On third party candidates

The Simpsons provided some wry political commentary in the weeks before the 1996 presidential election. Bob Dole was challenging Bill Clinton for the office, and Ross Perot was running as a third party candidate. In the episode excerpted above, Homer discovers that Dole and Clinton are really aliens in disguise and that he needs to expose them before one of them gets elected president. The story lampooned the popular notion that voting for a third party candidate meant that you were throwing your vote away. I disagree with the premise of this. I do believe that voting for a third party candidate is tantamount to voting against the major party candidate that most resembles the third party candidate. But still, this is really clever satire.

14 Responses to On third party candidates

  1. Steve Martin October 15, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    All those voters who were more conservative than liberal who voted for Ross Perot helped Bill Clinton win the Presidency.

    Ross Perot did not win 1 electoral vote. Not one.

    Third party candidates often do derail the best candidate, except in the case of Ralph Nader….he helped the best candidate.

  2. Mike Lynch October 15, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    I say your throwing away your vote when you (especially Christians) vote/settle for the two choices that the media tell you to vote/ settle for. I believe this year will see the biggest third party (not necessarily a particular part) vote in our history, sending a message to the establishment. We (especially Christians) need to start saying something with our vote, not settling.

  3. Don Johnson October 15, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    The 2 major parties go to great efforts to ensure that the system remains a 2 party system. It actually only takes a small percentage to ensure that those 2 parties are on every ballot, but they go to that effort, while for 3rd parties it is challenging to even get on the ballot in every state.

    If you look at the histories of 3rd party candidates (or when a major party splits) the result is to elect the person least like the 3rd party candidate, as he ends up dividing the votes for those who like him. This is how Wilson got elected when the Rep. party split. Gore did not show sufficient “respect” to Nader, so Nader worked hard to see Gore lose to teach him a lesson.

  4. Andy October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I think the system needs more than 2 viable options to help keep the competing parties “honest”.

  5. Mike Lynch October 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Although I don’t think they should stay home (they should choose someone based on biblical principles–that wouldn’t be Romney), I do wish all Christians would show the backbone of these men in the voting booth: http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Obama-black-pastors-election/2012/09/16/id/451930

    This has me thinking something else: are you showing love to your black brothers and sisters when you endorse a Mormon considering their past doctrinal views on people with dark skin?

    • Akash Charles October 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

      Its a past view!
      Southern Baptists also have a History!
      So does everyone else-so we should not vote for them either.
      Also the idea that one is voting based on skin color in this day and age/offending some other skin color,is racist itself.

      I am more concerned about Christians who vote for Obama.Do they not know they are voting for more murder and more policies to break down the family!

      • James Stanton October 16, 2012 at 12:27 am #

        You could easily turn this argument around. It all depends on who is being murderered and where. Economic policies destroy families too.

        Also.. Roe v Wade has been in the books for ~40 years right? Through Republican presidencies even. I don’t know how you would measure the more murder that Obama would cause.

        Good luck banning divorce.

  6. James G. October 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Back in 1992, I was a Political Science Student at San Jose State University and had the opportunity to help a professor with some exit polling. 1992 was the year in which George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot ran for President. Interestingly, there were two U.S. Senate races that year in California. One was a race in which the the Republican U.S. Senator (who had been appointed to fill a vacancy) was running to finish out his term. The other was the regularly scheduled (for lack of a better term) U.S. Senate election to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Senator Alan Cranston. This provided us with an opportunity to get an idea (based upon reported Senate votes) of which party Perot appeared to peel away more votes from. Not surprisingly, based upon what we saw in exit polling, People who voted for both Republican candidates were more likely to vote for Perot than those who voted for both of the Democrat candidates.

  7. Mark Nenadov October 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    (moderator: please use this version instead)

    Denny and others,

    I think all this equivocation that goes in in regard to voting (or the lack thereof) is quite distasteful and irrational.

    A vote for a candidate is just what it is. A vote for that candidate. And a non-vote is just what it is: a non vote. (And don’t let anyone put you on a guilt trip for your decision). Only in the whacky game of partisanship does a non-vote for one candidate equal a vote for another candidate. Ethics does not work like that in any other area.

    Denny, you said “I do believe that voting for a third party candidate is tantamount to voting against the major party candidate that most resembles the third party candidate”.

    Could you expand on why you think this?

    Your presupposition seems to be that politics must always in all cases be a zero sum game between two options. And you seem to be further presupposing that there is nothing more to voting that a mere pragmatic determination of which vote is most likely to arrive at a most favorable outcome..

    But I must say, as human beings, and especially as Christians, I sure hope there is more to voting that the pragmatism of what vote will result in the most favorable outcome.

    Isn’t a favorable outcome always the best guide of how to vote? No. Let me explain with an extreme (admittedly improbable) example:

    If I’m faced with a vote between Hitler and Mussolini, the outcome may be that Hitler wins. If I abstain from voting, my very non-vote may be the one that so to speak “rides Hitler into power”. However,, the basic issue in that case would be that neither candidate will be palpable to a moral, ethical, sane person. Mussolini isn’t good enough to vote for, even if it means Hitler will be elected.

