Typically narcissistic blogging.

Third Party Voting

Right now, liberally-minded people are in a bit of a bind, because we are stuck between a weak and a crazy place. Seems to me, the political picture looks a bit like this:

I ripped this off of a church web site, I hope God doesn't sue.Step on a crack, break the Constitution’s back

Part of the issue, of course, is that right now the two primary parties in this country have largely forgotten themselves—who they are and why they even exist. They’ve become lost in the mire that is politics, and right now the viable candidates for both have failed to impress. The Republicans are stronger, because they have no problem breaking the rules and salting the earth to get what they want out of political negotiations, and the Democrats are less terrifying, but seem to accomplish virtually nothing in comparison. Also, right now the candidates for the parties fall somewhere on these respective spectra:

(Click on them if the blurring is as irritating to you as it is to me) 

Wondering where “Douchey” is? It’s the entire line.


Sorry, I don’t have a little Obama figure for you to put somewhere on the line.

So, what to do? 

I’ve seen three solutions to the problem:

1. Vote for Obama anyway.
2. Vote for Ron Paul. 
3. Vote some other third party and stick it to the 2-party system.

If I leave the first option alone, since I already discussed Obama here, and pretend that people aren’t seriously considering the racist, homophobic, anti-EPA, pro-religion in schools, anti-separation of church and state wingnut that is Ron Paul (discussed beautifully and thoroughly, with sources, here), I still have to consider the third.

If a third party were to come up with a strong candidate—one with actual political experience, one who knows how the system works and can be strong within it, and one with enough charisma to carry a country, now would be the time. This country is filled with people who are disgruntled, angry, depressed, and disappointed. If ever there were a time to vote outside the two-party system, it’s now.

But here is why I don’t buy the third party argument, and I am plagiarizingexpanding on a reply I gave to thoughtful commenter Dana:

Let’s pretend we have a viable third-party candidate (we don’t). I still seriously doubt the option, because everybody who is disgruntled with the current situation would have to do it. The only way to make that statement is to get everybody (or at least a majority) to sign onto it and proudly and publicly so that other people won’t worry about being castigated or ridiculed for throwing votes away. Unless they vote for Nader, because, duh.

Every time somebody brings up a third party option, it’s like we are daring each other to break the mold, but ultimately we all know that not enough people will take up the dare and go with it, and that if not enough people take the dare, everybody will get hurt.

I would love for my country to prove me wrong on this, but my pessimism is getting the better of me.

So, people who insist that voting for a third party is the answer to all of our problems: How about finding a viable third-party candidate who is strong enough to make people consider voting outside of the two party system, and if you think you have such a candidate, do you know a feasible solution to getting enough people to vote for them without simply handing the election to a party that appears to be actively trying to destroy our country?

By “feasible” I mean, “will actually work.”

ETA: There’s no good answer for the 2012 elections forthcoming, so I am putting forth my own third-party candidate:

Note: Beyonce + “Knock Knock, Motherfucker” belong to The Bloggess (if you haven’t read the relevant blog post, because you live under a rock in a barn in a cave in TibeChinAfrica, it’s here). The godawful Photoshop job is all me. Yeah, baby.

12 responses

  1. This:


    I understand the limitations, mind you:

    1. We have to get this system set up first.
    2. It has to be set up state by state because how states set up and count votes is not a federal matter unless civil rights issues are involved.
    3. It won’t actually *elect* the third-party candidates. Just let people vote for them.

    But unfortunately there are NO easy answers right now. Just answers that will take a long time to implement. But we need to start implementing this one if we want anything to change.

    The other option is we do away with parties entirely and let people vote for whomever the hell they want. No primaries, no nothing, just put someone on the ballot. Which will never happen.

    Australia does IRV and it seems to work pretty OK for them. They still elect nutjobs from time to time, but it’s Australia. 😛

    December 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    • IRV voting would be lovely, but in addition to introducing and setting up the system in a feasible way, the issue of money still comes into play. While it would allow people to vote for whomever they like, and rank them, it’ll still ultimately be a 2-party system because that’s where the money and advertising is.

      Unless there is a way around that.

      Regardless, yes: being able to vote for a more ideal candidate without handing the office to the scariest ones would be really fantastic.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      • focalintent

        One thing I like about IRV is that it allows voters to express a vote against a candidate, as much as a vote for a candidate. “Yes, you won – but only 5% of the population wanted you as their first choice,”

        December 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  2. Also, nice to meet you. 🙂 I saw you post at The Bloggess and I thought, “Whiskey Pants?” and came over and looked. Hi!

