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A Voting Guide for the Apathetic: 2024

The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.” This quote discussing the nature of American politics is often attributed to the first President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and in the years since the Reagan Era, it has only become more and more prescient. Four uninterrupted decades of two similar types of Neoliberalism have essentially blurred the two parties together, leaving the left of the Democratic Party and the further right of the Republican Party out in the cold. The moderates of each party work together to maintain and hold the status quo, leaving those of us sick of this normalcy scrambling for alternatives.

In American politics, third-party victories are essentially non-existent. There is the occasional independent Senator, and on a state level, libertarians and progressives can make some gains (such as in Vermont), but little else. For the most part, your choices are to vote Democrat, vote Republican or vote for a near-guaranteed loser. British philosopher Mark Fisher made a similar argument for the British system between the Tories and ‘New Labour,’ calling the scenario "a system which forces you to accept the least worst as the best you can hope for.” This apathy toward the political system is extremely dangerous. The lack of alternatives at best causes stagnation and at worst leads to degradation, with one party representing the status quo and their fraternal twin representing the lurch toward greater political failures. But what if it did not have to be this way?

Third parties in current United States politics are largely aesthetic organizations, giving voters the illusion of alternatives without actually being effective forces of change. But this was not always the case. The Republican Party started as a third party, eventually becoming one of the two behemoths that dominate American politics. There are even a decent amount of twentieth-century elections with significant third-party candidates. The most significant was the 1912 Presidential Election, where former president Theodore Roosevelt ran on a third-party ticket, securing nearly 30% of the vote. The winner, Woodrow Wilson, only won with about 40% of the vote. But that is not the only election with a significant percentage of votes going to a third party.

1924’s election saw 16% of the vote going to the Progressive Party candidate. The 1948 election unfortunately saw pro-segregation Dixiecrat candidate Strom Thurmond carry four southern states. In 1968, George Wallace was the most recent third-party candidate to win electoral votes, leaving the future of third-party candidates up to the popular vote. Most recently, in 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot won a significant chunk of the popular vote on a syncretic platform. Unfortunately, that was arguably the last time Americans came close to having a president who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But that does not necessarily mean that it cannot happen in the future. 

With the most popular candidates in this election cycle again appearing to be Joe Biden and Donald Trump, many voters are truly tired of the standard political situation America currently finds itself in. Do we vote for the devil we know or 99% of the devil we know? However, there are alternatives to picking the lesser of two evils.

The two main third parties in the United States are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, running on platforms of small government capitalism and eco-socialism respectively. The Libertarian nominee this year is Chase Oliver, who has been called the “most influential libertarian,” while the Green Party returns to perennial candidate Jill Stein, the de facto face of the party.

There are also a few hats in the ring for independent candidates. Robert F. Kennedy Junior, who previously attempted to primary Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, is now running as an independent candidate on a platform of green politics and new-deal democracy. Philosopher Cornel West, another independent candidate, is running on a socialist platform of justice and economic rights.

But wait, there’s more! Remember that song ‘Because I Got High?’ Well, now the rapper behind it (Afroman) is running on a platform of criminal justice reform and cannabis legalization. Want to truly waste your vote? Vote for Dr. Shiva, an anti-vaccine activist who legally cannot become president because he was born in Bombay. There are plenty of alternatives. People just have to mobilize behind them.

Is a third-party candidate going to become the next American president? Probably not, but it is far from impossible. A truly galvanized political movement could change everything, especially at a time when people are sick and tired of the status quo. If you do vote for a third party, prepare for people to tell you that you are wasting your vote or allowing a greater evil into office. However, voting for the lesser of two evils is the same as voting for evil no matter the circumstances.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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1 Comment

Jun 08

This is a very interesting piece. I like how you discuss the history of third parties and how they have influenced American politics throughout history. I wonder if because of the electoral structure it will be difficult for a third party to become a serious force in American politics and how a third party could prevent itself from simply resembling whichever party it supplants.

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