I use the word “ideal” advisedly. By “ideal” I do not mean the election that chooses my preferred candidate; I mean the election that leads to the most voter satisfaction for you, no matter what your political leanings are,and the most expanded future for the nation. I’ll explain.
As I’ve said, I think it’s a travesty that most people don’t feel they can vote for any but the two big parties. That’s a big problem for anyone who doesn’t find either Romney or Obama to be the candidate for them, and personally aligns better with the Greens’ Jill Stein, the Libertarians’ Gary Johnson, or someone else.
Now, Johnson and Stein have been doing reasonably well for third/fourth-party candidates, but of course neither is going to win, or even come close. (I haven’t seen any recent numbers for the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson.)
Ideally, everyone votes for the candidate they think is best for the country, by their conscience, which includes feeling like they can vote for someone who they don’t thoroughly agree with on every issue, if they think the good outweighs the bad. Some degree of calculation is to be expected, and makes moral sense. There is nothing inherently wrong with voting for, say, Romney just to keep Obama out of office, or vice versa, even if you like Stein or Johnson better. You certainly recognize that either Obama or Romney is winning, and you may thus perform the calculus to decide that you’d rather vote ‘against’ whichever of the two you dislike than vote ‘for’ some third-party candidate and give your non-favored candidate a bigger chance.
That all said, here’s how I personally hope the election comes out, with some rough numbers that are still within the bounds of realistic possibility:
(I prefer Obama to Romney, personally, although I like Stein and Johnson both better than Obama. Just reverse Obama and Romney’s numbers if you lean that way.)
These numbers, I think, would be enough that the Greens and Libertarians feel rightfully validated, having avoided the last-minute switch that people tend to make from third parties to the two big ones. Maybe after results like that, instead of people abandoning those parties post-election, they might continue to grow and become more viable. The Internet would help with that, as well as the media picking up the story that 10% of the nation voted for third-party candidates. Maybe those numbers would even correspond with those parties winning some local elections and increasing political diversity in that regard.
There have, of course, been third party candidates in the past that polled well and then disappeared, but I’ll be optimistic because it’s better than prematurely assuming it’s all a waste of time. My hope is not that a third party gains enough to seriously challenge or spoil the 2016 Presidential elections – my hope is that the parties gain enough fresh-outsider clout to win local races like state legislatures or even a Congressperson or two. Build alternatives from the ground up.
So – how could they achieve numbers like that, when the two parties have so bitterly divided people?
If you live in a swing state, vote for Obama or Romney. I mean, if you’re brave and truly, personally unaligned with either of them, then certainly vote with your conscience for Stein, Johnson or whoever. But don’t feel bad voting for the major candidate who you feel offers the best deal overall.
But if you live in a state that’s effectively locked – where even a large spoiler effect will not change the ultimate result – then vote for the candidate who matches your beliefs most closely. Don’t try and play games and say “well yeah I’d prefer Stein/Johnson, but I don’t want Romney/Obama to win more.” (Of course, if you prefer Romney/Obama, just go for it.)
Why? Because if you live in a locked-up state, the situation is the reverse of living in a swing state. In a swing state, you can say that your vote is wasted if you vote for a third-party candidate, because one of the major party candidates will subsequently have a better chance of taking the state. But in a locked-up state, conversely, your vote is wasted if you vote for a major party candidate, because one of them is winning your state anyway. If you want your vote to matter in a locked-up state, vote for the third party of your choice, if there is one. You won’t get that candidate elected, but you will contribute to the creation of a post-election narrative: one that says, “Hey, this third party got a large number of votes nationwide!” That narrative may lead to more funds, recognition and viability for that third party you like in the long run.
Such things have happened before.
So if you live in a locked-in state, don’t waste your vote adding to the numbers of the major candidates; you’re not affecting which one of them wins. Do use your vote for a third party – your vote will actually matter to them.
That’s my ideal outcome – people basing their vote on their conscience in relation to the electoral realities of their home state. Me, I live in Maryland, so Obama’s winning here anyways. So, for President, I plan to vote for one or the other third party. At the very least I’ll get to go to bed knowing that I put my name down for the candidate who best matched my views.
Where do you live? And what will your vote mean?