By Thomas R. Eddlem
The oldest trick in the book used by the Uniparty (Republicans and Democrats) and its captive media lickspittles is that “you’re wasting your vote” on a third party in an election, particularly when casting a vote in the high-stakes presidential election. The idea behind this bogus argument is that a vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning the election precludes a person from making a difference with their vote.
This captive media argument falsely presumes there’s a meaningful long-term difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, or Joe Biden and Donald Trump in a presidential election. And while it’s true that there aren’t any meaningful differences between the Republicans and Democrats on larger issues such as the wars of the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex (MISC), BigPharma subsidies, or Federal Reserve Bank inflation, there are substantial differences on (admittedly over-hyped) culture war issues such as affirmative action, gay wedding websites, and abortion when it comes to Supreme Court appointees.
Libertarians need to circumvent this captive media narrative with new arguments that can persuade voters to consider us as a genuine alternative to the Uniparty. “Not a dime’s worth of difference” is not only a worn-out slogan popularized by segregationist George Wallace, who won 46 electoral votes as an independent presidential candidate in 1968, it’s an argument that has failed to generate the necessary mass defection from the Uniparty on presidential elections.
One way to accomplish that exodus may be by promoting what can be called the “Free Vote Project.” The Free Vote Project would highlight the bluest and reddest states in presidential contests, and promote in those states—which, incidentally, constitute a majority of states—the reality that their vote for the Uniparty is simply not going to affect the election’s outcome in any way.
Casting a vote for the red or blue side of the Uniparty in highly partisan states won’t make a difference in the Electoral College tally. In the majority of states, the electoral votes are already decided in favor of either the Republican or Democratic nominee, whomever wins their nominations. I’m from Massachusetts, where Bay Staters vote for the Democrat in the presidential election pretty much all the time—even, famously, in the 1972 election where we were the only state to vote for George McGovern. But even in those rare cases where Massachusetts voted for the Republican, such as in 1984, Reagan was re-elected in a landslide over Democrat Walter Mondale. Reagan didn’t by any means need Massachusetts’ votes to put him over the top. An additional million votes switching to either Reagan or Mondale in Massachusetts wouldn’t have made the slightest difference in the eventual outcome because of the winner-take-all rules in the Electoral College.
If a million vote change wouldn’t affect the outcome, how could someone argue that casting their one vote for a third-party candidate with a better platform is a “waste?”
There’s really no excuse for voting against the best candidate on the ballot in these deep blue or deep red states. When the Electoral College outcome is a foregone conclusion, a vote for a “lesser-of-two-evils” candidate over one who aligns much more closely with your values is the only truly wasted vote.
The idea behind the Free Vote Project is to get the popular vote for the Libertarian Party presidential elections into the 10 to 20 percent range (or higher) in these states, starting a contagion of defections from the parties captured by the MISC and BigPharma that would eventually cascade down-ticket. Libertarians could even coalesce with other challenger parties to promote this idea, since they would also benefit from the campaign and an exodus from the Uniparty duopoly.
“Free vote tickets,” and more
One way to promote the Free Vote Project would be to distribute a print and digital “Free Vote Ticket” that would say something along the lines of this:
“[State name] is one of the majority of highly partisan states where the outcome of all its electoral college votes is not in doubt. This ticket certifies that the holder in the state of [state name] has the right and duty to vote for the best candidate on the ballot without any worry about having the slightest impact upon who will serve as the next president.
“Voting for a worse candidate when you can’t possibly affect the outcome of an election is the only truly wasted vote.”
National and state Libertarian Party leaders and candidates should use the same language to promote the Free Vote Project in their media interviews, on their websites, and on social media.
Of course, if the Libertarian Party starts making headway in partisan states—gaining 15 to 20 percent of the presidential vote or even beating the losing duopoly’s candidate—political power brokers will take notice. More importantly, it will erode the entrenched habits of voters and lead to more down-ticket independence in voting.
Thomas R. Eddlem is the treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts and a freelance writer published in more than 20 periodicals and websites, including The Libertarian Institute, The Future of Freedom Foundation, LewRockwell.com, and FEE.org. Lately, he most often writes for the Libertarian Institute and the blog of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party.