Yesterday I was having a conversation with folks counted as good friends. We were sitting underneath the shade of our beautiful maple trees at Church during our fellowship meal. Some were insisting that my intention to vote for Darrell Castle for President is a wasted vote. Of course, I politely demurred.
In this short piece, I want to pursue the reasoning as to why voting third party in Presidential cycles is not only not a wasted vote but a positive good.
The reason voting for Darrell Castle in 2016 is not a wasted vote is the long term vision. When third party candidates receive votes the effect is that in later election cycles the major party candidates look at those voters who voted third party previously and ask themselves, “How can I secure those voters for myself who voted for that third party candidate in the previous election cycle.” As a result, the parties begin to shift in order to capture voters who previously voted third party in previous election cycles.
If people, with contrary interests to the candidates they are voting for, continue to vote for major party candidates, like Trump and / or Clinton, that they only barely agree with the result is that the major parties will conclude that they really do not need to shift in order to gain what might have been a well placed third party vote. HOWEVER, if people refuse to vote for the major party candidates in any given election cycle then in the next election cycle Presidential candidates will begin to ask themselves, “what must I do to secure those third party voters,” and will shift accordingly in those voters direction.
1968 is a classic example of this. In 1968 the Democrats lost the deep South to the third party candidacy of Geroge Wallace. In 1972, instead of taking those Wallace voters seriously the Democrats tacked harder to the left with McGovern. However, Nixon went after those “68” Wallace votes and captured them giving Nixon a HUGE landslide while at the same time turning the deep South Republican for two generations now.
Voting third party for George Wallace in 1968 was definitely not a wasted vote.
Something similar happened with all the third party votes cast for the Socialist Presidential candidacies of Eugene Debs, and later Norman Thomas over several election cycles in the early 20th century. Eventually, Democrats decided to go after those Socialist votes and with the candidacy of FDR those third party votes found a major party candidate who appealed to them. All those third party votes over the years had not been wasted as the Democratic party became the party of Debs / Thomas Socialism though retaining the name “Democrat.”
Norman Thomas is even reputed to have said
“I no longer need to run as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party. The Democratic Party has adopted our platform.”
The effect of the Republicans embracing the independent voters of Wallace’s 1968 campaign pushed the Republican party further to the right. The effect of the Democrats embracing the independent voters of the Debs – Thomas campaigns was to push the Democratic party further to the left.
The point for our purposes is that those Independent votes of previous election cycles were not wasted votes. History teaches that they had an impact on later election cycles. If those Independent voters had not voted Independent and said to themselves instead, “I have to vote for one of the major parties if I want my vote to count,” neither of the parties would have had the later incentive to move in the direction of those third party voters in order to capture that vote.
So, we see that voting Independent is not a wasted vote.