Dear Sir or Madam,
Today, we feel the need to begin with a disclaimer. This post is mostly based on opinion, and the position taken is not necessarily shared by all members of the project.
While none of us were pulling for Donald Trump in the recent US Presidential election, not all of us were in favour of Hillary Clinton either. Our post today is in defence of third party candidates and voters.
When Trump's win was announced last week, social media erupted with absolute rage directed towards those who voted for him, and even some of those who didn't. Even mainstream media sources hopped on the bandwagon of shaming third party voters1.
There are a few problems with this position. The first is one of mathematics. The CNN piece cited above is pure speculation. The Wall Street Journal's Byron Tau wrote a piece1 in which statistics were actually considered and the overall conclusion was that Clinton would have needed all of the votes that went to the Green Party’s Jill Stein in order to win. This is admittedly within the realm of possibility. Further, she would have needed roughly half of the votes that went to Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, which is extremely unlikely.
A CBS exit poll3 shows that 55% of Libertarian voters would not have voted in a race limited to the two frontrunner candidates. Of course, it is important to recognize the extremely limited value of polls, especially in an election with such a surprising result. Having said that, voter registration might be a better indicator. Brandon Ellyson, a Libertarian Party staffer, published an interesting statistic. Apparently, of the Libertarian voters who had previously registered with one of the two big parties, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by a 3:1 ratio4. This makes Byron Tau’s 50% target seem even more unlikely.
Putting aside the statistics, there is another reason why the anger directed towards third party voters is wrong;it shows a fundamental disrespect for democracy. Third party voters tend to vote ethically instead of strategically. The fact that over half of Libertarian voters said that they would refuse to vote for a Democrat or a Republican is evidence of this. What critics fail to realize is that many Green and Libertarian voters do not see either of the two major parties as an acceptable choice, and therefore refuse to vote for what they see as a “lesser evil”. These voters should be commended for their willingness to stand by their positions, even in the face of an unwinnable scenario, and not vilified for refusing to compromise their integrity.
The United States has become overly invested in a false dichotomy, and their electoral system is designed to ensure that only two parties are able to meaningfully participate. American politics has almost gotten to the point where it effectively mimics sports teams. You wear red or blue and wave the appropriate coloured pennant, even though it's very likely that you disagree with at least some of the policies of your side. We here at The Dominion do not have the answer, but we recognize that there needs to be greater access to diversity of political opinion and representation in the United States.
Your Humble and Obedient Servants,
1 Eli Watkins, “How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein helped elect Donald Trump”, CNN (10 November 2016), online: <www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/politics/gary-johnson-jill-stein-spoiler/>.
2 Byron Tau, “Did Third-Party Candidates Cost Hillary Clinton the Election?”, Wall Street Journal (14 November 2016), online: <blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/11/14/how-third-party-voters-influenced-election-2016/>.
3 Stanley Feldman and Melissa Herrman, “CBS News Exit Polls: How Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency”, CBS News (9 November 2016), online: <www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/>.
4 Brandon Ellyson, “We had 3:1 registered Republicans over Democrats onboard.” (9 November 2016), posted on Brandon Ellyson, online: Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/brandon.ellyson/posts/10211250087233922>.