This is a part of my series of posts on Why I am voting third party. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so this is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.
Some conservative friends and family members I have spoken with in regard to this election and my support of Gary Johnson have lamented me wasting my vote. However, to the contrary, this is the first election that I feel my vote will actually matter. I live in Georgia, which is a strongly Republican state. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state by 300k votes. In 2008, McCain won it by 200k. in 2004, Bush won it by 550k votes. No matter who I voted for in those elections, it would not have made any difference. In fact, I didn’t vote four years ago, and it didn’t matter. The reason I didn’t vote in 2012 is that I didn’t feel I had the time to truly sit down and evaluate each candidate. I don’t believe in blindly voting.
So, for this election, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to go all-in. I spent upwards of 30 hours over the past week thinking about and writing about this. I copied and pasted all of the combined posts into Word and found that I have written nearly 25,000 words and nearly 50 single spaced pages. I delved deeply into every issue I could find. I put years of pondering, questioning, and seriously chewing on issues into words. I searched economics journals. I scoured news sites. I dug up and watched videos from over a decade ago. I spent more time on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s websites than any rational human should be forced to. I read reports critically, compared sources, and I cited everything I could along the way. Then, I threw it all out there to be consumed. I got plenty of positive feedback, with half a dozen people contacting me privately saying they agree wholeheartedly and have been trying to come to terms with that just as I have.
However, along with the positive feedback, I got plenty of negative. I received multiple messages from friends and family members telling me to reconsider my views or to “pray”…lamenting that not pushing a certain button on a screen would lead to the destruction of our country and way of life. I know I was inviting this, and I honestly expected it. However, after this past week, I have some things to say on that. I’ve been calm and cordial throughout this, but now it’s time to get real, because it matters.
Want to know what’s destroying our country? Want to know what’s truly pulling us down?
Well, I’ll tell you. It’s assumptions.
Friends and family assumed I would be voting Republican this election. They assumed Clinton was so morally corrupt that there was no way a good Christian man who was historically conservative could even consider her getting into office. They assumed I could overcome the vitriol that Trump has spouted since the campaign began. They assumed I would fall into the conservative Republican mold and go with the party. They assumed abortion was big enough of an issue and close enough to my heart that the supreme court seats would be enough to convince me.
However, the assumptions don’t stop there, and they’re definitely not limited to just me. People assume Trump is a good businessman and so has good economic policies. People assume he will actually follow through with nominating the supreme court justices he has listed. People assume he will be able to make Mexico pay for the wall, and that batting around our 3rd largest trading partner won’t lead to any negative affects. People assume deporting undocumented immigrants will help the economy and that trade tariffs will protect our native industries with no negative consequences.
Assumptions aren’t limited to just one party, either. People assumed Clinton could get by on her experience. People assumed some disappearing emails weren’t that big of a deal. People assumed it was a fair democratic primary. People assumed Donald Trump was a joke candidate. People assume that doubling minimum wage won’t have any negative effects. People assume the deficit doesn’t matter.
People assume minorities are criminals. People assume abortions are always for convenience. People assume religion causes violence and oppression. People assume all businessmen are corrupt. People assume illegal immigrants are dangerous. People assume Muslims are terrorists.
Where do all these assumptions come from?
I’m no political scientist, but as a programmer and aspiring economist, I know a broken system when I see one. Assumptions are a mechanism our brains use to sort through the massive amounts of information we run into every day. It’s a big world out there, and we have limited time and resources, so we work off of assumptions to get by. The problem is that working off of assumptions means we often miss the truth of a situation. Economists understand this deeply. Changing an assumption in an economic model can massively change the results. In fact, most of the disagreements over the results of economic studies come from the assumptions that were used.
In economics, it’s quite easy to change assumptions in a model. In reality, it’s very hard to change assumptions. This is because many of our assumptions are built off of other assumptions. If we encounter information that doesn’t match our assumption, we usually just assume the information is wrong instead of actually considering that our assumption is wrong. Some people can’t ever get past this point, and thus they never grow. I can understand this. One breach in the dam of our assumptions and our whole worldview can come tumbling down. That’s a big mess to clean up, and it takes a whole lot of time and emotional effort that many aren’t willing to take.
