I recently had a great conversation with a rather young voter. Like them, lots of folks are frustrated by one or another political party. I get it. They want more options, but they disengage from the electoral process when their option isn’t available or never gets elected. This is a NORMAL reaction in a “representative democracy” like we have.
We elect representatives (House and Senate) to represent our collective views, but those collective views might not always align to our own individual, personal views.
So we have a choice, either we opt out or we opt in. Here’s the case for both options:
Should we opt out? Short Answer: No Long Answer: Voting is a hard-won right for most in our nation, so we MUST vote. More than 50% of Americans couldn’t vote when the Constitution was enacted. Back then, only rich, white men could vote and it has taken a LONG time to get the vote for most US citizens (citizens in US territories still can’t vote), and even today, there are efforts to suppress or limit the ability of some groups to rightfully vote. Everyone should honor and respect those who made these votes possible by voting in every election. The act of voting is the one clear duty and responsibility of every US citizen, no matter what your political preferences.
OK, So How Should You Vote? Well, obviously, you should vote for the candidates that align most to your preferences on issues, but do so strategically. We all have issues we care about, but for simplicity and stability, our democratic political system is not structured to accommodate ALL views. That system was tried in Greece thousands of years ago and our representative democratic system is believed to be more stable, though we’re barely halfway through our third century of it. (We’ve made it about as far as the Greeks did.) And this is why we must always strive for a “more perfect union” by constantly learning about and seeking to improve our democratic processes.
Because it always takes more than 50% of the votes on any issue, like flipping a coin there will always only be two sides to an issue voted upon: For and Against. On every issue there are groups of electors (the people who get elected) who support and those who don’t support a topic. Those groups DO NOT have to align to their party affiliation, but they very often do, so you improve the odds of YOUR personal issues getting support if you vote for the candidate MOST aligned to your views — the candidate best able to “represent” your views most of the time.
For these reasons, and specifically because every issue has only two sides when it comes to how electors vote, there will ALWAYS only be two major parties. At any time, if a party splits, subgroups (or factions) of electors will realign with members of all parties to form a new two-party set of voting blocks or coalitions. This situation happens around the world and has happened here in the US, too, because a two-party system is highly stable.
So I know you’re still asking, should I vote for another party beside the two major parties? Major third party candidates ALMOST NEVER win elections until the issues they support are accepted by one of the two major parties. They often win in small, local elections when there is a very weak candidate for one of the two major parties, but this is also rare. Even when they ARE elected, electors who aren’t from a major party will often stick to one side or the other most of the time IN ORDER TO form a 50%+ majority in favor of an issue.
Electing Third Party Candidates makes it HARDER to win on issues you care about, regardless of which side you’re on, because those electors may not support your other issues. If you support an issue that is NOT supported by either party, you are far more likely to have an impact if you work to educate and engage voters within the party closest to your overall beliefs, thus shifting the views of that party toward YOUR views. Find a partner and start a movement.
Make no mistake. Third party issues NEED to be discussed, and candidates often serve that very purpose in elections, but on election day, your best odds at getting MOST of your views supported is to be strategic and support the major party most aligned to your views.