alternative candidates?
“It’s silly that a country that prides itself on choice allows only two choices for president,” said Bill Maher, political analyst and comedian.
The reasons for this are complicated, but the argument that Libertarians constantly hear is that people “don’t want to waste their votes” on the third-largest party, or any of the other alternatives. The idea of this argument is that your vote doesn’t count if you vote for someone who probably will not win.
Despite these arguments, Libertarians and other third-party voters are increasingly voting for candidates outside the duopoly. We’re doing this for many reasons. The progress that Libertarians have made in recent years has us hopeful. We also feel that even if our candidate doesn’t win, our votes will make a difference in other ways. Last but not least, most Libertarians feel that it is important to vote for principles and beliefs, rather than following the crowd.
According to Ballot Access News’ March 2018 edition, between 2008 and 2018, the number of U.S. voters registered as Libertarian surged by 92 percent. Over that same period, the number of voters registered as Democrats fell by 8 percent. Republicans are down by 5 percent. And the number of voters registered as independent or with other parties increased by 19 percent.
Also notable: In 2016, eight times as many people voted for the Libertarian presidential candidate than in 2008. According to Ballotpedia, 523,713 voted for Bob Barr in 2008, while almost 4,489,233 voted for Gary Johnson in 2016.
Most importantly, third-party candidates for small local offices have an excellent chance of winning. In these instances, your vote for Libertarian candidates really does make a difference.
The Libertarian Party has several township and county candidates on Northern Michigan ballots in 2020. These are all high-caliber people who have a great chance of winning and are active in their communities. These candidates have made an effort to get out and meet voters, since creative grassroots efforts are the best ways that Libertarians can overcome the obstacles. As Libertarian candidate for Mancelona Township trustee, I have been knocking on doors every day, introducing myself to my neighbors, and talking to them about their concerns.
On the other hand, Libertarian presidential candidates have a bigger challenge. As Kristina Nwazota, a former editor with the PBS online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, reported, “Third party candidates are at a disadvantage because of federal campaign finance laws, rules that dictate who can enter presidential debates, and a lack of media attention.”
However, despite these obstacles, Nwazota believes that “Third parties have had a major influence on U.S. policy and political debate.”
John McAlister, former Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, agrees.
“The most successful third party in the 20th Century was the Socialist Party. First the Democrats and then later the Republicans piecemeal adopted just about every major tenet of the 1916 Socialist Party platform,” he stated in his online article “The Wasted Vote Myth” at www.freepress.org.
Libertarians are the opposite of the Socialists, but the pattern is the same: “The radical ideas about liberty that we started with in 1971 are now being seriously debated or, in some cases, implemented by the other parties,” said McAlister.
“There’ll be an issue that’s being neglected or that is being purposely excluded from national debate because neither party wants to face the political criticism that it would bring,” explained Sean Wilentz of Princeton University. “Third parties are the ones that raise the issues that no one wants to raise.”
As Libertarians continue to grow the party and influence politics, it is insulting when people actually get angry at us because of how we vote. They assume that our vote takes away from their favorite candidate.
Yet surely no one thinks that we owe it to anyone to be sure that their candidate wins. In fact, I feel that my vote would be wasted if I voted for someone who does not represent my values and beliefs. It’s important for me to be true to myself and not follow society blindly, like a sheep.
Things would change if everyone read the platforms of the alternative parties and took a leap of faith.
“Even if once in your life you missed the chance to cast that mythical deciding ballot, the harm from selecting the wrong person in one election is more than offset by a lifetime of giving voter support to the lesser of two evils rather than standing up for what you believe,” said McAlister.
Voting for the lesser evil sends the wrong message. Remember, if we keep voting the way we have been voting, we will keep getting what we have been getting.
Research alternatives. Dare to be different. Vote for the person who truly represents your principles and beliefs.