Opinion: What a lame party

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

America today seems far more divided than it has in recent years, and many people, quite accurately, blame this on the two major political parties. They seem less likely to work with each other and more interested in keeping themselves in power – by whatever means necessary at times.

But there are no other parties that could seriously compete with the two major ones. The best a third party could do would be a party with a similar platform due to a spoiler effect. But this starts to reveal why the parties have become increasingly divided.

The spoiler effect is when candidates with similar ideologies split their voting blocs and accidentally allow a candidate of an opposing ideology win the election. This has happened multiple times in American elections and, until fairly recently, you could see a third party actually take a whole state away from a major party. Some projections suggest it could happen this 2016 election.

This spoiler effect scares the major parties, so in an attempt to hold onto their voting blocs they change their platforms to more extreme versions of their ideologies — Republicans become more right-wing, Democrats more left-wing.

But this leads to an even more serious problem for the parties — voter disillusionment.

This mainly comes in two forms: low voter turnout and more unaffiliated and independent voters. In 2014 voter turnout was only 36.4 percent, and in 2012 it was 57.5 percent. Midterms usually get lower turnout, but even in 2000, only 54.2 percent of eligible voters actually voted.

This low voter turnout makes parties once again sure of their base of ideologically committed voters. However, independent voters make up 42 percent of the population. Many of these independents lean to one ideology or another, but dislike the party platform or candidate dominant for their ideological leanings. So what do they do?

Either vote for a candidate they don’t like, or (more likely) they don’t vote at all.

Think about it: If about 58 percent of people voted in 2012, doesn’t it seem like the 42 percent of independent voters would have some correlation with the 42 percent of eligible voters who don’t vote? Obviously — and even though parties know this — they are only concerned with people who actually vote. That’s how they stay in power.

So what is the solution? Well, if you are a fervent Democrat or Republican, you just need to choose more likable candidates for the rest of us in the primaries — especially since you have closed primaries in many states that are still somehow paid for at least in part by tax payers.

If you are an independent like me, the solution is fairly simple: vote. And if you do vote third party, it will give the major parties concrete proof that there is a large bloc of active voters that have the potential to be Democrats or Republicans.

I encourage you to vote, and if you are really dissatisfied with both major candidates – neither seeming significantly better than the other — instead of staying home, find a third party candidate you can get behind, and vote. The only way to change the Democratic Party is to get involved in the democracy. The only way to change the Republicans is to get involved with the republic.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].