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Monday, May 30, 2011

Of the Need for Third Parties

Too many times during elections, I hear people say "I'm  voting for [Democrat] because [Republican] is a Republican and will ruin this country".This assertion illustrates the main problem with our political elections today - the American people's overreliance on the two-party system.

The main reason people don't support third-party candidates is that they do not truly understand their viewpoints. Well then, what would happen if they were more educated? The Berkley-Carroll School in Brooklyn sought to answer that question in 2008. Five students representing five of the six presidential candidates who mathematically had a chance of winning the election gave speeches on why to vote for them (Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party was not represented). The catch? Only the issues were revealed - until voting was complete, nobody knew WHO they were voting for, only WHY. The results were astounding. Ralph Nader won easily with 46% of the vote. Barack Obama finished a distant second with only 29%. Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party finished third with 17% while John McCain finished with a miniscule 4% of the vote compared to the 45.7% he received in the actual election. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr finished last with just 2%.

The Post-Star, a Saratoga, NY based newspaper, illustrated this anti-third party stance in the 2010 Gubernatorial election when it endorsed Democrat Andrew Cuomo
We've been particularly impressed by Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich, a Guilderland town councilman and attorney who distinguished himself at the lone gubernatorial debate with reasonable, well-considered, educated responses to discussion of the state's problems. . ...But now is not the time to install a newbie in the governor's office, even an articulate one with good ideas.

Why not? "Politics as usual" doesn't seem to be working out very well for us. In another endorsement, the New York Daily News endorsed Cuomo because "[the] state GOP hasn't managed to field a credible candidate".  Yes, it is true that Carl Paladino is not exactly credible, and yes, it would not be smart to endorse him, but politics shouldn't be about picking the lesser evil. That is exactly why Americans need to consider third-party candidates as a viable option.

Yes, it is quite probably true that if Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had not run in the election in 2000, Al Gore would have won Florida and the election. And yes, most Nader supporters would have rather had Gore than George Bush. But perhaps the problem is not too many people supporting Nader but too few. Al Gore likely would not have made such a great president either. As shown in the Brooklyn high school example, many people support third-party candidates such as Nader without even realizing they do.This is not intended to imply I support Nader because I don't. But I know some people that do and many more that would if they truly understood his positions. And who knows, perhaps President Nader would have made a better leader than President Bush or President Gore. And perhaps Governor Redlich would have made a better governor of New York than Governor Cuomo. I supported Redlich through this past election and truly believe the latter to be the case. As for the former, we'll never know for sure. But one thing is for certain - we need to stop depending solely on the two major parties. We should welcome third party candidates and vote for the best one, not just the lesser evil.

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