    Likewise, taking that further down the line to make a specific application to a third party…Your approach here seems to lead to the conclusion that voting for Joe Smith in a Hitler/Mussolini/Smith vote, where Smith is a clear underdog, would be tantamount to voting for Mussolini, since Smith is more like Mussolini than Hitler. No. It wouldn’t. A vote for Smith is a vote for Smith, free of any implications of “electing” Hitler or Mussolini. Any informed person with good sense would either work up the strength to vote for Smith or not vote.

    Ok. I hope everyone understands that I am not comparing present day politicians to Hitler or Mussolini. This extreme example was just a way of showing here the absurdity of turning our voting towards ethical relativism via thinking that voting is some sort of crude negotiation of “what will bring about the best outcome”.

    What is my alternative? You have a number of options in an election. Don’t necessarily vote for the one that is the most like you. Don’t vote for anyone because he is “not the other guy”. Don’t vote for someone just because he is in a primary party or has the best chance to win. On the contrary: Vote for the person who you can fully support as president (ie. you want him to be president). And if there are multiple ones, THEN vote for the one who has the best chance.

    And by all means, if there is a viable third party option and none of the major candidates are viable, go and vote for him!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Don Johnson October 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Voting theory (yes, it exists) shows that there is no perfect voting system. That is, no matter what system is devised, there will always be ways to come up with results that can be manipulated and/or do not make sense.

    From what I have read, I think the best voting system given that all of them have potential flaws is preference voting, where a voter can vote for any and all candidates he likes (but only once, not multiple times) and whomever gets the most votes wins. This way, if you like a candidate, you will always vote for them, as there is no manipulative strategic voting found in other voting methods, like the one we have with 3rd parties wrecking the chances of the major candidate that is closest to the 3rd party candidate by splitting the vote. This is a very well known voter manipulation method, whether done intentionally or not.

    Furthermore, for the presidential vote, the electoral college provides a further level for the possibility of manipulation, esp. with winner-take- all states.

    Given our imperfect voting system, what is a voter to do? In the example you use, I would vote Mussolini over Hitler, knowing what I know now. The reason is that Mussolini was less evil and I prefer less evil to more evil. In other words, your attempt to reduce things to absurdity fails, as a Christian I have no hesitation voting for a less evil candidate.

  9. Mark Nenadov October 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Don,

    You are missing my main point, though. There is more to voting than determining the most favorable outcome. In my made up example, a vote for Mussolini doesn’t just say you like him more than Hitler. A vote for Mussolini means you want Mussolini to govern you. That’s a huge part of my point.

    What you vote for someone, you are first and foremost approving of him, and only secondarily (and indirectly) rejecting the other guy

    Since no politician is perfect–in all cases voting is a compromise.I freely acknowledge that.

    What I am saying is, though, is unless we are going to be total voting relativists, There has to be a threshold. There has to be a point where you would vote a third party, or not vote at all. , There has to be a threshold. I’m not saying it is coming into play in this election, I’m just saying it has to exist at some point if we are to be ethically conscious.

    I think the fact that you would actually cast a vote in favor of Mussolini (admittedly in a far-fetched situation) is demonstrative of my point–if you apply ethical relativism to voting consistently, it because very absurd.

    Again, I’m by no means saying that there aren’t compromises… just that there also have to be standards… And I hope and pray most people, in the case of a hypothetical Hitler vs. Mussolini vote would have the guts and sense to say NO to both options, even if it ends up in a slightly worse situation. Out of principle (which certainly seems to be a endangered thing in .modern politics).

  10. Don Johnson October 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    I do have principles, as a believer I am to oppose evil and pursue good.

    There are some commandments that trump others, I am to love God and love other as I love myself above all else. (P.S. I fail at this sometimes, but that is the goal.) I have no problem or moral quandary about voting for Mussolini when his opponent in a 2 party system is Hitler, as I am opposing evil as much as I can, giving the limitations put to me by the system. People think you need to agree with someone you vote for, nothing could be further from the truth, you just need to agree with them more than their opponent, when in a 2 party system like we have.

    I do not mind being called a “total voting relativist”, I have been called a lot worse, but I would prefer for my method to be called anti-pessimal. On judgment day if asked by God why I voted “for” Mussolini I would respond that I voted “against” Hitler and was trying to be faithful, given my choices.

    Jews teach there are only 3 commandments that one should not break when threatened with death and they are no idolatry, no murder and no adultery, one should die rather than do one of those, but the other commandments can have mitigating circumstances. I think they have a lot of wisdom behind this conclusion.

    And I would back a change to preference voting, but the 2 parties like the current system so much I do not see that happening.

  11. JM LaRue October 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Well said Don.

    The concept I consider is viability. Voting for an unviable candidate is an unwise thing to do.

    • Mark Nenadov October 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

      JM, Even if all the “viable” candidates by way of policy believe murder, in some circumstances, is justified?

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