This article can also be found at Tremr.
The presidential election is drawing nearer by the day and predictably the American public has begun its quadrennial ritual of grumbling about having to vote for the candidate that is the “lesser of two evils.” Well over one-third of Americans today identify as independent – more now than ever before, while “76 percent of the public no longer believes the two major parties can end the political dysfunction.”
The people are evidently unhappy, and it’s due to our two-party system. It’s “a system with limited choice;” one that encourages groupthink, and traditionally discourages original, nonpartisan ideas. Time found that 86 percent of people feel that the political system does not accurately represent the interests of the people. The Democratic and Republican parties have become far more polarized in recent times, and both parties have much less diverse ideologies among them. The “rising cross-partisan hostility injects partisan morality into more and more issues,” which in turn provides no incentive for lawmakers to compromise with one another.
Voters often feel as though they are forced to vote for one of two undesirable candidates in the election, when in reality, unless said voter resides in a swing state, their vote does not particularly matter. The fact of the matter is that a vote for the “lesser of two evils” is in fact still a vote for evil. It’s time that voters demand more from candidates whom they feel don’t represent their concerns.
Might the answer be for more people to start voting for third-party candidates who better represent them? The nation is in need of original, nonpartisan ideas, and third-party candidates have historically lent their ideas to create landmark policies, such as those involving women’s suffrage and the direct election of senators.
So why hasn’t anything changed, given there’s a potential solution on the horizon?
The answer to that question lies in the public’s crippling fear of the third-party vote – the common fallacy that a vote for the third party is a “wasted” one. Voters do not cast their votes for third-party candidates because they are aware of the minuscule probability the candidates have of actually being elected. It is true that a third-party candidate is highly unlikely to be elected, but this fear just lends itself to a vicious cycle that prevents the candidates from receiving sufficient government funding, thus giving them less of a chance of being competitive like their Democratic and Republican counterparts. The goal shouldn’t absolutely be to put a third-party candidate in office; if a higher percentage of people start casting their votes for third-party candidates, “that is to say, 8 or 10 or 15 percent of the vote,” then Democrats and Republicans would begin co-opting the issues accordingly.
A small step toward remedying the bipartisan problems of the existing system might be to make presidential debates more inclusive and competitive, states Time. Currently the Commission on Presidential Debates asserts that in order to qualify for the debates, candidates must first “collect enough signatures to be on the ballot in states with 270 electoral votes or more,” and secondly must score 15 percent support in national polls seven weeks before the election. As it currently stands, the second criterion is nearly impossible for third-party candidates to achieve, as they are denied of the media exposure they need in order to gain 15 percent support.
Time suggests that the CPD keep the first criterion and accordingly reserve a place on nationwide ballots for the third-party candidate who receives the most signatures. This tactic could encourage more average Americans to run for president, which would bring in an original, nonpartisan set of ideas to the table.
Too many voters continuously complain about the flawed state of the current political system, yet they continue to cast their votes for the major-party candidate that they see as “less flawed.” More dissatisfied Americans should make a point to vote for the smaller candidates that better represent their interests, as doing so will ultimately send a message to the existing establishment that the American people will not stand for the broken two-party system.
Photo courtesy of IVN