Robert Reich: Should You Vote for a Third Party?


Are you happy with the electoral choices provided
you by the two major parties? If not, should you vote for a third-party
candidate? Not so fast. Remember what happened in 2016, when Libertarian
Gary Johnson got 3.2 percent of the popular vote and Green Party candidate Jill Stein
got 1.06 percent. Enough votes that, had they gone to Hillary
Clinton, she’d have won the Electoral College, and Donald Trump wouldn’t be in the White
House. Oh, and anyone remember what happened in 2000,
when the votes that went to Ralph Nader all but sealed the fate of Al Gore, and gave us
George W. Bush. You see the problem? In a winner-take-all system like ours, votes
for third party candidates siphon away votes from the major party candidate whose views
are closest to that third-party candidate. So by not voting for the lesser of two evils,
if that’s what you want to call them, you end up with the worse of two evils. But here’s the good news. You’ve got at least 2 ways to avoid the
lesser of two evils other than voting for a third party candidate. For one, you could build support for your
favorite primary candidate inside one of the major parties – like some of you did for
Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries. But, you might say, look what happened to
Bernie! The Democratic Party establishment rigged
the game against him. I don’t want to open up this particular
can of worms, but if a party establishment has a chokehold on the primaries – the answer
isn’t to go with a third party and end up with the worse of two evils, but to organize
and mobilize inside the party to break that choke hold, as some would say the Tea Party
has done in the GOP. Never underestimate the power of grass-roots
activism focused like a laser on taking over a major political party that has ossified. Here’s another way to avoid the lesser of
two evils: Get your state to institute ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting,
which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. The process is simple: In the first round,
only voters’ first choices are counted. If a candidate gets a majority, that’s the
end of it: That candidate wins. If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate
who received the fewest votes is eliminated, and then the second choices of voters who
preferred that candidate are counted. If that gives a majority to one candidate,
that candidate wins. If there’s still no one with a majority,
the process continues, until one candidate gets a majority. Ranked-choice voting isn’t perfect, but it
enables you to vote your conscience –even for a third-party candidate — without the
worry that you’re giving ground to the candidate you like least. The idea is gaining popularity. Last year, some form of ranked-choice voting
was proposed in 19 states. In 2016, citizens in Maine initiated a referendum
for ranked-choice voting and won. It’s already being used in statewide special
elections in North Carolina, and in 10 major cities. You don’t have to settle for the lesser
of two evils. But in order to get the candidates you want
elected you need to get involved, now. In the primaries. And in changing your state to ranked-choice
voting. It’s our democracy. Whether it works, is up to us.

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