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The Third Party Question: To Vote or Note to Vote?

Grace El-Fishawy '18 and Theo Tellides '19, Op/Ed Assistant Editor
To Vote: (Theo Tellides '19)

The 2016 election is considered historic by many. For the first time in years, a number of  voters appear not to be enticed by the premise that either major presidential nominee will become the next President of the United States. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s unpopularity has caused many voters to feel as if their views are not going to be represented in this election. 

Everyone’s voice can be represented in our democracy, but the wish for greater freedom may be obtained through an often ignored practice: voting for a third party. Third party voting is unpopular because it is considered “wasting a vote”; many people argue that it is pointless to vote for a third party because there is no chance that any third party candidate can win. 

This train of thought is flawed. First off, a vote can not be wasted. Voting expresses people’s beliefs, and even if people vote for a candidate who loses, they still have participated in a democracy and expressed their opinion. The belief of “wasting a vote” also creates a vicious cycle. If all people voted for whom they truly support, third party candidates would have a much higher chance of attaining office. 

Third parties are also unpopular because, in most elections, they receive little attention from the media. It is very difficult for a third party candidate to participate in a presidential debate, and most articles about this election have focused only on Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. If the media covered the major political views of the third party candidates, they might receive more support. 

Third party candidates not only allow voters to express their true beliefs, but also could be the solution to some of our nation’s biggest problems in government, such as congressional gridlock. Sometimes the Democratic and Republican parties veto each other’s bills not because they disagree with the content of the bill but simply because they want to spite the other party. If more congressmen represented third parties, two things could happen: the arbitrary gridlock caused by the contempt Democrats and Republicans hold for each other would dissipate, and there would be a larger variety of political beliefs in government leading to more innovative and original ideas.

Third parties are healthful for a democratic government. They can broaden a voter’s choices and introduce new ideas into our government. Don’t just write off third party candidates for the mainstream, seemingly safe ones; consider their political beliefs and see if you agree with them.


Not to Vote: (Grace El-Fishaway '18)

I am, in many ways, a quintessential liberal idealist.  Like a number of you, I am generally quick to defend any left leaning policy or practice with a full and impassioned force.  I could debate the injustices of this and the hypocrisies of that for every waking hour of my life and still find more to say. 

The election of our forty-fifth President of the United States, however, is not a debate about abstract hypotheticals or ideal practices, it is about reality. The reality of our imperfect union is that we do not live in a vacuum and thus we do not have the privilege to vote like we do.

On Tuesday, November 8, either Donald J. Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be elected president. With the most recent polls indicating that the two third-party candidates capture only 9.5% of the electorate, it is quite nearly a mathematical impossibility that either will win the presidency in November. 

Jill Stein, of the Green Party, and Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian party, assert that they are viable alternatives, a middle road for liberals and moderates alike,  a breath of fresh air.  Stein, who proposes a  “power to the people plan,” and Johnson, who pledges “Peace, Liberty, and Safety,” maintain that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for change and reform. Ironically, a vote for either Stein or Johnson is quite literally a vote for the diametric opposite of change and reform, Donald J. Trump. Without a feasible shot at the presidency, a vote for either Third Party candidate only acts to split the Democratic vote, consequently increasing the likelihood of a Trump presidency.  

If nothing else, what happened in the 2000 Presidential election should stand as a solemn witness to this phenomenon.  Although the research is not definitive, many scholars point to the likely possibility that Ralph Nader, the 2000 Green Party Candidate won the election for Republican George W. Bush over Democratic candidate Al Gore. Garnering only 97,421 votes in Florida, Nader cost Al Gore decisive votes in a state that ultimately determined the election.

These two elections may not be perfect parallels, but the facts remain clear. Our next President will appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice, determine the future of our diplomatic relations abroad, and face a multitude of other domestic issues here at home to say the very least. In an election of such significance, we are simply not in the position to be betting on losing horses for the sake of sending a message. 
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