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To Vote or Not To Vote for Third Parties

On Oct. 12, 2010, third party candidate Laura Wells — the official candidate for the Green Party — was arrested while attempting to participate in one of California’s gubernatorial debates. Rather than being granted inclusion and participation as a third party candidate, Wells was charged with “trespassing.”

The arrest of Laura Wells points to a larger problem in today’s mainstream political arena: the perpetual banishment of third parties to somewhere outside “real” politics. Most of us here at the Campanil agree that the current two-party system and its enforcement does not embody or represent the interests and needs of the country’s diverse citizenry.

Third parties are the essential ingredient in destabilizing the corrosive two-party political culture of America. The lack of options inherent in the current two party-centric system alienates citizens and voters, leaving their possible avenues of representation very narrow.

In theory, even if third parties are never elected, their presence brings different ideas and platforms to the table and is supposed to ensure that members of dominant parties remain accountable to their constituency. If their presence is prohibited — as in the case of Laura Wells — this accountabilty is diminished.

So if third party candidates are unlikely to be elected, should we vote for them anyway?

This is something many of us will be thinking about as we mark our ballots today. Given the current political climate, that vote may be considered “wasted,” yet some of us still feel compelled to vote for the candidate who closest matches our interests and needs, regardless of whether that candidate belongs to a third party.

Perhaps over time, voting for candidates who truly represent our interests may lead others to follow suit, creating a culture in which voting intelligently and authentically is more important than dejectedly choosing between brand A and brand B. After all, the inexorability of our two-candidate system is sustained by the public interest in ‘resisting the worst of the two.’

Here at The Campanil, we encourage you to consider the possibility of resisting both and choosing better.