Thoughts on Voting “Third Party”

I voted early this year, and I voted mostly for 3rd party candidates. After much waffling over Johnson or Stein for President, I finally settled on Johnson. I disagree with him on some major points, but I agree on the most important issues which have to  do with too much accumulation of power. I can live with the differences if he’s really serious about these points, and of the candidates he was the most convincingly sincere about these.

Sadly, because of our “first past the post” voting system in the USA, this means I’m unlikely to see my vote control who gets elected. I’d like us to introduce some form of “preferential voting” system which allows voter preferences to be measured more accurately — these were probably not considered in the writing of the US Constitution because they are more complicated to implement, but with today’s technology, they are trivial. I prefer the logic behind “runoff voting“, but just about any of them would be an improvement. In such a system, my vote wouldn’t be “thrown away”, because I would have voted something like 1-Johnson, 2-Stein, and 3-Obama. Obama would probably get my vote in the final runoff, but I wouldn’t have to give up the right to vote my conscience. These systems require that the winner of the election isn’t just the “least bad” choice, but actually someone whom the majority of voters voted FOR.

We as Americans need to get to a system where we vote FOR things and not AGAINST things.

This is the real, deeper problem behind a two-party system. When you have only two parties, too much of the process becomes focused on who you are voting against. And that makes every election about the “lesser of two evils” — meaning that every election, we elect for an evil. Over time, it adds up, and the evil has taken over.

The evil I’m talking about here is all the collected evil that BOTH Democrats and Republicans are complicit in. Right now, that evil is bigger than any of the little evils that are being discussed in the election campaigns.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care. Sure I care. Bias against same-sex marriage is unfair and a major inconvenience for a lot of people. But really, when you get down to it, just how bad is it on the grand scale of our national problems? Just about everything you can do in a marriage can be achieved by some other legal means — it just involves a lot of paperwork: living wills, power of attorney, trust funds, etc.

The economy is crummy. And the wealth-inequality is creating serious problems in this country. But ultimately, the economy will eventually right itself, no matter how much the Democrats or Republicans screw with it. We have some power over that ourselves.

And health care? Obamacare is in my opinion, an improvement. But it was stripped of its teeth when they took out the public option. Now it’s basically the same kind of racket as forcing people to buy car insurance in order to drive. It’s basically a Republican plan, even though they are now fighting it.

Near-and-dear to me is space policy, and while the Democrats have generally not done me a lot of favors in that area, Obama has done the right things a lot in space policy. I’m pretty impressed with that. Romney would undoubtedly just slash and bash space. Republicans are not known for their forward-looking approach to science policy.

So, sure: we need to fix those things.

But do we really need to fix them more than, say detention (or execution) without due process? Imperial wars for profit? Corporate control of government so that it has become a democratic republic in name only? More prisoners (most of them on victimless crimes) than any other nation on Earth? Police brutality? The violation of fundamental constitutional rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly? Really?

We have real, life-threatening problems in this country. Reasons why we might not HAVE a country in 10 or 20 years. Because the way things are going, our economy will tank completely. We’re going to have to absorb many thousands of psychologically traumatized veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and possibly from yet-to-be-started wars). Our government will become a fascist dictatorship. Dissidents will be executed without trial. And then at some point we’ll become so weak as a result of all of this that we’ll be invaded and taken over by some other world power (at a horrific cost in bloodshed). And the worst thing is, we’ll be so happy about it when it happens because it will have gotten so freaking awful that the occupation government will be an improvement.

This has happened to other nations. It CAN happen to us if we let it. We need to stop pretending that it can’t because we have some magic “American-ness” dust that protects us. The only way it’s not going to happen is if we choose to stop it from happening and take action to prevent it.

That scares me too, because my voting third party probably isn’t enough. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could fix things ourselves before it gets like that?

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About Terry Hancock

Terry Hancock is the producer and director of "Lunatics" ( http://lunatics.tv ). He is also a regular columnist for Free Software Magazine ( http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles_by/5 ), and a lifelong advocate for space, science, and technology. More at http://terryhancock.narya.net
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