The Endangered Species in American Politics: The Third Party

I hate when people lie to me. They tell me that I have to either vote for this person or that one, and if I don’t like either, they tell me I have to at least go with the lesser of two evils. It’s as if I had to choose between eating a moldy sandwich or rancid yogurt; at least I have the option of knowing which one upsets me, if I don’t have the option for a more palatable cuisine.

The truth is that given unsatisfactory leaders, we do have the choice to ask for a more palatable option. As far as many are concerned, only two political parties exist: the Democrats and Republicans. But, in fact there are considerably more parties than that, and some will make their way on the presidential ballot come November.  

The American “third party” is considered any party that’s not the two dominant ones. It consists of the Green Party, a Socialist party, a Communist party, and even a Nazi party. I always find it surprising that America still has Nazis running for president.  

Nevertheless, at least 14 new parties have been created in the last decade alone, probably because people got tired of the either-or of our last few candidates. Considering that the majority of the student population has probably never voted in a presidential election how could any of us know about this?

Media coverage is almost entirely reserved to the most powerful parties, and if you’re not red or blue you might as well not exist in the public’s eye. The Tea Party movement caught a lot of attention during its high point, but that’s not an actual partyl it’s more like  an argument to reform an existing one. It’s probably only recently that the term libertarian came to be more publicly known. The Libertarian Party is America’s third largest party while also the fastest growing, and it might soon be capable of earning a few seats in the federal government.

This is nothing new, though. Public education teaches us all about how parties came and went during the course of our own history; otherwise, we might still be voting for Whigs or Federalists. Attitudes and perceptions change over time and new or varying ways to address people’s concerns arise to meet that change. Parties eclipse one another into supremacy, making groups like the Whigs a relic of the past, that gave way for new, possibly better approaches. It’s a sign of a healthy democracy that the diverse opinions of the masses are represented. It’s the sign of fascism that seeks to unify people under a limited political identity.

A two-party system sacrifices the complexities in their platforms for a more broad range appeal and possibly a dangerous consolidation of identity. You might be pro-choice but also value personal fiscal responsibility, or you could be concerned about our investment in agriculture over technology while also being a promoter of education. Our presidential elections, while based on the Electoral College, is still based on majority rules, so candidates must be voted in by the majority of state representation. They can’t specialize, but third parties can. There is most likely an alternate candidate that you agree with on more topics than either of the front-runners.

Sadly though, when third parties gain support, it spoils everything. Literally. The “spoiler effect” is when so many people vote for a third party that it takes away votes from someone who was more popular, and no one wins outright. No one likes third parties because they can’t win, and possibly shouldn’t. The chances of these candidates achieving any victory are slim, and they spoil the rest of the country’s vote by siphoning support away from more popular candidates. So, maybe we really don’t have more of a choice.

I still say we do. While you may not think your vote matters either way, that voting or not makes no difference, demonstrating that at least some people are just as credible in their political opinions as others will at least open up for more dialogue. Not voting will change nothing for certain, but when almost 300,000 Americans  “throw away” their vote to vote for the Libertarian Party or when over 200 offices are already held by Greens, you can’t say you’ll be ignored.