    December 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    • Hi! I didn’t expect to find readers and commenters by commenting on her blog, but I’m tickled. Welcome 🙂

      December 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

  3. focalintent

    I think to really see a 3rd party be viable and change things, people will have to be willing to go in for a much longer haul than we seem willing to. Some People seem to want the expediency of throwing a non-republicrat into the white house, because that will magically fix everything in one shot, right?

    Only, there’s two problems there that I keep seeing. For one, the president isn’t really -that- powerful in our system. For the other, there’s a decided lack of recognition/understanding of any viable 3rd parties at a national level (quick, what % of the country do you think could reasonably speak about the libertarian or green parties? I’ll ignore the shuddering that the idea of libertarians being our next viable 3rd party causes me).

    I’ve come to believe the way to do a 3rd party is a long haul crawl up through the system representing at the city, county, state, and finally national level. I find it hard to imagine a party having a viable presidential candidate when they’ve never had any reasonable representation in congress or even any state governments. (And to me, “but that one guy, over there!” doesn’t count as reasonable representation – as satisfying as it may be to see).

    But we aren’t a patient nation, and that doesn’t address what’s going to happen in 2012.

    I’m frustrated by this pervasive (but not as unfounded as I would like) idea that any votes for a 3rd party candidate are votes that make it more likely the “more wrong” person will win. Which, to me, seems to further cut into the viability of ever getting a 3rd party in there if the 3rd parties keep aiming straight at the white house. However, choosing the lesser of two evils feels less and less viable to me going forward, as the two evils approach each other from opposite directions heading towards some point of convergence that is, at the end, going to suck for us all no matter how we got there.

    On some particularly dark days I wish “It’s time to stop choosing the lesser of two evils. Cthulhu/Kali 2012” wasn’t just a bumper sticker.

    I should stop rambling and get back to work.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    • “Which, to me, seems to further cut into the viability of ever getting a 3rd party in there if the 3rd parties keep aiming straight at the white house.”

      This is probably the biggest issue. The vast majority of our third-party candidates have virtually no political experience or presence (especially compared to most Dem/Rep candidates, who either have the chops or are closely related to people who do, not that I’m talking about W or anything), and it’s really difficult to believe in them. It makes them look weak.

      If these candidates worked their way up, as you say, they will become stronger. The question is–how corrupt will they become as they go? Part of what excites us about third-party candidates is that they appear far more pure than the people who have been in the game the whole time. But that’s because they haven’t actually gotten their hands dirty yet.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      • focalintent

        Even W did time as governor of texas before making his white house run :/ — I agree with you on the corruption concern – especially given how much money is involved in politcking at a congressional level.

        This is why I’m a fan of strong campaign finance reform/oversight (and bristle so much at citizen’s united) – it feels like the system is set up to corrupt those who go into it. Or, at least, it better rewards those willing to accept a little bit of that corruption along the way.

        Really, though, I think so many things need to change at so many levels of our government (and hell, let’s be honest, our society as well) to really fix things – it’s hard sometimes not to feel overwhelmed by it. And how do we change things quickly enough that the agents of attempted change don’t end up getting co’opted by existing structures (c.f. absorption of tea party by republicans, and the ongoing attempt to absorb/co-opt the occupy movements by moveon and the democrats)?

        December 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

        • Nuke it from orbit.

          December 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

          • focalintent

            It’s the only way to be sure.

            December 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm

  4. It would be nice if the folks who hold the ideals of the Occupy movement would Occupy the Democratic Party. The Dems took a notable jump towards progressivism in ’05-’08, under the influence of the Democracy for America Folks, but Obama is NOT a member of that wing of the party, unfortunately, and he, Rahm, and their ilk have pulled the party back to the right.

    I am not a fan of Instant Runoff. It is better than the current system MOST of the time, but it has some really ugly failure modes. For single-winner elections, I favor Approval (vote up or down on every candidate) or Range (assign a rating, like 0-10, to every candidate). For multi-winner, there are some good proportional variants of both of those. Though the multi-winner version of IRV, STV-PR (single transferrable vote for proportional representation) is pretty good as long as you’re selecting at least 5 winners for a district. The failure modes of IRV still exist, but they’re less probable and they can only crop up in selecting the last candidate of the set being chosen.


    December 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    • Oh, and I should note that IRV is well-known to be an utter failure at eliminating duopoly. There are several countries that use it, most notably Australia, which has a two-party system just like we do. (Technically one of their two “parties” is a coalition of smaller parties, known, with great originality, as “the Coalition”. The Coalition parties avoid running candidates against each other unless they’re absolutely certain they won’t accidentally hand a victory to the Liberal party, which is Australia’s conservative party. Fun, eh?)

      December 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm

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