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BOGDEWIC AND SPRINGER: Give third parties a chance

The two-party duopoly is hurting our democracy

Donald Trump is terrifying. After considering the many ways in which we could describe the less-than-charming real estate mogul, we simply could not exceed the accuracy and simplicity of that statement. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is, at the very least, a habitual liar and a smugly successful scam artist. These two statements are generally reflected in opinion polling about these candidates, yet voters still seem to be mostly falling in line behind the candidates as if this were any other election. How is this possible? It is possible because the average American believes that voting for a candidate who will almost certainly not win is akin to throwing his ballot ticket in the trash. A vote for a “loser,” as our orange friend would say, is a wasted vote.

This argument is popular because it requires very minimal logic and mental energy to comprehend and repeat. Founded upon the fear of wasting one’s vote, one of our most sacred constitutional rights, the claim is dangerously powerful. Moreover, the problem seems to be exacerbated by the American electoral system. “To the victor goes the spoils,” or so the saying goes. Unlike a parliamentary system, where minority parties still have a voice in government, the Electoral College lends a voice solely to parties that win a simple majority somewhere. Third-party candidates up and down the ballot are, historically, almost always incapable of securing this majority (or even a plurality) in a single district, let alone an entire state. This fact alone deters voters from choosing candidates whose beliefs actually align with their own. However, simply “settling” in order to avoid wasting one’s vote erodes the value of this most basic civic responsibility and the importance of factions within a democratic society. This “wasted vote” catchphrase, however logical it may seem, contradicts everything American democracy was meant to protect and foster.

There is one major flaw in the “wasted vote” argument: the value of a vote is not simply numerical. Votes have symbolic value; a vote is a statement. When either Trump or Clinton prevails in November (and, without a miracle, one of them will), voters will send a message to both Democrats and Republicans, as follows: no matter what filth the major parties bring forth and nominate, they will maintain their stranglehold on our government and, by extension, our freedoms. While party alignments and platforms have shifted drastically several times since the Civil War, the same groups often retained their power. By selecting “the lesser of two evils” and voting for someone with whom we do not agree, we allow the two-party system to remain a fundamental and existential threat to our democracy. We ignore our conscience, and we are forced into the confines of a dysfunctional duopoly that we have the power, but not the will, to change.

Voting, by its very definition, is “a formal indication of a choice between two or more candidates or courses of action.” Whether one votes to prevent a certain candidate from winning, because he enjoys filling in ballot bubbles or because he simply likes the appearance or personality of a candidate, the vote is interpreted in the same way: the voter supports the chosen candidate and his or her party and ideals.

If, come November, you decide to vote for a candidate whose vision for our country, character and demeanor disgusts you, you will waste your vote. If you vote for a candidate for the sole reason that the other possibility terrifies you, you will waste your vote. Your vote will be wasted as a direct result of your attempt to use in the most effective way.

If, looking back at history and all of the people who have devoted their lives to earning and defending our right to self-governance, we as the American people simply select the lesser of two evils, we will have done worse than wasted our votes; we will have squandered their sacrifices and ignored their advice. We simply cannot hand our children the same corrupt system that our parents’ generation has given us; we have a responsibility to work for change. The purpose of this article is to encourage you to do just that. Regardless of who you vote for, we implore you: please find a better reason than fear, than the lesser of two evils, than avoiding wasting your vote. The most wasteful vote is not one spent on a candidate who does not ultimately win, but one spent on a candidate with whom you do not agree.

Eva Bogdewic is a first-year in the College and is the group’s director of outreach. Cameron Springer is a third-year in the Engineering School and president of Youth for Gary Johnson at U.Va.