By: Joe Proveaux of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota
A mixture of governmental and personal restrictions have kept me insulated enough actually to have time, and perhaps misguided motivation, to read comment threads on Facebook. Now, I don’t consider myself a popular fellow by any means, with a triple digits friends list comprising of people I know (and a couple of libertarian celebrities that I follow online). Still, one of the things standing out in all of the political commentaries is this insistence that voting 3rd Party is “a waste.” How do you respond to this kind of argument?
What they really mean by waste
When someone says, “a ballot cast for 3rd Party is a wasted vote,” what they’re likely referring to is the electoral defeatism associated with the behavior. The government doesn’t support your positions because they favor those in power. Your vote cast for an ineffective running will be washed away by the 2-Party majority system. Your vote will virtually be ignored, at best, or used to benefit your opponent at worst.
I understand that position. It makes sense to someone who only views the ballot as a means to obtain power. But in terms of self-expression, having integrity, and making a difference there are other positions to consider currently in play.
Convince them of what’s important
If you’re not voting your conscience, you’re no better than the corruption within the system you claim to want to change. You’ve decided to marginalize your own opinion about the matter in favor of someone else’s. You’ve made an error in your judgment in that you instead believe that someone else can represent you better than you can express yourself. Wasn’t this the problem you had with this situation at the start when you decided that the candidates presented didn’t meet your criteria?
Making this kind of compromise demonstrates how truly wasteful it is to vote for someone who you wouldn’t follow to the watering hole, let alone into hell. I’ve said this before in an opinion piece that, “Choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils when you have the choice, and desire, to vote for someone/anyone else is the purest form of wasteful voting that one can promote.” It does speak for itself.
Don’t get me wrong; for some people, this is a difficult pill to swallow. Libertarians are not immune to this situation at all, as part of the regular struggle within our movements is as complex an argument as one chooses to make it. Every election year, we have to choose from over a dozen options of various stripes who claim that they “don’t want to hurt people, and don’t want to take their stuff.” But this is precisely where the compromise should happen: at the Party level.
The vitriol I’ve received for my next statement in the past has been tremendous. Still, I’m going to suggest it anyway: Once the Party has made a selection, we’d benefit as a movement if we supported that selection when we come to the polls. Some people find this position to be as immoral or impractical as my earlier claim regarding voting in the first place. But it’s undeniable that the purity obsession is what makes 3rd-party voting ineffective at the polls, the way people claim it’s a waste.
You could listen to Barrack Obama regarding the 2016 election when he said, to the effect, “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.” But then what you’re listening to is the authorities tell you a truth: your vote won’t matter if you don’t vote the way it’s set up for you to vote. Indeed, in that case, voting for the candidate you don’t want becomes a moral dilemma that you’re now involved. Voting 3rd Party or not voting at all become moral imperatives, because clearly, those in power aren’t motivated for your well-being.
Since 40-50% of Americans refrain from voting every four years, it stands to reason that some, perhaps many, of them would like to see the 3rd option. And a 4th. Perhaps a 5th. And continuing to entertain a two-party focus ensures that it will never change.
Engage in the discussion
The second approach is argumentative. It can be a lot of fun, and sometimes it can help people grow. Other times it gets you tossed out of groups and muted or defriended. Still, I would consider it a win to get any useful response. Ask the following question: “You rather I pretend to follow your preferred option than have an option of my own?” At the heart of this discussion, that’s usually the problem at hand.
People are often so used to being led that they have no perception of when they’re demanding the same involuntary attitudes in themselves and others. It’s a difficult habit and a complicated process to wade through. But it makes voting the way you want to that much more necessary.
A generation of people who question all the reasons we do things is the kind of age whose obstinance to linger and curiosity to change are likely to create the innovations and freedoms that they want. That seems as good a reason as any to try to do things differently and to not compromise on values.
Join the LP!
Outside of that, even if your inclination isn’t to get into a discussion online, you can make your opinion known by representing your values. Consider becoming active in your local or state Libertarian Party. We’re trying to bring more options together at all levels. Peace!