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The Third Party Myth

Author: Aaron Bitermans
Date: 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 Water, Utah.

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- coming phenomenon.

In 1998 alone, nineteen Libertarians were elected to office, including Vermont state representative Neil Randall.

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 vote.

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 States.

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 the winner.

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 America.

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 platform.

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.