There are many good reasons why we need a third party. Americans certainly believe it. The congressional approval rating rarely gets above 20 percent and 57% of Americans say a third major political party is needed . 46 percent of Americans identify as independent. Why then are all those independent voters still voting for one of the two major parties?
There are also a few reasons why third parties can’t succeed in our current electoral process. The political system is heavily biased toward the two major parties, and sustained by corporate wealth and media. Both parties cooperate to preserve their combined hold on power.
People aren’t really voting on policies any more, despite growing anxieties about liberalism, soaring costs in education and healthcare, inequality of wealth, stagnant wages, climate catastrophes, endless wars, and a flood of personal and national debt. But the threat of social and economic collapse, or even the environmental crisis, seems to pale in the two party political narrative. Republicans advance the odious threat of a nation overrun by foreign nationals and Democrats portend the total collapse of our very democracy, undermined by Russian interference and the erratic behavior of our current president. It’s a shallow threat in light of a 2014 study from Princeton University which concluded that America is an Oligarchy, not a republic and certainly not a democracy.
It all makes for good theater. In 1988, the League of Women voters withdrew from sponsorship of the presidential debates. According to League President Nancy M. Neuman, "It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public." Today’s democratic debates are hosted by CNN, carefully orchestrated to provide good viewing entertainment and guide voters toward the desired outcome. It is precisely the kind of charades League President Nancy M. Neuman was referring to back in 1988.
The political narrative is clear: third party candidates take votes away from the major candidates. Third party candidates spoil their elections. With the possible exception of Ralph Nader in 2000, there is little evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton blames Jill Stein for her loss to Donald Trump. Speculation assumes those voters would have voted for Hillary and conveniently ignores the fact that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received over three times as many votes as Jill Stein which may have drawn votes away from Donald Trump.
Now, Hillary Clinton is attacking Anti-war candidate Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian assest and setting up the same spoiler narrative she leveled against Jill Stein. But, Bloomberg news reports, “Don’t Worry About Tulsi Gabbard.” The spoiler narrative is a fear tactic intended to ensure voters remain loyal to one of the oligarchs duopoly.
Our elections are not arranged for the benefit of the people, but rather to serve the wealthy. Voters are disenfranchised, separated from a meaningful voice in our political process. Voter behavior is controlled by carefully crafted narratives, propaganda, and political marketing campaigns. All of that advertising makes running for office a cost prohibitive exercise for the vase majority of Americans.
Protests may give us a voice but it largely goes unheard. From the lessons of Standing Rock, we know if a protest interferes with the agenda of the ruling elite it will be put down by aggressive force. True activism disrupts the system in a manner that demands change. Power operates by attacking the disruptive voice; ask Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea Manning. If you could, you might ask Jeffery Epstein what happens when you become a threat to the private lives of powerful politicians. We can continue to vote for the oligarchy, or we can demand an inclusive voice, and a true government of the people, by the people and for the people, something we have been fighting for since those words were first uttered by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address back in 1863.