Contrary to what you might think from the title, I’m actually a big fan of third parties. I truly believe that the nation would be far better off if we were represented by 4-5 parties at every level of government, as this would guarantee the true separation of powers that the framers of the Constitution of the United States were trying for.
Sadly, however, they do not have a chance. Short of direct influence by billionaires who are looking to throw a monkey wrench into an election, there are at least three major barriers to a third party having a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting elected. In this piece, I’m going to list and discuss them in the order of importance (from the smallest to the largest barrier.)
Simply Put, Gerrymandering is the practice of politicians using computer data to manipulate district lines in such a fashion as to increase their odds of winning an election. This is done, on the Republican side (as an example, though theoretically it might work both ways if fair and balanced journalism existed in America) as follows:
First, the voting patterns of every registered voter is compared with a map of the state. District lines are then drawn in a way to guarantee that either the majority of voters for every district are Republican, or that the majority of representatives for the entire state are Republican. Ideally, gerrymandering tries to achieve both goals. In the State of Texas, this was achieved, though it resulted in such contorted voting maps that one district was only one mile wide and ran the entire vertical length of the state.
This kind of practice is one which, regardless of which party does it, eliminates fair representation for the voters…who increasingly become disillusioned to the point where HALF of all registered voters in the United States no longer bother to vote for a candidate of either major political party. As an additional 25% are barred from voting entirely, this reduces the number of people who actually vote in any election to 25% of registered voters. Of these, about 2% will vote for a third party.
Of the 23% remaining, approximately 10-11% will vote for one of the two major parties. This means that, out of every 100 registered voters in America, only 1-2 people decide who will win an election. Those people live in a country where half of the people they meet are telling them that voting is a waste of time. Constantly.
Bear in mind, democracy in America is a game played with tens of millions of dollars. No third party I know of is able to rise above that bar, and those that DO, have to then convince people that their vote will not be wasted. In the past hundred years, the number who have achieved this can be counted on one hand…and you would have fingers left over. The number who have achieved it without selling out to a large corporation? Zero.
Ending Gerrymandering is, therefore, something that MUST be a law, clearly defined, and carved into the stone of the Constitution of the United States of America.
One Person, One Vote
The rule of one person, one vote is one which reduces the number of viable choices to only those choices which are best funded. Since this requires the existence of large, well funded political parties, the idea that those parties would not be influenced by very wealthy institutions and individuals is, let’s face it, a fantasy.
Ranked Choice voting is a system of voting based on a standard being set for the minimum number of required percentage of received votes required to win an election. In other words, you would say … regardless of how many votes that are received, the winner has to receive 51% of the votes in order to win. 50.5% wouldn’t be enough to win.
The way it works is this: instead of each person getting only one vote…each person indicates their first choice, second choice, third choice, and so on. When the votes are received, all the first choice votes are counted first. If nobody gets 51%, then the “winner” is set aside from the first round and the second round votes are counted. If nobody wins in the second round, the “Winner” of the second round votes is set aside. Some of these votes may be for the “winner” of the first round, in which case they are added to those votes. If STILL nobody has at least 51% of the votes, then we go to the third round and add those votes up. Some of those might be for the winners of the first and second rounds, in which case those votes are added to their totals. This means that a person who LOST the first round could, conceivably, still win the election.
This can go on for as many rounds as is decided are worth giving people choices for. In Italy, they use upwards of half a dozen rounds of tabulation before a winner is finally decided.
The United States Constitution talks about, in Article 2 of the Constitution, allowing Congress to choose between the “Best of Five” candidates for President (in the event there is a tie by the electoral college.) While we cannot supplant the electoral college without redrawing the entire Constitution, a “Best of Five” vote might not be such a bad idea for how we select members of Congress.
As for the Senate, the original framers of the Constitution of the United States of America never intended for Senators to be selected by popular vote. It was their intention that Senators be selected from among the membership of state legislatures, by the membership of those bodies. This meant that Senators would not only need to prove themselves to the people in their district, but also demonstrate a love of their entire state prior to being appointed as a Senator. It also meant that, instead of being beholden to large corporations, Senators would have to answer to their own state legislature, which could replace them on a whim if they felt they were being sold down the river.
It was a pretty good system. Combined with Ranked Choice voting (for at least Congressmen, but preferably for state legislators as well) the separation of powers that the framers of the Constitution were trying for would finally, truly become a reality.
Of course, the true genius of Ranked Choice voting is that it involves people voting for more than just two parties. That means that, regardless of how much money is spent by the current two party monopoly, third parties would get more votes than they do now….increasing the liklihood of third party candidates being elected.
This would require a change in the constitution regarding how candidates are elected, but its a procedural change that would benefit everyone in the nation.
It cannot be overstated that the number one barrier to third parties getting elected is the existance of corporate personhood (I’ve written on this specific subject elsewhere.) As long as corporations are permitted unfettered access to our electoral process, there is simply no viable path for any third party candidate to ever get elected. Even trying to make the changes I’ve already mentioned (ending gerrymandering and addressing the procedural issue of ranked choice voting) requires support from corporations – who have a vested interest to oppose them.
Corporations oppose change, and embrace breaking the separation of powers for one very good reason: A nation lacking a separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government is a nation easily manipulated.
Any nation easily manipulated is a nation where the media can (and is) entirely controlled by its owners (in this case, corporations) who bombard the public on a fairly constant basis with the message “Third Parties Cannot get Elected”, “Third Parties hurt democracy”, “Third Parties are only supported by crazy people”.
By marginalizing and minimizing people who have serious concerns about the nation, corporations have had the unfettered ability to limit the choices to those two parties which are completely controlled by corporations.
Why do corporations want there to be two parties? Its the illusion of choice. You go into a store and you are talking to a salesman about a product. The salesman always starts at the most expensive item and works down to the cheapest. Once you express any interest at all, the salesman says “Would you like the more expensive whizbang? Or just the cheapo?” Notice that the option to compare prices online or double check what the salesman has been saying is never an option. Stores don’t offer internet access to let you do that. If you did that, you might just go ahead and buy on Amazon.
No… your choices have to be limited… but you have to be given the “Illusion” that you actually have a choice. Unless you are a bright person with a strong character, the odds are good that you will either check your pocketbook (meaning you are thinking about the offer) or walk away and forget the purchase entirely (because of a money issue.) In short, your “choice” to do research or look for alternatives might not occur to you.
That exact same system is how corporations sell politicians. They really don’t care if its a republican or democrat that wins…because they are backing both. Whoever wins, they win. Whoever loses, they still win.
The only way for the American people to win is: Not to allow them in the game. Ever.
This means we need to remove corporate personhood. We need to do it in a way that prevents them from simply changing what they call their form of business. We need to do it in such a way that we limit the rights of personhood to residents and travelers (with travelers clearly defined as being “temporary residents with sentience”)
Unless and until these barriers are addressed, third parties do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever geting elected dogcatcher. The first step to addressing these steps is therefore to attack the issue of corporate personhood. Deal with that and you’ve eliminated much of the competition that might stand in the way of making any other changes to laws that you might want made.