The false dichotomy of American partisanship

By Gus Cromwell, staff writer

Ah yes, election time, a magical time in fall where friendships tear, proposition ads dominate the airwaves, and the usual argument of Democrat versus Republican, Left versus Right, and Liberal versus Conservative rages on. Yet when someone mentions a third party or their candidate, they are blasted by both sides equally in an uncommon show of bipartisanship: “it’s a wasted vote!” they might say, or, “you’re letting down your race, gender, orientation, religion, etc.” 

These proclamations are often followed by a more calm and reserved round of “X wouldn’t be my first choice either, but at least they’re not Y,” or “I really like them too, but…” or even the occasional complaint about how the electoral college works. What people who continue to spout these very pro-establishment points fail to realize is that their vote, based not upon principle, but in defense and panic, is a waste of the right we are so lucky to have. 

My example of a bullied third-party voter is not unfounded. Many of you reading have likely heard all sorts of negative things about third-party votes, but in case you haven’t, here’s a brief explanation of why people call third-party voting a waste. Everyone reading should know of America’s two main political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, but did you know there’s more? The Libertarian Party and the Green Party are the most prominent: the Green party promotes democratic socialism and the Libertarian party is much more capitalist.

 Maria Carrillo High School senior and voter Luca Salmon cites his parents as one of the main groups he has heard anti-third party talking points from. Salmon himself wants to abolish the electoral college, favors ranked-choice voting in both primaries and general elections, and wants more third-parties to represent everyone, however, he still equates voting for a third-party to “being asked if you like milk or water, and saying soda.” He said that people should cast a vote that will have an actual impact on the election and America. 

 However, third party voting does have an impact on America, the election, and the systems we live under. After 2016, 34 elected officials in multiple levels of government switched to a third-party or became independent due to disillusion with the election of that year. That same year, third-parties got over 7 million votes in the presidential election. Even though that is a small percentage overall when third-parties get bigger portions of the vote, it sends a message that a lot of Americans want something to be taken care of, and they want it now. When you vote based on what you believe and pick the candidate you believe will best represent you, you are fulfilling your civic duty and using the gift of the right to vote in the best possible way. 

The founding fathers themselves hated political polarization. Alexander Hamilton himself even called two-party systems “the most fatal disease” of popular governments. We’ve seen that disease take hold in recent years with the parties’ collaborative abilities falling apart and political social bubbles gaining steel walls. Coastal regions with diverse, large urban areas became Democratic, and rural, white, Christian areas became Republican. We now have newsmedia groups that are basically tied to parties, and politics has become much more about bickering with the other side instead of trying to better people’s lives through different methods. 

A multi-party system, with a variety of viewpoints, from many areas, is the best way forward. By voting third-party, you are protesting our polarized, two-party system and showing you want change in our country. If you vote for one candidate simply because they aren’t the other, you aren’t doing anything meaningful with your vote, and you feed into a system the founding fathers vehemently cautioned against. 

So if you can vote and want to vote for a third-party candidate, but are being pressured not to, I implore you to not listen to them. Vote for who you want to and send a message to America about what you value and what change you want to see in this country. As the great author Louis L’Amour once said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain”.

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