Is a Third Party Vote Wasted?

You can’t talk about voting for a third party for very long before someone will say, “I don’t like either major candidate, but I’m not going to waste my vote on a third party.”

But is it a waste?

Those who make such comments would point out that, particularly in the presidential race, the odds of actually electing a third party candidate are quite small.  In this sense, success is virtually impossible and so the vote is “wasted.”  But voting Republican in California, or Democratic in Alabama, is also virtually guaranteed to “fail,” in the sense that these states’ electoral votes are foregone conclusions.

Voting third party, like voting Republican in California or Democratic in Alabama, can send a powerful message.  It demonstrates that there are voters out there, voters willing to go to the polls, who have values that are not currently being reflected by the major parties.  This is an invitation – to the major parties, to donors, to fellow voters – to rally to those values and the voters who stand by them.

Voting always involves a moral hazard.  When you vote for someone you support them, their pros and their cons alike.  We generally weigh these and find someone whose positive traits and policies we think are more significant than their shortcomings.  Nevertheless, by casting a vote, we are, in some measure, supporting those shortcomings too.  In settling for a major party candidate, you may be taking on a larger moral hazard than you’d like.  Why not choose a third party candidate with whom your conscience can sleep well at night?

“But what about the Supreme Court?” some people ask.  Are we not obligated to vote for a major party candidate, however bad, in the hope of saving the highest court from the justices that the other candidate would appoint?  As writers all over the internet have been pointing out, that line of thinking is filled with holes.  It rests on a long string of “maybes” and “what ifs,” ignores the role of the Senate in confirming justices, plays upon fear, and overlooks the poor quality of justices we’re likely to get from either candidate.

Next month you can send a clear message that you want something different.  You can vote third party.  You can vote for American Solidarity.  Or you can add your vote to the sea of messages you did not craft and with which you do not agree.

The choice is yours.

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