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Third party candidates: spoilers or wave of the future?

Libertarian Party porcupine
Libertarian Party porcupine

The election in 2014 promises to be a very contentious one, and not just between the republicans and democrats. Third party candidates are beginning to take a lot of heat from major party candidates, and their friends in the media are quick to pile on. Everyone from Time Magazine to Breitbart has weighed in this week, trying to subvert the democratic process by attempting to discourage third party voters.

Some local papers, like AZCentral, are drawing more neutral attention to them, like this article from Wednesday that introduces voters to some possibilities aside from the two party system. Most others, however, are taking a much more negative view.

The main issue is that the two main parties view third party votes as belonging to them, and the third party candidates are essentially stealing them away. Of course, this is ludicrous, the vote belongs to the voter him or herself, but when you are a member of the power elite it’s difficult to understand that you don’t actually own other people’s minds. Unfortunately, for many years and even decades they’ve been successful in painting that narrative among the voting population.

The largest recent examples of so-called “throwing the election” are the 2000 race, when Ralph Nader voters supposedly took Al Gore’s votes away, and in 1992 when Ross Perot voters were accused of the same against George H. W. Bush. It goes back much further than that, however. When Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third party he was said to have taken votes away from William Howard Taft. What people don’t realize when they make these accusations is that both the Republican and Democrat parties started as third parties themselves. How quickly people forget once they have achieved power.

2014 looks to be a banner year for third party candidates, however. They’ve stopped running to draw attention to their cause and started making a play to actually win some elections, especially in states where voters are more evenly split. Even in a deep blue state like California third party candidates seem to have more of a fighting chance thanks to new electoral rules there. Voters are much more educated now than ever before, and it’s beginning to show.

The two party system, simply put, serves only the two parties. But with the GOP growing more and more out of touch with the modern world, and democrat large government policies causing a rift between them and young people, third party candidates are actually saying something that connect with voters of today and tomorrow. With the advent of the internet, things like media bias can no longer control the entirety of information getting to the populace, and people can actually learn more facts and fewer “truths.”

With the federal government polling very low across the board, and voters calling for change in Washington, voting for the same two parties that caused the messes we now have seems ridiculous, but establishment types and older voters still cling to this “us vs them” mentality with regards to the two parties. In reality, the only “us vs them” that should be taken into account is normal people vs the government, and the only way to actually get some change on that front is to break the two party system.

The reality of the situation is that third party candidates do not take votes away from the two major parties, most third party voters simply do not vote if they aren't provided with a true option. Younger people are flocking to third parties and voting in higher numbers now than ever before, hopefully some real change can be affected before these people become jaded and cynical and give into the system like the last few generations before did.

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