Thoughts on Voting 3rd Party in a 2-Party System

The Constitutional form of government in the U.S. tends to stabilize into a binary, two-party system. The two-party system requires those two major parties to form coalitions that will attract the support of various groups and interests in order to win.

While it is true that third party candidates have essentially zero chance of winning, voting for them still sends signals that the two major parties consider when trying to form a winning coalition for the next election. If a significant number of people vote for McMullin or Johnson or Stein, it sends signals that affect party platforms and positions in future elections.It is perfectly reasonable and honorable to vote in order to send a signal for the direction you want the country to go, with an eye toward influencing the party coalition calculus of future elections, even if the candidate cannot win the current election.

But keep in mind that very little information is communicated in a vote. While you may be voting for a candidate you disagree with for complex reasons, your vote doesn’t communicate those reasons. In the aggregate, votes simply communicate that a certain percentage of people prefer one candidate over the others. So when the parties look toward coalition building, they probably don’t see your complex calculus and clever strategy; they just see a candidate and his or her platform with a certain amount of support represented by votes.

So a vote for a candidate you prefer may send a clearer signal than a strategic vote against a candidate.

If our constitutional system is working properly, then the checks and balances should theoretically prevent a bad president from doing too much damage. The fact that people on all sides see the election of the opposing candidate as potentially catastrophic suggests either that our constitutional system has already fallen apart, and that the president cannot be constrained by other branches of government, or that hyperbole is being used to manipulate people into voting contrary to their inclinations. Perhaps it is both.

Heaven help us.

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One Response to Thoughts on Voting 3rd Party in a 2-Party System

  1. Lamoni

    With our current system of voting, it is always a smarter choice to vote for one of the two major parties rather than voting for a third party as long as one of those two candidates is palatable.

    Unfortunately, changing and overturning political parties is a slow process. Just because the two major parties this election cycle are Republican and Democrat does not mean that they will be the two major parties 4 or 8 years from now. However, as long as there is not a 3rd party that can gather a significant number of supporters and people are willing to vote for someone they dislike over someone they hate, the 2 parties we have will remain for the foreseeable future.

    I believe the Republican and the Democratic parties have become quite divided. Democrats have a large socialist faction that were disenfranchised by the treatment of Bernie Sanders. Republicans have long had a wide difference of opinion on the role of Government. We have received as many new Federal departments under Republican presidents as we have under Democrat presidents.

    I want the Republican party to be the party of small government and I will continue to support people like Mike Lee that share my point of view. However, I think it would be great to join a new party that had small government and freedom as a core principal. Just like the Libertarian party, but without so many “purists” who try to kick everyone out who is not libertarian enough. Just because I believe in small government and freedom does not mean I can’t oppose abortion or that I don’t want to be involved in foreign affairs.

    I still take great comfort from the fact that most of my decisions are not affected by the government. I still have the freedom to do what I like most of the time. Unfortunately, the list of things the government interferes with is constantly growing with both parties clamoring for more government “solutions.” Regardless of what additional regulations are created and enforced, the church will still be true and the path to salvation is the same.

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