In a comment on the “It’s Romney” post, which sparked a discussion on whether voting for a third party candidate is “throwing your vote away,” Todd made an interesting and rather compelling argument that I think deserves a post of its own:
I feel like the people who mock third-party candidates are akin to those who play chess by refusing to consider anything but the current move. That is to say, they rule out any long-term strategy by focusing solely on the short term. I.e. “What is the best move you can make now to improve things immediately after that move?” But, of course, that isn’t always the best strategy, either in politics or chess.
In the world of economics, we speak with our purchases. You can hate on McDonald’s all day long, mocking them to your friends and on Facebook, but if you still eat there, if you still pay them, McDonald’s doesn’t really care.
It’s the same with politics. To the degree that political parties and politicians hear anything from the average person, they hear our vote (I’m cynical enough to realize that what they really listen to is money, but that’s a different topic). So if you go on and on in blog comments about how Romney isn’t all that conservative, he wasn’t the best possible candidate, and so on … and then you still vote for Romney, here’s what the Republican Party will hear: you liked Romney.
Don’t be too surprised, then, if you get more candidates like Romney in the Republican Party. Because they know that, even though you claim to like fiscal (or whatever) conservatism, you’ll still vote for the Republican, regardless. There’s no market force, as it were, to push the party in the direction of actual fiscal conservatism — they’ll get what they want from you, either way.
Yes, denying them your vote and voting third-party might lead to a temporal gain for the other major party you really don’t like. But, if the third-party votes are significant enough — if the GOP sees that it can’t actually count on your vote no matter how lousy the candidate — then they might actually have to deal with that by straightening up their act.
Such a chastened party might then actually run a candidate you approve of. But you’d have to play the long game to find out.
And most voters refuse to play the long game.
First of all, do you agree, and, if not, how would you answer him? Second, what ARE some third parties with candidates that might be worth voting for? I know of the Libertarians, the Greens, and the Constitution Party. Can anyone speak to their candidates, or have they been chosen yet? I heard Roseanne Barr is running for the Green Party nomination. When voting to make a point, do the candidates matter since you don’t have to worry about their actually getting elected? And are there some better third parties than those? (And by my count, there are more than three.) Is there a Distributivist Party, a Monarchist Party, a Two Kingdoms Party? I realize that if such parties exist, they aren’t likely to get on the state ballot. There is that bi-partisan party whose candidates will be selected via the internet. If any of you are sold on some other party, feel free to make your case.