To my parents, voting for a third party candidate is basically like voting for Hillary Clinton. To my liberal peers, voting for a third party candidate is like voting for Trump. I’m told by everyone I talk to that I shouldn’t “waste” my vote by selecting a third party candidate. Yet as someone who feels completely alienated by both parties, I feel that I’m not only left without another choice, but also that my vote counts substantially more than the votes of those who select a Republican or Democrat. Here’s why.
Marginally, my one vote for a libertarian candidate for president is a much greater percentage of that candidate’s total vote count than one vote for a Republican or Democrat. Four years ago, Gary Johnson, the libertarian presidential candidate won 1,275,951 votes compared to Romney’s 60,933,500 and Obama’s 65,915,796. A vote for Gary Johnson, my preferred candidate, helped him exponentially more than it would’ve helped Romney or Obama.
Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania and the presidential race as a whole will not be won or lost by a single vote no matter who that vote is cast for. The only way to believe that your vote counts at all regardless of who you vote for is to assume that your voting choice is indicative of the behavior of swaths of the population who share your preferences. Personally, I know that if my vote for a third party candidate means that other jaded, supply-side, my-right-to-swing-my-fist-ends-where-your-nose-begins libertarians will vote for Gary Johnson, then my choice becomes crystal clear. Tactical voting is not an option.
Finally, if you wish to have your cake and eat it, too. You don’t actually have to vote for a third party candidate to have a big impact on their representation in the election. Any candidate with 15%+ support in the polls gets a podium on the debate stage, which would absolutely change the game in a presidential race. If ever you’re called by a pollster about who you’ll support, then make sure you select the candidate you’d actually prefer. That’s perhaps the most important ting you can do to support that person’s campaign. You can still vote tactically when you get to the ballot box and perpetuate the two party system if you want, but telling pollsters your true preferences will have a measurably positive outcome on the presidential race.
The phrase “political party” appears zero times in The Constitution. If we have a two party-system, it’s entirely self inflicted by our inability to stand up for our true preferences and support candidates whose policies closely align with our values. If you’re not bold enough to actually cast a vote for measurable change against the establishment, then at least tell pollsters you will. That person might get a place in the debates, which is the first step to actual viability as a candidate. Remember, voting for the lesser of two evils, especially in a poll, is still a vote for evil.