It's all just an imagination of my figment.
October 25, 2004
Third Party Candidates in a Two Party System
At the last Presidential Debate two third party candidates, Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party and David Cobb of the Green Party, were arrested for trying to gain entry to the Presidential Debate in Arizona. Before the debate they had petitioned the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) but were refused. On the night of the debate, they walked their way through the crowd and across the police line to submit another petition and gain admittance to the debate, but were stopped and arrested. This kind of two-party control hurts American democracy as well as Americans themselves.
The current system for elections does not accommodate third party candidates at all. The first noticeable setback for third-parties lies in the election itself. American voters, called the electorate, unknowingly make the mistake of assuming there are only two candidates. When they’re presented with a third (or fourth) option, they either ignore it or believe they’re “wasting their vote.” Our bipartisan government does not alleviate this problem, but rather exacerbates it. The government passes laws that hinder third parties ability to gain admittance on the ballots. Right now, Cobb is on the ballot in only thirty states; Badnarik fares slightly better with forty-eight. How can people be represented fairly when they cannot even have the chance to vote for all the candidates?
The Electoral College elects our leaders based on the majority vote winner in the individual states. This system itself conflicts with the will of the electorate. Often times it skews the election, giving Americans presidents that haven’t received the majority of the votes. This has happened several times in American history, the most recent being the 2000 election, were Democrat Al Gore received roughly five hundred thousand more votes than the current president, George Bush. Most everyone remembers the “Floridian Fiasco” in which chads and questions of voter intent muddied the waters of the election. There, the third-party choice of Ralph Nader supposedly drew votes away from Gore, allowing Bush to win the majority of Florida’s votes. This in turn conceded all of Florida’s Electoral votes to Bush, granting him to win the Presidency. Allowing third-party candidates to only influence, not win, elections is decidedly unconstitutional.
Running for president requires pools of cash, usually ones big enough for an average child to go swimming. In the 2000 election alone, George Bush and Al Gore combined for more than 400 million dollars in funding. Third-party candidates can simply not afford to spend the exaggerated amounts of money required to have your name recognized by the average voter.
Because of this third-party dominance the government has become complacent, simply refusing to advance any beneficial or progressive legislation. In biology, when a population breeds among itself and doesn’t receive any genes from others, it develops genetic disorders and diseases. The same can be said of government. By limiting itself to two ideologies, it denies itself the opportunity to grow in new directions and evolve. With politicians worrying only about reelection, they sometimes forget what they’re being reelected for. Politicians adopt moderate policies that differ just enough from their contemporaries to attract notice. To fully represent the people fairly, a change is needed in the political system of the United States.
One method of broadening America’s political horizon requires a change in voting style. Most of the time people don’t agree with every policy of the politician running for office: they’ll like the drug plan, but not like the economic plan. But by being able to cast our ballots for one or more candidates, as is allowed in approval voting, voters more accurately express who they wish to represent them. Assume that John, a fictitious example by trade, likes the benefits plan offered by Jeanne, an imaginary lawyer with big ideas, but likes Ivan’s stance on the pursuit of parole violators. Under the current system, he would be torn between these two candidates and be forced to pick one over the other. In approval voting, John would be able to choose all the candidates that he supports; he could vote for Jeanne, Ivan, and not to mention Bob (who has a decidedly good record on ink control). All the while he can exclude the candidates that he does not support (e.g. Opgeven, Martinez, and Codger). The candidate that claims the most votes wins office and people are no longer forced to choose “the lesser of two evils.”
Realizing that approval voting will never be able to take hold in this country, another option presents itself: abolishing (or at least reworking) the Electoral College. America by ridding itself of the Electoral College will be able to uphold its time honored tradition: “One man, one vote.” As a result of having a president that wasn’t elected by the majority, America undermines its core values of equality. By at least changing the “winner-take-all” system used by states to calculate electoral votes, America will better serve its people. If states change their laws to award electoral votes proportionally there will no longer be states in which the minority is ignored. Swing states will be eliminated and candidates will have to campaign everywhere equally. Eliminating the Electoral College all together would allow the popular vote winner (such as in elections for minor offices) to reach office.
Unless candidates have enough money to match their weight with the weight of their money in twenty dollar bills, they will remain unrecognized by the general public. Advertisement prices are high enough to make anyone with a tight mouth and even tighter wallet jaw drop. If producers were required to give all qualified candidates an equal amount of free television and radio coverage at approximately equal times of day then every viable candidate would be equally represented and thus known by the public. The government also should distribute an unbiased, nonpartisan document with every candidate’s position and record accurately displayed. They should then mail it to every house and thus inform the electorate of their choices and options. When every candidate receives equal coverage then the public can make an informed vote based on information, rather than on appearances. In doing so, the exorbitant amounts of money required for campaigns would be reduced to a manageable sum that everyone could afford.
By combining all of these solutions, America greatly increases its ability to move forward in an ever changing world. But even by adopting only one of these answers America takes a step toward progress. Two-party dominance does nothing but stick the U.S. in the dreaded “quagmire” so feared in Vietnam. It’s time to give other options a chance.
“Do you think I do not know
That you plotted to kill me, plotted to steal my throne?
Tell me, in God’s name: am I a coward, a fool,
That you should dream you could accomplish this?
A fool who could not see your slippery game?
A coward, not to fight back when I saw it?
You are the fool, Creon, are you not? hoping
Without support or friends to get a throne?
Thrones may be won or bought: you could do neither.”