The Nation and the World

The danger in voting third-party

The year is 2020. As Americans, we’ve been through a lot, and as this year comes to an end, Election Day arrives. This election is unlike any other election in contemporary history. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so human lives are on the line. How our country’s government chooses to respond to this crisis affects all of us in the long run. How our country’s government chooses to resolve social justice issues, if at all, is imperative to the progression of our nation. We are at a crossroad, and the direction the majority chooses to take is where we’ll all be going.

In my opinion, we have one terrible option for president, that being Donald Trump, and another less terrible, but still not great option. Joe Biden is a moderate, and I argue that the reason for this is not just because of his values, but also because of Trump’s values. Biden had a job throughout this entire campaign, and that job was to try and appeal to the far left while still appearing as moderate for the sake of Republicans and Democrats who don’t like Trump and want him out of the White House. Of course not every conservative is a fan of Trump, and this is not lost on Biden. So Biden and the Democratic National Committee had to create an image representing the middle ground. They had to help everyone in this country perceive him as non-threatening. They had to find a way to make it so Biden is not too far left for Republicans and not too far right for Democrats.  For the most part, I would argue that they have achieved this. Biden is semi-agreeable to a lot of people. 

But here’s the catch. To some, moderate Biden is just as bad as Trump. Many people in this country, much like in 2016, don’t like either option. Lucky for them, there are other options. Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen has a fair amount of support behind her, as does Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. At a glance, a candidate with views that match your own seems like a no brainer when it comes to voting. However, there’s more to that decision than one may think. 

Voting third-party has been and still is more symbolic than actually effective. Since the two-party system was widely established, no third-party candidate has won the presidential election. People who vote third party know this. They’ve seen it. It is not lost on them. Yet still, it happens. People continue to do this. In 2016, third-party voters possibly helped Trump in a lot of swing states. Take Florida, for example. According to an article by NBC news journalist Alexandra Jaffe, the total of third-party votes was around 293,000, which was over twice the difference between Trump’s and Clinton’s votes in Florida. That’s 293,000 voters who could have voted for either Trump or Clinton, causing a possibly different outcome. 

In my opinion, it’s unfair to assume whom third-party voters would have voted for in 2016 had the only options been Trump and Clinton. The fact of the matter is, they voted third-party because they did not want to choose between Trump and Clinton. They found a candidate they liked instead. But there’s a privilege in that choice that is not spoken about enough.

It is an act of privilege to be able to cast your vote for a third-party candidate while knowing they won’t win. It may feel great morally, but in reality an election determines human rights as well as who’s president. The election in 2016 mattered for immigrant rights. It mattered for women’s rights. It mattered for LGBTQ+ rights. It mattered for health care. It mattered for racial justice. It mattered in terms of the future of the Supreme Court. It mattered for our planet. It mattered for human rights, so to ignore that and choose to stay on your moral high ground and vote for a third-party candidate, you are privileged. You’re privileged because to you, human rights issues aren’t crucial enough to swallow your pride when you vote. The way I view it, a vote isn’t just about you. It’s about everyone. 

Our system isn’t perfect. The two parties cause immense division, and each year the majority of the country stating that they are disappointed in the options is a huge problem. But in order to change a system, I believe you must work within it. My opinion is that voting for the Democratic candidate this year will help us move in a better direction for the people. In this case, that would be Joe Biden. Vote like your rights depend on it, and if they don’t, vote like someone you love’s do. Vote like your planet is dying, because it is. Vote for the future so that there is one.

Image source: Medium.

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