Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Election Chronicles: Why You Should Vote for a Third Party

by Ben Howard

Today we're going to continue The Election Chronicles series with the reasons why you should vote for a third party candidate. Monday I looked at reasons to vote for Mitt Romney and Tuesday I explored the reasons to vote for Barack Obama. Tomorrow, I'll look at reasons why you shouldn't vote.

Two reminders about this series. First, I'm trying to only address positive reasons why you would vote for a candidate. This entire series is based around trying to foster a supportive, productive political discussion. Second, I'm viewing this predominantly through the lens of why a Christian would vote for this candidate, so we're looking on a prouder scale than what would be in the best interest of the country.

So, why should you vote for a third party candidate?

You shouldn't. They won't win.

At least that's the easily pragmatic answer. And it's true, at least the second part is. A third party candidate is not going to win the White House, not this year, probably not in 4 years, probably not in 20 either. However, I don't think that's a reason why you shouldn't vote for a third party.

Since a third party candidate isn't going to win, I'm not going to focus on specific policies or ideologies. Instead, I'm going to explore the reasons you should vote for a third party that are above and beyond policy preference.

First, you should vote for a third party if you think the political system needs more nuance and more conversation.

The most helpful aspect of a third party is that it provides an additional perspective above and beyond the black and white of the two party system. If there are two clearly defined positions, a third party can provide a third way to those unsatisfied with the accepted norms of political discussions.  

For instance, in this election there are two predominant third party candidates, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. Both of these candidates provide distinctly different views on economics and foreign policy than either of the established parties.

Now, to be fair, part of the reason for this ideological purity comes from not being in power. There are certain pragmatic constraints that come from actually being in the position to govern, but perhaps some new ideologies could turn into more productive and supportive action.

This leads to my next point. You should vote for a third party if you want to push an issue into the mainstream.

My political science professor from college is going to be so proud. When a third party is successful, this is typically how that success comes to fruition. They gain a lot of support, typically centered on one issue, then one of the two big parties adopts that issue and wins big. Think Ross Perot's Reform Party or Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party. They succeeded and their success prompted increased fiscal concerns and increased focus on corruption in business and politics, respectively.

If you think that there is an issue that needs to be pushed into the mainstream and neither the Republicans or Democrats is talking about it, then you should vote for a third party candidate who is, and I promise you there is one.

In fact, I think there is a major one and both major third party candidates support it. You should vote for a third party candidate if you support peace.

I fully believe that Christians are called to abstain from war and violence and the major third party candidates happen to agree with this position. Granted, the candidates come to this conclusion from different orientations with the Libertarian's in particular far more focused on the financial consequences of military action and a belief in laissez-faire foreign policy, but they do support peace.

As a Christian, I believe that peace is not only the absence of war, but also the absence of hatred, animosity and discord. It is not merely the absence of fighting, it is the presence of good will and harmony. So perhaps these candidates do not support peace as much as they oppose war, but it is a start nonetheless.

With all of these reasons to consider voting for a third party candidate, I want to share a word of caution just like I have for the two major candidates. First, let me reiterate that you will not win. Second, just because your candidate did not win and had no chance of winning, this does not make you a martyr for your ideology. If you vote for one of these candidates you are intending to play the political long-game. Much like I said for those who support Barack Obama, this does not make you morally superior to those who vote for mainstream candidates, it simply means that you have different priorities and political orientations.

I look forward to your comments and I hope you enjoy/avoid the Presidential debates tonight. Tomorrow, we'll cover why you shouldn't vote.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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