When someone decides to vote for a third-party presidential candidate, a common response is, “Your vote doesn’t count.” The general consensus is that no party besides the Republicans or Democrats can win an election.
But there are more than two political parties recognized by the United States, including the Libertarian Party, Green Party and Constitution Party, to name a few. Each third party has a unique perspective on what the role of government is, but few citizens even know who’s running for third parties or what they stand for. The problem at hand is voters’ doubts perpetuated by the already-established two-party system that any third party will ever become large and powerful enough to make a difference in the presidential elections.
The reason that no third parties or their candidates have become prominent is because of a negative cycle in which voters have no faith in a smaller party’s chances and therefore don’t vote for them. Voters should make an effort to break this cycle and recognize there are multiple options beyond President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — especially in an election where many voters are on the fence about voting for either candidate.
Of the three independent parties, the one that tends to receive the most recognition by the public, if any, is the Green Party.
The Green Party is fairly new — the party as it exists today was officially founded in 1991 with a commitment to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing. A former Green Party presidential candidate whose name voters might actually recognize is Ralph Nader, who only received 738,475 votes in the 2000 presidential election, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Despite Nader’s more prominent reputation, it’s safe to assume most voters don’t know the name of current Green Party nominee Jill Stein, one of the third-party candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Though Stein does not have a political record equal to Romney’s or Obama’s, her career and commitments offer unique qualifications that would appeal to many voters. A physician and environmental-health advocate, Stein’s platform is all about abortion rights, marriage equality, free college education, addressing climate change and renewable energy.
Stein also addresses the greatest concern of the 2012 election, the economy, in a plan that combines green with green — that is, global green with monetary green. Her economic plan, known as the Green New Deal, is a four-part plan focused on reducing economic inequality and creating more sustainable communities. Stein plans to reform the government in conjunction with the economy because, according to her website, “we won’t get these vital reforms without a … real, functioning democracy.”
The fact that so many voters could relate to what Stein stands for and yet have not been exposed to her platform is a critical problem. A main cause of the lack of public knowledge about third-party candidates stems from narrow media coverage. The media almost exclusively focuses on the battle between Obama and Romney, leaving the other candidates at the margins.
The public and the media imagine the United States as a two- party system — when in reality it’s not. This can only be changed by increased voter awareness and a removal of the stigma that surrounds third parties. Or even worse, they choose to opt out of voting entirely.
All voters should consider that there are more than two candidates to vote for and take it upon themselves to research third-party candidates, especially if they are disenchanted with Obama and Romney.
Perhaps the government has dug itself too deep into a divided hole when what it needs is a do-over in the form of a prominent new party. After $16 trillion of government debt, a recession and an unemployment rate that affects people all over the country, is it not time for America to hit the reset button and let someone else take the wheel?
Morgan Greenwald is a freshman majoring in neuroscience and health promotion and disease prevention studies.