Why Voting Third Party is Electoral Masturbation

Yeah. I said what I said. Voting for the Greens or the Libertarians or writing in some high-minded alternative candidate is a worthless gesture that serves only to pleasure the person doing it.

Somewhere, a hipster dude in a jaunty hat is sputtering “But, but, but you don’t know what point I am trying to make!” Let me assure you, I do know. And your point may even be a good one. But you tactic is useless and won’t advance your point in any way.

Let’s unpack this shall we?

Some people vote for the actual so-called third parties like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party because they swear up and down that they believe in the ideals of those two organizations. I say those two organizations are not really political parties and they are not really participating in the process of government. All they do is show up every four years and demand attention by mounting a weak candidate for president. If you really want to make a third party a national force, run for mayor as a Green. Run for city council as Libertarian. Develop a state-level organization and prove you have the chops to govern.

We have only two viable parties because all the other parties are spoiled babies who won’t put in the work to compete. Build a functional movement or get out of the way.

Some people say they hate the system of nominating candidates and want to change it by writing in their preferences. Except that your ballot is basically a scan-tron form that gets run through a computer and then packed away. Your name isn’t even on it. Only you know what you did.

No election official is reading your ballot and saying “Great Scott! This person has an incredible point to make about the structure of American elections! I must take this to the others so we can revolutionize the process!”

If you want to change nominating processes you need to lobby your state board of elections and state legislature for changes to the process for getting people on the ballot. The ballot itself isn’t a substitute for doing real, effective advocacy work.

Some people just haaaaaaate both candidate so much that they can’t deal with the idea of voting for either of them.

I wish I could remember where I saw this, but a Black woman addressed this point by saying something like “When exactly do you think Black women have had the luxury of being excited about a candidate? We always just suck it up and vote for the person who will do us the least harm.”

Now, you night say that your protest vote candidate is the candidate who will do the least harm and I say YEAH, BECAUSE THEY WILL NEVER HOLD OFFICE. They will never have the opportunity to make policy. A responsible voter will narrow the choices based first on viability, then assess which is the greatest threat to civil and humans right, and then vote against that person. An irresponsible person puts their own feelings ahead of the greater good and votes for that college professor they remember loving in 1994 or some equally self-indulgent thing.

There are a lot of ways to agitate for change in America and I’m a big cheerleader for protest movements, advocacy efforts, and policy making. But voting for a non-viable candidate is none of those things and it won’t accomplish anything at all. It won’t free detainees at the border, it won’t change criminal justice policy, it won’t protect Roe v. Wade, and it won’t address corruption in the federal government.

Your protest vote is just electoral masturbation and you’re the only one who will get anything out of it.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

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