Third parties are scams, but there are ways they can work


Historically, the United States has maintained a two-party system with only a few notable third parties. Photo courtesy of Tara Winstead/Pexels.

With Elon Musk entering the news again, trying to buy out Twitter, many have begun talking about the enigma that Elon Musk is: an anti-SJW, capitalist, atheist tech bro, who doesn’t conform to either the left or the right. Many have raised the question of whether Elon Musk represents a model for a centrist candidate who could break the party duopoly we have in America. But this isn’t just about Elon Musk. Many households have conversations about the Republicans or the Democrats being so driven by corporate greed and/or political extremism that a third party will “shake things up” or something like that. Personally, I would also love for third parties to be a part of our system. However, our election system simply isn’t designed to have more than two parties controlling national politics at one time. If you want a third party, advocate for changing our electoral system.

If a third party is successful, one of the two major parties either absorbs them or the third party itself takes the place of one of the two parties. The Republicans were once a third party, until they completely replaced the Whigs, and the Populist Party (a faction of left-wing farmers also protesting the two-party system in the 1800s) was absorbed by Northern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans. Third parties simply don’t work within our system, and you shouldn’t trust any candidate thinking they can run a third party in the current system we have. If you want third parties to exist, don’t vote for third parties. They’ll just split the vote of a party you would much rather like in power. Instead, vote for candidates from the two-party system interested in changing the electoral system. If you don’t trust one of the duopolies to change the system they benefit from, you should probably look twice at what’s developing, as even those in the duopoly suffer from its primitive design.

Let’s start with the electoral college. The system as it stands requires candidates to reach a majority of electors by winning the popular vote in the necessary number of states. If a majority of electors is not reached, the two-party-controlled House of Representatives elects the next president. So, if a third party actually became popular enough to win a number of states in the electoral college, the election would go to the House, where the two-party system would elect a Democrat or Republican instead. Obviously, on the presidential level, a third-party candidate simply isn’t feasible. However, you can probably guess which party is interested in getting rid of the electoral college, a move that would undeniably increase the chances of a third party candidate gaining some popularity.

Ever wonder why Maine has such a different political culture than the rest of the country, with a socially liberal Republican and a centrist Independent as its senators? Well, the people in Maine have always been free thinker types, not conforming to the typical way of doing things, and they recently opted for instant run-off elections, a move that’ll further enrich third parties and their state’s unique political make up. When Stephen King, a famous Maine resident, goes into his voting booth, he ranks the senate candidates from who he supports the most to the least. When the votes are tallied, the candidate with the least support is eliminated and their votes now go to whomever was the second choice on the ballots. This process is repeated until one of the candidates reaches a majority. This election type would be very hard to implement in Texas, but it would undeniably change the political makeup of our state to the advantage of third-party candidates. It doesn’t take a political science degree to guess which political party would be more likely to enact these measures.

Any initiative that changes our system will definitely be at odds with those who believe the constitution is passed down from God on high, usually conservative Christian types. However, to those with want for overthrowing our two party system, prioritize these initiatives in your voting patterns. If you want a third party but always vote for people who think the constitution is absolutely perfect and brilliant, you’re swimming upstream and wasting your breath wanting a third option. If you want to get rid of the duopoly, vote for candidates who would support initiatives like getting rid of the electoral college, implementing rank choice voting, and a slew of other changes that many other countries with vibrant political cultures have enjoyed for decades.