The Third Party Myth
January 1, 2001
The biggest objection by allies to
voting for a Third Party is the "wasted
vote" argument -- the idea that if you
vote for someone who will not win, then
the vote does not count.
Join any third party and merely suggest
that another person consider voting for
a third party candidate and you will
hear, ad nauseum, "I don't want to
waste my vote."
Before delving into the extent of the
wasted vote myth, one myth must
be addressed first:
Myth #1: Third party candidates are never elected
to public office.
Look at the Libertarian party to disprove this fallacy (if Jesse Ventura
wasn't enough proof already).
The first elected Libertarian state
legislator was Dick Randolph, who was
elected in 1978 (just seven short years
after the founding of the Libertarian
Party) in Alaska. Randolph was re-
elected in 1980 along with Alan
Fanning, another Libertarian, to the
Alaska state legislature. In 1984,
Andre Marrou was elected to the state
legislature of Alaska to join the two
other Libertarian officials.
In 1987, Libertarians were elected to
every seat on the city council in Big
In 1991, New Hampshire state
legislators Calvin Warburton and Finlay
Rothhaus resigned from the Republican
Party and joined the Libertarian Party.
They were joined on the New Hampshire
state legislature in 1992 by Donald W.
Gorman and Andy Borsa. In 1994, Jim
McClarin was the next Libertarian
elected to the New Hampshire state
legislature. Donald Gorman was re-
elected in 1994 and served until 1996.
Meanwhile, in 1992, Bonnie Flickinger
won election as Mayor of Moreno Valley,
California. Numerous Libertarians were
elected to city councils from this
point on. Additionally, since 1992,
Libertarian mayors have been an up-and-
In 1998 alone, nineteen Libertarians
were elected to office, including
Vermont state representative Neil
Thus, to date, over 300 Libertarian
officials are currently serving in
office in the United States.
Now that it has been proven that many
Libertarians are elected, the next myth
will surely come into play.
What is a Wasted Vote?
An unprincipled vote is the only wasted
Voting for a third party, contrary to
popular belief, is not a wasted vote.
What is voting? It's a chance to tell
the country -- and perhaps even the
world -- what your vision of government
and society really is.
But how do most of us vote? Do the
majority of those who believe Harry
Browne or Ralph Nader is the best
candidate, most in tune with our own
feelings, actually vote for them? No.
Instead, most of us vote the "lesser of
two evils" -- a defensive vote, rather
than an offensive one.
The lesser of two evils is still evil.
So what happens after you vote the
defensive vote? Well, then you have
sold out your personal beliefs. You
have become a political prostitute. You
aren't standing up for what you believe
in by voting "the lesser of two evils".
I don't know about you, but I'm tired
of being a political hooker. If you
think the Republican or the Democrat
really does best mirror your beliefs,
by all means, vote for that candidate.
But if you don't, and you still vote
for them, you're helping to preserve
the status quo you probably despise.
Remember, You Never Decide the Winner
On statewide races (larger than city
council races), there is a single
important point to remember: You as an
individual will never cast the deciding
ballot! Hence there is no reason to
vote for the lesser evil.
Most of the time we hear the wasted
vote argument most in precisely the
races where it applies least. For
instance, the presidency of the United
A presidential race will never be
decided by one vote. And if by some
mathematical chance it got that close,
it would be decided through the Courts
and through lawsuits.
If you go to the polls for the purpose
of casting the deciding ballot in major
races, you are making an irrational
decision. The chances of dying en route
in a car, plane or meteor accident are
far greater than the chance of casting
the deciding ballot.
So What's the Point of Voting?
We as individuals don't vote to select
As a practical matter, we vote to tell
everyone else which choice best
represents the direction which we want
the country to go. When you vote, you
gain a certain power that a non-voter
doesn't have: the power to change
Hence voting lesser evil sends the
wrong message; it's sending a message
of compromise. In effect, a defensive
vote says, "I will settle for a good
America, not the best America
possible." I urge you not to settle.
Remember, if you always do what you've
always done, you'll always get what
you've always gotten. In other words,
if you want change, then create change.
Even if once in your life you missed
the chance to cast that mythical
deciding ballot, the harm from
selecting the wrong person in one
election is more than offset by a
lifetime of giving voter support to the
lesser of two evils rather than
standing up for what you believe.
The history of third parties in America
is that they serve as the vanguard for
new ideas. It is these ideas that make
the world go round. If a Third Party
begins to draw votes, one or both of
the two big parties steal their ideas.
Socialists Can Teach Us Something
The most successful third party in the
20th Century was the Socialist Party.
While never winning any significant
elections, their small but growing vote
totals were a threat to the Democrats.
Thus the Democrats, and then later the
Republicans, adopted piecemeal every
major tenet of the 1916 Socialist Party
Libertarians are the opposite of the
Socialists, but they find their success
instructive. The radical ideas about
liberty that began in 1971 are now
being seriously debated or, in some
cases, implemented by the other
parties. An increasing number of
Libertarian votes is indeed noted by
the politicians as well as the media.
So rather than waste your vote on
Democrats or Republicans, cast a
meaningful ballot that clearly says
what you believe.