This election is said to be one of the most important ones in recent history. From social unrest and healthcare to economic recovery and COVID-19 relief, voters have begun to reconsider their options for political candidates. Third party voting is touted as the way to influence the election and to break the powerful two party system our country has. But the idea that a third party vote will fundamentally change the fabric of our political system is flawed.
One of the first problems is that Americans have effectively bought into the two party system. Voters tend to focus their decision-making efforts to the Democrat and Republican candidates. These candidates and their teams dominate the election cycle conversations with debates, interviews and advertisements. This trend is presumably an argument in favor of voting for a third party, because it is a chance to break off from the status quo and stop being subjected to the antics of political machines.
But the reality is that many voters are comfortable with the two party system as long as they feel some aspect of their interests are represented. With more than 330 million people in the U.S., parties are required to have extensive platforms to cover the versatility of voter interests. They hope to boost party support by capturing as many issues as possible that voters care about. The size and capital of the Democratic and Republican parties makes it easy for them to consistently advertise and advocate for their solutions across almost every platform. Third parties lack that ability to increase exposure in that way. Because of this, voters give in to a binary system based on the information presented to them.
On the off-chance that a large number of Americans change their minds and vote for a third party, it does not solve everything. Third party candidates typically run for big ticket offices, like the presidency, and not for state or local office. No third party candidate has ever come close to winning the presidential election. They use the same campaign tactics that Democrats and Republicans do to try and win elections — though not on the same scale because of resources.
The difference, however, is that Democrats and Republicans have evidence and examples of their ideologies at work, thanks to past elected party members. Parties represent an array of ideas, and people vote based on which ones they agree with the most — or disagree with the least. Since voters have no record of how third party ideas are implemented or have worked in the past, there is little incentive to give serious consideration to those candidates. It is impossible to agree or disagree with evidence that doesn’t exist.
Framing third party voting in such a negative way sounds scary, but it’s necessary. It exposes the true nature of our voting system. It is virtually impossible to break a binary system using the binary system’s process. We criticize a system that’s functioning the way it’s supposed to. The only change that is possible is change dictated by the parties in power.
How we vote in the U.S. needs to change. Knowing that our voting system functions in a way that limits our choices to two parties gives us clarity in addressing the problems the system presents. There is power in voting, but there’s also power in pressuring those in office, protesting injustices and demanding for funds to be used to help those who need it most.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer