I admit it: I am a single issue voter (gasp!). In the end, I believe most people are (even if that single issue is “mommy and daddy were Democrats/Republicans, so I am too!”). My single issue happens to be war (I’m against it). Most people would say that I should therefore vote for Barack Obama as the nominally less-warmongering choice of the two main parties. I won’t. Instead, I will vote for a 3rd party candidate, and I will do so proudly. Here’s why:
The first presidential election to which I paid real attention was 2000 (Bush v. Gore). As a young person at the time, the main thing I remember was a general sense of apathy among the voting public and a lot of talk about voting for “the lesser of two evils.” As a result of the widespread dissatisfaction with the two dominant political parties, Ralph Nader received 2.74% of the popular vote as the Green Party candidate, a relatively high percentage which many liberals loudly proclaim is the reason Al Gore lost the election. (Those same liberals will also shout until they are blue in the face that Al Gore won the election anyways, so I’m not entirely sure why it matters to them how many votes Ralph Nader received.) In any case, the lesson my generation was supposed to learn from the 2000 election was that 3rd party candidates are “spoilers”; if you vote for them, you are not just wasting your vote, you are actually hurting your cause because the “worse of two evils” will win.
This, quite frankly, is bullshit (or, more accurately, a giant stinking pile of donkeyshit and elephantshit).
A bit of background on me:
I am a member of the so-called 9/11 generation. I was 17 years old when I walked into my statistics class in high school and saw the twin towers burning on TV. In college, I studied terrorism and Arabic in my free time. I vigorously pursued and was ultimately offered a job in the Central Intelligence Agency. My polygraph operator accused me of being a serial killer and/or cavorting with prostitutes in China; in the end, the CIA’s internal security branch did not approve my security clearance (despite what you may think, these particular activities are not prerequisites for employment with the CIA).
So it goes. I worked at the US Senate instead, perhaps committing greater crimes than I would have in the intelligence community. At some point along the way, I decided that I could no longer in good conscience be a direct party to those crimes. Shortly after my initial salary at the Senate was doubled and my future in politics started looking bright, I quit my job and set out to actually help people. It felt great.
I realized a fundamental truth: taking part in activities to which you are morally opposed tarnishes your soul and poisons your mind. We all do it to some extent on a daily basis. We pay taxes to a government that invariably spends them on things we wish it wouldn’t. We buy goods and services from corporations that harm our children and our environment. We allow all manner of horrors to continue without our interference. But to actively support people and actions that go against our core values… it hurts. It hurts to know that we played a direct role in these monsters coming to/staying in power. It hurts to play a part in the downward spiral of our country. It doesn’t have to.
What is the single political issue that is most important to you? Small government? Mitt Romney’s stated goal is to cap federal spending below twenty percent of the US economy. Based on current data for 2011, that amounts to more than $3 trillion. For the conservatives out there, consider whether one dollar out of every five spent in the largest economy in the history of the world is your idea of “small.”
Or perhaps your main concern is the preservation of our Constitutional civil liberties? Barack Obama has asserted and exercised the right to execute US citizens without even nominal judicial oversight. For the liberals reading this, keep in mind that you were probably pretty upset when George W. Bush authorized the wiretapping of American citizens without due process. As Glen Ford has elegantly argued, Barack Obama is a more effective evil than Bush II ever was. No matter what issue you hold closest to your heart, one of two things is almost certainly true. Either the Republicrats and Democans regularly act contrary to your core values, or their presidential candidate will have no real power to fundamentally affect that issue.
Take gay marriage, religion in schools, abortion, etc.: no matter what your stance may be on those issues, the fact is, the US president does not determine their outcome. 3rd party candidates are not spoilers. The two-party candidates are.
Having lived and worked in Washington, DC, I am very familiar with the knee-jerk accusation that 3rd party candidates are extremists. Because their continued prosperity depends on maintaining the status quo, DC insiders and media elites never consider the possibility that it is the current state of the American government and the positions of the two parties that are extreme. Below is a list of a few 3rd party presidential candidates on the ballot in some states this November, along with some of their top policy positions. Judge for yourself who is more “extreme”: your favorite from this list below, or Baritt Obamney.
Libertarian Party candidate: Gary Johnson. Top issues: balance the federal budget in 2013; reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; audit the Federal Reserve; abolish the IRS and enact the “Fair Tax”; end corporate welfare; end the war in Afghanistan, put an end to physical and psychological torture of detainees.
Green Party candidate: Jill Stein. Top issues: “Full Employment Program” to create 25 million jobs; Medicare-for-All; tuition-free education through college and student loan forgiveness; immediate halt to foreclosures and evictions; invest in green business and prioritize green research; break up “too big to fail” banks; revoke corporate personhood; repeal the Patriot Act; reduce military spending by 50%.
Constitution Party candidate: Virgil Goode. Top issues: balanced budget in 2013; impose moratorium on green cards until the unemployment rate is under 5 percent; secure Southern border; develop domestic energy resources to free the United States of its dependence on foreign fossil fuel; end the “Death Tax” and the federal income tax in favor of the “Fair Tax”; end the war in Afghanistan; impose term limits on Congress.
Justice Party candidate: Rocky Anderson. Top issues: end corporate welfare; address the wealth and income disparity by strengthening labor laws, providing tax incentives for local manufacturers, implementing progressive taxation, and promoting fair trade; make a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict a top priority; reform the Patriot Act; reform energy policy and make a deliberate transition to a low-carbon sustainable energy future; oppose the use of torture and establish a commission to investigate past US policies and practices of torture; reform the US health care system, ideally toward a single-payer system; cease support for foreign governments that abuse human rights and suppress democracy; reduce military spending by 50%.
Peace and Freedom Party candidate: Roseanne Barr. Top issues: legalize marijuana; prioritize a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict; forgive student loans; reform the US economy and create Green jobs; reform US election laws; end US wars; prioritize food and water safety.
Because I view war as equivalent to murder on a grand scale, it is the most important issue for me in this election. In my eyes on my issue, any of the above 3rd party candidates would be a drastic improvement over either of the two-party candidates for president. How do they compare on yours? Whether you identify more with the Occupy movement, the Tea Party revolution, or the Jon Stewart centrists, we can all agree that the two-party candidates don’t represent us. It’s time to accept that voting for the “lesser of two evils” election after election invariably leads to nothing but more evil.
This November, please join me in pledging to vote for a 3rd party candidate for US president. Until one of the two-party candidates acts in accordance with my core values, they will not receive my vote. Due to the structural bias in the US political system, it is probably true that a 3rd party candidate will never win the presidency. It doesn’t matter. The more people stop compromising on their core values, the more the two-party candidates will have to live up to them. If they don’t, the other guy/gal will win. That’s how winner-takes-all politics work. Although you can never count on a mainstream politician to be honorable, we can all be sure they will do whatever it takes to keep winning.
So on November 6th, pull that lever/push that button/fill in that bubble/touch that screen for the 3rd party or write-in candidate of your choice. It’ll feel good. Or, if you really must, you can be pragmatic and do the same damn thing you’ve done every other election (how has that worked out so far?). But keep in mind: every time Barack Obama or Mitt Romney does something that disgusts you in the next four years, it won’t be my fault. It’ll be yours.