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  • Writer's pictureCedar Koons

Considering Voting Third Party? Some Lessons from History

Are you considering voting for a third party candidate in 2024? I hope you will read my historical argument and consider the problematic consequences of voting for a third party. When you look at the facts it makes it easier to find Wise Mind even about political decisions.

The two party system is deeply entrenched in US history because of hard-wired aspects of our Electoral College. Since the demise of the Whig Party in the 1850's only Democrats and Republicans have been elected to the White House in spite of many high profile persons, including one former president, Theodore Roosevelt, running as third party candidates.

Only a handful of third-party candidates have ever been able to capture a single electoral vote since 1900. They include Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, Robert La Follette in 1924, Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond in 1948 and segregationalist George Wallace in 1968. Other third party candidates, like Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, never won even one electoral college vote but still made significant impacts on the national election by siphoning votes away from other candidates.

Ralph Nader's strong showing in Florida contributed to George W. Bush's election by taking votes away from Al Gore. In 2016, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson helped Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton even though she won the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. All told in the 2016 election, 7.8 million voters voted third party, mostly for Stein and Johnson, votes that took away from Hillary's Electoral College tally and helped elect Donald Trump. Third parties were not as prominent in the 2020 election allowing Joe Biden to win by a wide margin, at least for modern elections. In 2024, many third party candidates are going after the vote that otherwise would go to Joe Biden. Only Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is thought to attract a few Trump voters as well.

Republicans have not won the popular vote for president in 35 years. Republicans continue to prevail due to structural disadvantages for Democrats in the Electoral College and extreme gerrymandering which affect state legislatures and Congress. Low voter turnout and voter restrictions are more likely to suppress Democrat votes. At least since Ross Perot's run, voting third party has benefitted Republicans, a party that has become straightforwardly authoritarian and theocratic. You would probably never vote for a party which consorts with racists, denies climate change, favors ban on abortion and reducing LGBTQ rights and putting guns in the hands of domestic abusers, but that is the most likely result of voting for long-shot candidates running as third parties.

While you may not like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, if you are concerned about the survival of democracy you must realize that votes for Dr. Stein, Professor West, Senator Manchin (No Labels) or Mr. Kennedy will take away from Biden's vote count and make it easier for Trump to win. Stein, West, Manchin and Kennedy could not win the Democratic primary. They aren't even trying to win a major party nomination. Instead, they choose to run as third party candidates knowing that even if they perform astronomically better than any third party candidate has ever done in history, they will still lose and help elect a Republican. The margins are that thin, my friends.

Donald J. Trump will likely be the Republican Party nominee in 2024, even if he is convicted on one or more of his 91 felonly indictments before this summer. If he is convicted he can still run, be elected and be inaugurated as president. Then he can pardon whomever he wants including himself and his well-armed militias. He can proceed with his often stated plan to establish an authoritarian government, revoke the rule of law and seek vengeance against his enemies. He has said numerous times that he will do exactly this, using language borrowed from Benito Musssolini and Adolf Hitler.

I know many of you have moral and emotional reasons for liking third party candidates. It is natural to want change when things seem really dire and a candidate looks exciting and charismatic. However, I hope you will consider the facts of history when you consider the value of your vote. Vote, by all means, but please vote strategically rather than emotionally, so as not to inadvertantly re-elect a monster like Mr. Trump.


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