Going to a Third Party is a Risk
In this highly contested Presidential election, voting for a third party candidate will lead to more harm than good. In the wake of a presidential election with the most unfavorable candidates in American history, voting for a third party might seem optimal. However, with current political structures in place, it is not feasible for a third party to win this presidential election. Whether you like it or not, America’s next president will either be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
There are many structures currently in place that ensure the existence of a two party system, but perhaps the most notable are winner take all and single member districts. These systems ensure that whichever individual candidate receives a plurality of the votes is awarded all of the votes for that district. The Electoral College follows as another reinforcing factor of the two party system as delegates cast votes for the candidate who they believe is best which is based mainly on popular votes, but also influenced by personal beliefs.
Currently, Real Clear Politics reports Clinton polling with 44%; Trump at 39%; Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, at 7%; and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, at 2%. So basically, this does not bode well for either Johnson or Stein’s chances of winning.
Taking a look at the two third party candidates reveals that even if they could win, you probably shouldn’t vote for them. Despite Johnson’s claim that he balanced the budget, in reality, he increased his state’s debt; National Review reported, “Johnson inherited a debt of $1.8 billion and left a debt of $4.6 billion.” Further, Johnson supports the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision that is almost universally despised by Americans. Additionally, he admits he is siphoning votes from Clinton (which would eventually benefit Trump). Not to mention his numerous gaffes in which he doesn’t know what Aleppo is, can’t name a foreign leader he admires, and literally bites his tongue. Stein does not provide a better option either; she has applauded the Brexit vote that many economists have regarded as disastrous, and believes that wifi signals might pose a threat to children. She also has a running mate who calls Sanders supporters white supremacists and who has also been known to engage with in numerous conspiracy theories.
The International Business Times agrees with this sentiment; they reported, “at the moment, this is clearly a two-party race…. both Johnson and Stein have almost no chance of winning a state.” When Republican publications endorse a Democrat for the first time since its inception 126 years ago, American voters must face this reality.
Unfortunately, Clinton is not a perfect candidate either. She has experienced fierce scrutiny, a large portion of which is undeniably rooted in misogyny and sexism, due to her mishandling of her private email server while Secretary of State. Many feel that because of these facts, they must vote for a third party. While I respect voting in conjunction with your personal beliefs and morals, to vote third party in this highly contested election is a sign of privilege, arrogance, or a misunderstanding of the election process. Especially when voters acknowledge that their candidate won’t win, and nevertheless vote for them. Here, they are reinforcing the notion that your vote does not matter enough to make a difference. In reality, it can make all the difference. Instead, vote for a third party candidate in less consequential elections like local representatives, or contact your current representatives about changing election laws to be more supportive of third parties.
I too have my qualms with the two party system. Structures such as Alternative Voting, where “voters rank candidates in order of preference,” and Single Transferrable Voting in which a multimember district that employs proportional representation, are feasible alternatives to America’s current electoral process. Ultimately, Michael Tomasky summarizes this best: “A vote is not for a person. A vote is cast for a coalition of forces and interests that have a realistic chance of moving the country and world in the direction you prefer, even when the candidate is imperfect.”
While voting for third parties to support alternative voting measures is generally harmless, this presidential election is far too serious for protest votes to be cast. Mid-September, Senator Bernie Sanders commented, “When we’re talking about president of the United States, in my own personal view, this is not time for a protest vote.” Voting for a third party would undeniably be similar to casting a protest vote.
To vote for a third party in this presidential election despite the facts, one must not feel personally endangered by the reality that Trump could become president. To be in this position is one of extreme privilege. For example, according to Trump’s website, he plans to cancel immigration visas and “end birthright citizenship,” which directly violates the 14th amendment. I find it difficult to imagine a family member of an undocumented immigrant voting for Trump given his stance on immigration. Many minorities might be wary of voting for a man whom the Klu Klux Klan is using to increase their membership. Someone with a disability would probably feel uncomfortable advocating for a man who mocks those with disabilities. Voting either for a third party, or directly for Trump, can certainly lead our nation down a dark path.
Meghan Grumbling is a third-year who lost her absentee ballot at Boylan last weekend.