One thing that struck me when I voted today was a complete lack of third party candidates. Line A was the Democrats, Line B was the Republicans, and Line C was write-ins. That was it. It wouldn’t have made a difference in my vote. I was going Democrats all the way (perhaps this is a subject of a future essay, but I really feel like any vote for a non-Democrat right now is a vote for Trump). I know this was a local election, and third parties are more common in the national elections, but it got me thinking.
I don’t like third parties. There are all the usual reasons about them playing spoiler. The data shows that Hilary Clinton would have won if a bunch of liberals hadn’t voted for Jill Stein instead. It really looks like Al Gore would have won if not for the leftists who voted for Ralph Nader. And there’s a chance that George Bush the First could have won a second term if not for Ross Perot. Two of those results were bad and one was good, but they were all frustrating since there will always be the suspicion that the majority of Americans didn’t like the result of the elections. But this is only scratching the surface of why I don’t like third parties.
There are two main reasons for my dislike. The first goes back to how I started. Where are the third parties in local elections? I know they do pop up occasionally, often it’s a disgruntled primary loser who couldn’t take the hint, but that’s about it. There is no concentrated effort on the part of third parties to get a foothold. If the Greens or the Libertarians actually cared about making a difference, they would put up candidates for school boards and town councils rather than wasting everyone’s time (and potentially thwarting the will of the people) in the presidential races. If they can’t care enough to try*, I’m certainly not supporting them.
The second reason why third parties bother me is that they don’t do anything to differentiate themselves. There are dozens of third parties out there, but the two most prominent third parties in the US are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. The Libertarian Party is no more than the Republicans without the evangelicals (again, probably the subject of a different essay, but they treat their pet economic assumptions with religious fervor, so they’re even less different than the Republicans than it seems). The Green Party is no different than the Democrats. I don’t even have a qualifier for that. They’d probably tell us that they center environmentalism more that the Democrats, but the policies they support are pretty much the same. Then, there are parties like Working Families. They don’t even run their own candidates most of the time. They just take a Democrat or Republican and put them on their line of the ballot. A person can vote for Working Families, but in doing so, they are just supporting the Republicans or Democrats. I see no point in having more parties just to have more parties. They have to find a way to be real alternatives before they’re worth taking seriously.
Trust me, I understand the frustration with the two party system. I completely get why someone would dislike both the Democrats and the Republicans. I certainly don’t agree with either of them on many, many issues. But I live in the real world in which we usually cannot vote for the best. We have to settle for the better. Third parties are not better. And they won’t be better until they figure out how to build from the ground up and find a way to separate themselves from the Republicans and Democrats. I’d love to see a real third party, one that presents a viable alternative to the Democrats and Republicans that at the same time takes itself and its issues seriously. I just don’t have a lot of faith that we’ll see one any time soon. In the mean time, I’ll keep voting for Democrats. They may not be perfect, but they are definitely better than the (sort of) alternatives we are presented with.
*It’s possible that they do care, but just simply don’t understand how the world works. If that’s the case, they have my sympathy, but I’m still not voting for anyone who is that clueless.