(Left to right) Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party (from left), Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party.
In 5 days, the American people will decide which President is best to manage the economy, police the world and spread democracy overseas. On November 6th, we as a people will vote for one of the two major party candidates, President Barack Obama and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
But some of us won’t.
In fact, I think a great many of us won’t. Whether or not the independent candidates in this election can get any traction to win is obvious. There is no hope of any of them winning. However, third party candidates have historically played a major role in shaping the two major parties. Although in recent years independents have mostly been rejected the public and the media, there are vibrant third parties that are competing for the attentions of people who would like to make a statement and influence one of the major parties a certain way.
That is what third parties can do in this election.
As the American Socialist movement of the turn of the early 20th century morphed themselves into a Progressive movement to eventually be subsumed into the Democratic Party, so too are American Libertarians preparing for just such a possible scenario. Libertarian Republicans have already been making steady gains into the party on local levels, despite the heavy resistance from the GOP establishment at the Republican National Convention in Florida that occurred. If the libertarians continue their inroads electing House and Senate members, they could very well give themselves a President Rand Paul victory in 2016 with their coalition building prowess. But a vote for Mitt Romney 2012 is a vote against Rand Paul 2016. Tea Party Conservatives and libertarians have nothing to gain and everything to lose from a Mitt Romney Presidency. The establishment wins either way with Romney or Obama. At least in the scenario of a loss for Mitt Romney, the tea partiers and libertarians can continue their reform of the GOP while they are again leaderless.
Even now, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who bitterly opposed the candidacy of Senator Rand Paul has hired the campaign manager of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the Senators father who inspired legions of young people. This signals a shift by the establishment who want only to remain in power and to serve what they think is the “public interest.” If Senator McConnell is trying to avoid a Tea Party challenge to his right, what does that say about where the threats are coming from and who the politicians must pander to?
It is the libertarians.
One might ask, “What is the point of building a Libertarian Party if it might just be subsumed into one of the major parties in the future?” The point of that is because like the turn of the century Socialist Party apparatchiks, such a shift could shift the tide of politics away from Statism and towards a new libertarian future. Towards a more libertarian republic.
Voting for a third party candidate such as Gary Johnson makes sense for a number of reasons. If you live in a state that is solidly Democratic or Republican, you risk nothing by casting a vote for a third party, that is if you are actually interested in real reform (and committed to the democratic process but that’s another argument). You risk nothing because your state would already go to a certain party regardless of your actions. Your vote actually counts for very little. However, your vote does have more impact if you cast it for a third party that you favor.
Because your vote helps ensure more ballot access for that party in the next election.
This author will be voting for Gary Johnson for many reasons. He may not have the charisma that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney have. As a businessman and Governor of New Mexico, he certainly has the acumen necessary for the highest Executive Office. He’s not a liar. He’s honest about his past and allows you to understand why he became who he is. I respect that in a person, when you have nothing to hide and you act like it. He also doesn’t have any interest in running our lives, managing the economy or policing the world, which brings me back to my first point.
If the Republicans gain the House and Senate and Barack Obama is reelected the gridlock will continue, and that will be good. With the government divided evenly between the parties, they will be unable to pass budgets and the sequestration cuts will kick in. Government will be forced to be cut and the hard decisions that are necessary will have to be made.
Voting for a third party candidate shows that the GOP or Democratic parties must reform in that direction if they are to survive at all. Voting Libertarian for the Presidential ballot and Republican on the House and Senate races when they deserve it as in the cases of an Justin Amash, Thomas Massie and Connie Mack is the smart move.
Or if you prefer, don’t vote at all.