The reason I am voting for a third party (and you should too) is simple: a third party exists, and it is less evil than the two main parties. Let me explain.
Lesser evils and false dichotomies
When there are two candidates, your vote for one candidate deprives the other candidate of a whole potential vote. In such a binary choice, a lesser evil choice is justified, because depriving a given evil candidate of a vote is worth casting the vote for the other evil candidate, if the other candidate is less evil than the given one. This is where we get scenarios like the trolley dilemma, in which one must decide whether to pull a lever to divert an oncoming train onto a track with one person lying on it, or refrain from pulling the lever and allow it to hit five people lying dead ahead. They are based on a dichotomy: there are only two positions of the lever, and (it is felt by many) only two candidates for president.
However, when there are actually more than two options, such dichotomies become false dichotomies, a.k.a. either-or fallacies. When there are three or more candidates running for office and you vote for one of them, your “lack of vote” for the other candidates is shared amongst all those for whom you don’t vote, because a lack of vote is not a positive, existent thing that you take from each party you don’t vote for, but rather a “hole” created by the disappearance of your potential vote. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; therefore, the total negative effect of your vote within the range of choices (the collective effect on all the options you don’t choose) must be equal to the positive effect within the range of choices (the effect on the single option you choose). Given that the effect of your vote is 1, the negative power of your vote on each of the options you don’t choose is 1/(n-1), where n=the total number of options. This will always be <1 when there are at least three options.
Therefore, in a situation in which there are at least three political candidates, the degree to which we effect the win of the candidate we vote for is greater than the degree to which we effect the loss of any other given candidate. Therefore, unless all the alternative candidates are more evil than a given candidate (and thus total to an effect of 1), lesser evil choices will more effectively allow the lesser evil than they will avoid the greater evil. Since it is always obligatory to effect evil as little as possible, this is never licit.
I perceive two objections to this line of reasoning. The first one is that it does not take into consideration the proportion of evil between evil candidates, which, if it is great enough, might offset the difference in the effects of my vote. My answer is that certainly the proportion of evil must be taken into consideration in distinguishing between ideological negligences of human rights and mere debates over methods, and between the relative priority of human rights (such as the right to life) over others. However, this objection goes beyond that and implies that it is permissible to be more responsible for causing a lesser evil in order to be less responsible for avoiding a greater evil. This is tantamount to doing evil that good may result. That is never permissible! Aquinas’ principle of Double Effect stipulates that one of the conditions that is necessary for cooperation in evil is that “The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, qtd. McIntyre, 2014). This condition must be met independently of the proportionality of the greater evil.
The second objection is that it does not take into consideration the probabilities of success of the candidates. My answer is subjective, but heartfelt: I do not believe probabilities of success should affect the moral categories of a vote. It is our responsibility as Christian citizens to express our moral convictions through our civic voice as completely as we can within options available, and allow democracy and Divine Providence to determine the result. I will not violate my conscience by my vote if I do not have to, regardless of the odds. I would rather be driven to David’s caves by my integrity than claim Saul’s throne by my compromise. I realize it may be possible for a good Christian to disagree with my stance on this, but it is, at least, the firm instruction of my conscience.
The errors of the Republican and Democratic Parties
In the Democratic party lies one half of our bifurcated moral consciousness, a concern for the common good of all humans, but, ironically, a neglect of the sacredness of human life. The party of social justice, equality and acceptance defends the rights of the powerful against the most powerless members of our human race, and stands in fundamental disconnect from the mind of Christ, not recognizing that justice is mercy.
In the Republican party lies the other half of proper moral consciousness, a concern for social morality and a defense of life and family, but a neglect for our moral obligation to the common good of our fellow man. The party of liberty and prosperity excuses the most prosperous and powerful from their obligations to those who, by their human dignity, ought to share in the natural goods which God has given to all men; thus it stands in fundamental disconnect from the mind of Christ, not recognizing that mercy is justice.
Without ranking these two parties or discussing their faults in more detail, it is sufficient to observe here that they both have serious moral deficiencies. If a third party existed, and if it had fewer deficiencies than either of them, then that would eliminate the possibility of a justified lesser-evil choice between them.
The fabled third party appears
Imagine my dawning wonder and delight when I discovered that there has recently emerged onto the American political landscape precisely such a mythical creature: a party that acknowledges within its platform and ethos a “whole-life ethic,” the responsibility to take strides as a society to care for the poor with a Christian spirit of solidarity and common good, and also to stalwartly defend human life from conception to natural death.
I am voting for the American Solidarity Party because it exists, and by its existence it renders the red-blue dichotomy a false dichotomy. It obviates lesser-evil voting for a platform about which I have deep misgivings. By embracing in its platform and moreover in its ethos a unification of all the moral principles of Christianity, it provides a way to express my voice into politics without having to cooperate in evil. Thus, in the American Solidarity Party, I have found the truly lesser evil. May God grant all my Christian brothers and sisters the courage and wisdom to join me in solidarity, though we be few, sounding a trumpet of justice and mercy into the suffering and confused heart of America.