3rd Parties: Defanging “Wasted Vote” Syndrome

third parties

One of the biggest lessons from the 2004 presidential election when I worked on the Badnarik campaign was that wasted vote syndrome is alive and well. Every election, Libertarians, Greens, and Constitutionalists are praised for their principles, but warned to save it “for the next election.” In recent years, the strategy of Republicans and Democrats to lock out third party candidates is to stress that this election is “too important to lose.” All the while paying either ignoring the greivances of third parties or paying token lip service to them.

Ignore for a moment the plethora of alternative voting methods which promise to break us out of the two-party duopoly, yet lose steam as soon as the elections pass. Instead, focus on how candidates can overcome the media labeling that naturally comes with being the “third choice.”

Use the comments to talk about what kinds of messages third parties should be sending in order to defang the wasted vote and spolier candidate syndrome that haunts them.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. As if the Big-L Libertarian Party didn’t already have enough problems, “teaming up” with the Green and Reform Parties is not going to help.

    Heck, why not shack up with the Workers World Party and the Communists while you’re at it?

  2. Kip, I’m looking at this from a non-libertarian standpoint and trying to offer more choice in voting. If the only ballot choice was Libertarian or Democrats, that wouldn’t be much of a democratic process either.

    Besides, if a town community came together and wanted to vote Communists into power there, logically they should be able to, so long as they didn’t use that power to shut out competing candidates in the future.

    /will probably get slammed for saying that in the rest of the comment thread

  3. Kip,

    I think the test of whether teaming up will work will be tested with the Kevin Zeese campaign.

  4. In Vermont we have six Progressives in the State House. A few years ago we had a Libertarian in the State House. Our lone congressman is an independent (although he is a self described social-democrat). In states like Vermont and NH, the LP can make inroads if we committed some of the national LP resources to these small winnable states instead of wasting it on difficult ballot access states like OK.

    You can check out the start of Vermont’s 10/10/10 plan at http://www.vtlp.org/ for what we are doing in Vermont. We have small districts (4000 voters). Voters are more likely to vote for the person than the party. It means finding serious candidates to spend the effort to knock on all of the doors. It also means making sure our candidates have the funds so they can focus on knocking on the doors and not about the fund raising, mailings, and other campaign details.

    To get rid of the wasted voter syndrome we need to focus our resources to get Libertarians elected where it feasible.

  5. Well, our Executive Director in Maryland left over the Zeese campaign (among other things), saying the same things that Kip does.

    Yours truly,

    …take your ball and go home…

  6. My argument:
    “In your entire lifetime of voting it is extremely unlikely you will ever vote in any election where your single vote determines the outcome of the election. So since your single vote will not determine the outcome of any election, you should use your vote to send a message to the candidates and electorate, that your vote is a signal of what direction you think government, or governance by the office voted for, should go, as reflected in the positions taken by the candidate and his or her party.”

    Of course, this is true only on an individual basis. Elections are won by getting the most votes, and this is done in the aggregate. As the most famous talk radio host in Colorado http://www.850koa.com/shows/rosen/index.html said last week speaking to students http://cugop.org/ “Politics are about one thing, and one thing only: winning elections.”

    But the “Send a message” argument was covered by the article cited showing the influence of aggregate third party votes.

  7. i also tend to think that “teaming up” with other parties, at least in the style zeese is doing so – being registered and involved with all 3??? – is not a great idea. our political message is blurred and it adds more confusion to the already mass ignorance about what our party stands for.

    as far as means of getting people out of that “wasted vote” mentality, i’ve found the most convincing argument to be the following:
    (a) admit that perhaps there is little chance of winning whatever election you’re talking about
    (b) focus on the “sending a message” to the two main parties aspect of voting third party, and explaining what kind of voting totals it takes to get federal campaign funds like the big boys do
    (c) highlight the person you’re speaking to’s opinions. after 10 years of heavy prodding, just last week i finally got my mother to admit “i think i might be a libertarian” – simply by extracting her opinions on the issues and showing her where she falls in the political world

  8. With restrictive ballot access laws we should join with other third parties (and advocacy groups) on issues with which we agree (certainly more open ballot access), and ignore or challenge them on issues with which we disagree.

    Stranger brings up another factor I haven’t been able to sucessfully counter (yet–this will be easier when we are more successful!)–many people want to vote for and identify with the winner, or the most likely challenger (the two major party candidates): “That’s my candidate (or the one who came closest to defeating him/her)!” I think most elected politicians would be eager to respond to a constituent unless they thought the constituent was actively working against the politician or his/her main issues, and even then might consider that the consituent’s mind might be changed by a favorable experience.

    I think it was Chris Rock who said something like “picking a political party is like joining a gang.” Maybe there’s a sports team analogy also.

  9. I heard the wasted vote excuse many times in Texas. I, like Stranger, admitted such.

    “You are abolutely right, Bush will take Texas.” “You are right, your vote does not matter here.” “You are sending a message without doing anything except voting how you wish.” Texas could have been really signifcant in third party voting during the last presidential election. But people, not understanding, continued to vote for the (imagined) better of two evils- even here, in Texas.

  10. “Besides, if a town community came together and wanted to vote Communists into power there, logically they should be able to, so long as they didn’t use that power to shut out competing candidates in the future.

    /will probably get slammed for saying that in the rest of the comment thread”

    Of course you will. Unless the vote is unanimous, the town would be taking property that belongs to people against their will. Voting is a fine thing, but a vote should never take away people’s rights, like their life, liberty, or property. If 4 out 5 vote to kill the fifth and take his land, is this just? Should this be allowed? Of course not. Life, liberty, and property are sacred rights that no vote can justly revoke.

    Or as Benjamin Franklin put it, “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”

    That said, I think we CAN stand with other parties and fight the wasted vote syndrome…but the relationship should go no further than that.

  11. Don’t vote third party.
    Vote fourth.
    Even fifth.
    Perhaps you’d like sixth?

    The world is not black or white. There is not just two sides every story.

    There’s many multiple choices, solutions, and ideas.

    It’s too bad people are to dense to see them all :P.