Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are enjoying unprecedented interest for third parties this election, and the reason for that is abundantly clear. The two established-party candidates — Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton — are both objectionable candidates who are hated by their opposition and who have even alienated members of their own bases. More than ever, voters on both sides of the aisle are looking at third-party alternatives.
Unfortunately, far too many voters insist on preaching that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for whichever candidate you hate. In other words, if you’re disappointed in Trump and want to vote for Johnson, your Trump-supporting Facebook friends are going to tell you “A vote for Johnson is a vote for Hillary!” Similarly, if you’re disappointed in Clinton and want to vote for Stein (or Johnson), your Hillary-supporting Facebook friends are going to tell you “A vote for Stein (or Johnson) is a vote for Trump!”
So, is a vote for a third-party candidate a “wasted vote”? Absolutely not! As none other than Gary Johnson himself said — paraphrased — a vote for Johnson (or any other third-party candidate) is not a wasted vote. A vote for a candidate that you don’t believe in is a wasted vote.
Here are three other reasons why a vote for a third-party candidate is not a wasted vote.
The Fallacy Of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Imagine that a stranger locks you in a room and tells you that he’s going to keep you there for the next week, and there’s nothing you can do about it. He then gives you a key and tells you that the key doesn’t work, so don’t bother using it. If you take his word for it and don’t try the key, then you will spend the next week locked in that room. That’s how self-fulfilling prophecy works.
The same concept holds true when it comes to voting. If everybody assumes that a third-party candidate doesn’t stand a chance, and thus doesn’t vote third-party, then of course the third-party candidate doesn’t stand a chance! Only when voters divorce themselves from the idea that a third party doesn’t stand a chance, and take the risk and vote third-party, will a third-party candidate actually stand a chance.
Gary Johnson Actually Stands A Chance
Unlike Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson actually has a chance — admittedly, a very small chance — at the White House in 2016. It could happen one of two ways.
The first possibility is that voters simply warm up to him and he wins the election the traditional way — by appealing to the most voters and getting the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the election. As of this writing, Johnson is polling in double digits in some polls, and should he reach 15 percent in the polls, he’ll be invited to the national debates — the first time a third-party candidate has appeared in a national debate since Ross Perot in 1992. From there, Johnson’s candidacy could attract more supporters from both sides of the aisle, siphon votes from Trump and Clinton, and win the White House fair and square.
Another scenario would come into play should Trump or Clinton fail to get 270 electoral votes. If that happens, the House of Representatives would vote for the next President. Currently, the House leans heavily in favor of Republicans, but many of those Republicans are turned off by Trump. The Republicans and the Democrats could then compromise and elect Johnson, as he appeals to both sides of the aisle and could work with both parties after Inauguration Day.
Moving The Third-Party Revolution Beyond 2016 And The White House
Regardless of what happens with the 2016 presidential election, one thing is clear: third parties can no longer be ignored. Johnson or Stein may well be regarded as after-thoughts once the dust is settled from this election, but there will be more elections, more third-party candidates, and in more races than just the presidential race.
In fact, in a larger sense, the political issues that affect your day-to-day life the most aren’t kicked around in Washington. They emerge in state legislatures, in county buildings, and town halls. And it’s in these smaller, local elections where the two-party stranglehold on politics is at its weakest. You may find that a Libertarian, or Green, or Socialist, or Constitutionalist, or an individual from an even more obscure third party (or no political party at all) is closer to your views than either of the two established-party candidates, when it comes to state and local elections. In other words, in the future, your vote doesn’t have to be limited to Republicans and Democrats at the local and state levels, either.
Despite the unprecedented interest in third parties this election, the past 150 years of history tell us that Republicans and Democrats have a hold on the White House that they aren’t interested in giving up anytime soon. The only way that hold will be broken is if voters wake up to the idea that a vote for a third party candidate is not a wasted vote.
[Image via Shutterstock/AR30mm]