How does this relate to the election and third parties
We have a two party political system, a first-past-the-post, and a winner-take-all electoral college. Much like assumptions, these systems help us to make sense of the vast number of different political viewpoints out there. They help us easily and quickly see which candidate won the vote. However, like assumptions, they also limit our ability to actually grow as a nation.
Everyone talks about how bad polarization is and blames the other side for it. However, the natural outcome of a two party system is polarization. When you throw everyone who generally believes one thing into one party and everyone who generally believes the opposite thing into another party and run them up against one another, what do you think is going to happen? I blame 95% of the polarization in this country on the political system. Not on the media, not on any one party, not on religion or race or gender, but on the political system. The two parties would be fine if there was one issue on the table, like Brexit. However, we’re not voting for a single issue, we’re voting for the president.
There are, at minimum, 3 different spectrums for determining how a candidate stands: social issues, economic issues, and foreign policy issues. Historically, Republicans are generally seen as social conservatives, economic conservatives, and having an aggressive foreign policy. Democrats are generally seen as social liberals, economic liberals, and having a restrained foreign policy. So, what about people who are socially conservative but economically liberal? What about people who are socially liberal but economically conservative? While the system does theoretically allow for these, the actual outcomes are never that. Right now, to win a primary, a candidate never has an incentive to state their actual views. Their incentive is to be as far to the right or left as possible so as to get the support of the party base. Then, in the general election, the candidate has an incentive to move as far to the middle as possible to pull over supporters from the other side. Both sides complain about the opposing candidate flip-flopping while simultaneously applauding their candidate’s developing views on an issue. In truth, we’re all hypocrites, because the system makes us to be so.
If it was a simple case of a messed up political system that doesn’t cause any harm, this wouldn’t matter. However, the polarization created by this system has gotten out of hand. We’ve got people being attacked at rallies. A church was burned just a couple of days ago. We’ve got #blacklivesmatter vs #alllivesmatter. We have lifelong Christians…individuals who have always placed their trust in God and God alone…stating that the only hope for this country is in a man who gloated of sexually assaulting women. We have lifelong supporters of peace voting for a woman under whose tenure wars were started in Libya and Syria with U.S. assistance. At some point we can’t blame the other party…or the gays…or the racists…or the immigrants…or the sexists. At some point we have to take a look at ourselves and ask when we lost the ability to compromise. We need to ask when we lost the ability to empathize. We need to ask when we all got so angry and scared…despite living in one of and/or the greatest country in the world (depending on which side you ask). Either way, I don’t think limiting our choices of the person who leads our country to two people with fully opposite views is doing anyone any favors. It feeds a system of assumptions built on assumptions that causes us to continually judge situations incorrectly and make decisions that are harmful to ourselves and others. There’s a reason both parties have a position called a “whip.” It beats divergent ideas into submission and demands adherence to the basic set up assumptions that underline the party platform. There is no questioning or your constituency’s interests are ignored. There is no compromise or your re-election funding dries up.
We all complain about corruption and manipulation. We all want change. We all feel the country is run by an oligarchy of heartless rich businessmen or manipulative lifelong politicians. However, we all seem content to sit by and watch as the best representatives of both groups block anyone else from participating in the debates or receiving any federal funding. We’re fine with a first-past-the-post electoral college system that blocks any other candidate from even competing, as well as keeping independents out of congress. We assume it won’t affect anything, but it will, and it is.
Where this leaves me
I voted third party in this election because Gary Johnson’s platform was the one that best matched my beliefs. However, I also am proud to be voting third party because I’m contributing my vote to breaking a system that allowed, and even demanded, an extremist like Trump and a business-as-usual politician like Clinton to win their primaries. I’ve chosen not to waste my vote meeting someone else’s expectations by supporting a candidate I don’t believe in. In every other election, this vote probably would not matter, much like my votes for Republicans never did. However, this time, it has people worried. It’s making them think. Hopefully, it leads to some change.