A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Opinion: The False Dichotomy of American Democracy

Photo illustration by Lilia Epstein
Much like the colors on the American flag, modern politics seems to force you into either the red or blue parties of Republican and Democrat.

Happy election season; a time when family events become tenser than usual, proposition ads in California are virtually inescapable and voters are greeted with the joy of selecting between their favorite of two evils, either a Democrat or Republican candidate. It is also a time where daring to mention a third–party candidate will get you the ire of pro-establishment voters, often saying it’s a “waste of a vote,” or that it will only help the other side win. But why does it have to be this way?

In a healthy democracy your vote would be just that, a vote. If you decide to vote for someone from the Green Party, Libertarian Party or an independent candidate who best aligns with your values then you should be free to do so without shame. What people who continue to spout pro-establishment points fail to realize is that their vote, based not upon principle but in defense and panic, is a waste of the right we are so lucky to have.

If you believe that a third-party vote doesn’t affect our elections, you are unfortunately mistaken. The most famous example is the 1992 presidential election, where Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran an independent campaign, running largely on the single issue of creating a balanced federal budget. While he only garnered 20% of the vote, the winner of that election Bill Clinton worked to fix the budget during his two terms, and in 1997, succeeded in creating a balanced budget. Clinton would not have prioritized this issue had Perot not brought it to the forefront of American politics.

Even though third-party candidates haven’t had the level of influence Perot had, the vote hasn’t died, and in 2016, third parties garnered 7 million votes due to people’s general distaste for the “two evils” running on the Democratic and Republican tickets.

I generally hear from Republicans that a vote for anyone other than a “red-blooded American Conservative” spells doom for your nation. “You are betraying your country and siding with the woke mind virus,” they say.

On the flip side, many American Liberals say that a vote for anyone other than someone with that blue “D” next to their name is a betrayal to your race, religion, orientation, gender, etc. They claim, “You are only helping to elect an evil dictator.”

This vote shaming becomes especially unconscionable when you realize that those American Liberals are often arguing with young, progressive voters who don’t want to vote for Joe Biden due to America’s funding of the ongoing genocide being committed in Gaza by the apartheid government of Israel. Biden has repeatedly flouted Congress in order to sell arms to Israel and aid their campaign against the Palestinian people. If that’s not something an evil dictator does, then I’m not sure what is.

The hypocrisy from liberal voters has been the most frustrating for me. When discussing a vote for a third-party presidential candidate, I’ve often been told or seen people online saying that Trump will act like a dictator and have the power to make my life drastically worse. To them I ask, why has Joe Biden not taken the same actions to radically improve my life? I understand the Democratic Party is dogmatically devoted to proceduralism — it’s the reason the Equal Rights Amendment isn’t currently the law of the land — but somehow it always appears as though when Republicans are in power they have unlimited capability to do harm, and when Democrats are in power their hands are tied by either not enough votes in the House or Senate, or some other small rule that prevents radical change to improve the lives of Americans. Yet, if you don’t “Vote Blue No Matter Who” then you — yes, you — will be personally responsible for the end of democracy in this country.

This, obviously, is not how anything works. While, pragmatically speaking, a third-party candidate is an extreme long shot to win the presidency, at the local and state level the odds are much more even, the most famous example being when WWF Wrestler Jesse Ventura won the Minnesota governor’s race running with the Reform Party because his platform was able to galvanize the youth and increase voter registration. Furthermore, when a Republican or Democrat isn’t favored, those voters don’t simply throw in the towel and vote for whoever the favored candidate is, because that would be silly. You wouldn’t abandon your principles just because you thought that your preferred candidate would lose. The same logic should apply to third-party votes, but according to single-party voters, it doesn’t.

Even our founding fathers, who created American democracy, were against this kind of political polarization. Alexander Hamilton called two-party systems “the most fatal disease” of popular governments. We’ve seen that disease take hold in recent years with the parties’ collaborative abilities falling apart and political social bubbles gaining steel walls. Coastal regions with diverse, large urban areas became Democratic, and rural, white, Christian areas became Republican. We now have news media groups that are basically tied to parties, and politics has become much more about bickering with the other side instead of trying to better people’s lives through different methods. This is an unequivocal failure of a system where moderate changes in either direction are heralded as major victories.

So if you are a prospective voter disillusioned with the offerings from the major parties this election, please consider a third-party. Your vote can impact policy and what actions our government takes even if your preferred candidate doesn’t come out on top. Vote with your heart, not the heart of someone else. If your heart is guiding you to vote for one of the major party candidates either as a harm-reduction measure or a genuine belief in their message, platform, and policies then go for it. But if not, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

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About the Contributor
Rosemary Cromwell
Rosemary Cromwell, Reporter
(they/she) First year reporter with the Oak Leaf, but not new to the Journalism field. Working towards transferring to a 4 year university by next fall to major in Journalism.

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