By Sharon Jones
It’s election season. Once again we will make ourselves think that the United States might actually have a third party or even a fourth party. It doesn’t. It never has.
Every four years a few candidates show up from the Libertarian and Green parties and create the illusion that there could potentially be more available to voters than previously thought. The most they have ever accomplished is in destroying the presidential election for the candidates most correlated to their own political viewpoints. That is all they have ever accomplished and all they ever will. Just ask Nader or Perot what their bids caused and what they accomplished. You will find they caused much and accomplished nothing.
Many turn to the third party as a way to alleviate the pain of voting for a candidate they might not quite agree with. A collective delusion comes about that says, “Maybe this time they really have a chance?” The honest truth though is that you don’t want the third party to show up in a presidential election unless they are siphoning voters from the candidate you don’t like.
Third parties honestly don’t exist in U.S. We are a two party system period. In parliamentarian systems multiple parties can exist as many of them might be necessary to form a government. Not so in the United States. There are two strong parties and one of them will be in charge of a house of Congress or the Presidency. That’s it. These little sideshows that appear every four years aren’t really parties; they are simply a wasted vote for the unhappy participants of the process. At least in a parliamentarian system, that small third party can help decide who eventually comes to power at times.
So why do people vote for them if they don’t matter? It seems the psychology of being able to say, “I voted for the person I most identified with.” Is much more powerful than the pragmatism of, “I voted the direction of the most viable candidate to win that I could at least somewhat identify with.”
This year the third parties seem to be more important than ever. Both the Libertarian and Green parties are polling with higher numbers than they normally would. Why? It’s simple, the likeability ratings of the two major candidates are horrific. The latest polls for Hilary Clinton, according to the RealClearPolitics average show favorability ratings of 36 percent favorable and 56 percent unfavorable. Trump is even worse off at 27 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable.
Given those results can anyone fault a voter for assuaging their disdain for the major players with a vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein? The only problem is that neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein can ever win.
So you have a protest vote. What exactly does that mean? Ask yourself, if you aren’t directly helping a viable candidate are you just avoiding having to accept the lessor of two evils?
The unfortunate reality of U.S. politics seems to be that the lessor of two evils is becoming more and more commonplace. Maybe the real purpose of a third party candidate is in helping us avoid the reality of how lousy our candidates have really become in the age of major donations and a fear of alienating the super pac that might spend $30 million on beneficial ads for your campaign.
We all know that our vote for a third party means nothing but do we know why we cast them more and more? It might just be that survival in the futility of a broken and corrupt system requires we occasionally pretend to pursue something that seems pure and unbroken. The problem then becomes, what really has been fixed?
Sharon Jones is a contributor to zenruption's politics and life sections. We think she knows what is up until her pragmatism takes hold in a bar. Seriously, who is pragmatic in a bar?
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license