One-party politics

A few years ago, when I was still living in Canada, I was introduced to the concept of ‘strategic voting’. For those of you who aren’t familiar, there are three particularly strong parties in the Canadian system (four if you count the Bloc Quebecois). As a voter my main choices were Liberal, Conservative, and NDP. Strategic voting would come into play for someone who lived in a riding where their favourite of the three had a particularly weak base. If I was an NDP supporter who lived somewhere where the NDP candidate had little chance of winning, then I might opt for voting for the Liberal instead, for example.

 

American politics sometimes feels like a big example of this phenomenon because of only having two major parties. You’ll see people express this sometimes by saying third-party voters are “throwing their votes away”. To vote for anyone than the two major players has about as much impact as not voting at all. Between this and the increasing polarization of American politics, I’m casting my first vote here feeling like I have no choice in who to vote for. If I vote for anyone than Romney or Obama then I’m effectively saying that I don’t care which of them wins. If I want my vote to matter (which it might not anyways, given which state I live in) then third-party voting is not an option for me. I need to vote for Romney or Obama, or I might as well not vote at all. Even if I decided I preferred someone else, I wouldn’t dare vote for that person, because the difference between Obama and Romney is too important to me to let the ‘wrong’ one win.

 

For other candidates, then, this becomes a cycle.  They effectively can’t get enough support to be serious contenders until they have enough support to be serious contenders. Until enough Americans decide the difference between the two major parties don’t matter to them, or the system gets overhauled, I don’t see a way out.

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