Tag Archives: Third-Party Candidate

DONEGAN: Debunking the Lesser-of-Two-Evils Voting Theory

Anyone who has ever supported a third-party presidential candidate in an election has likely had to defend their decision from partisans who endorse the lesser-of-two-evils voter theory. By the logic offered by proponents of the theory, anyone who votes for an independent candidate is at best wasting their vote, and at worst handing the election over to their least-favorite major-party candidate.

With as many as four potential Supreme Court replacements looming during the next presidency, partisans will doubtlessly wield the argument with ferocious intensity during the run-up to the 2016 presidential general election.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: If GOP Debate Stage Can Fit 11, Let Third Parties In General Election Debates]

However, for the vast majority of Americans in the overwhelming majority of states, this cannot possibly be the case. In presidential elections where Electoral College votes are allocated primarily in a winner-take-all fashion and in which there are very few competitive swing states, most Americans’ electoral votes in a particular election are already predetermined before anyone even heads to the polls.

Anecdotally-speaking, as a libertarian-leaning Tennessean who identifies as Republican, I knew going into the voting booth in 2012 that all of my Electoral College votes were going to go to Mitt Romney. However, I was warned in advance that if I pulled the lever for a third-party candidate, it would swing the election to Barack Obama. Republican activists scolded me that I would then be responsible for Obama’s radical Supreme Court nominees and all sorts of other fearful outcomes that I needed to vote for Romney to prevent.

Ultimately, Romney did not end up choosing positions that would earn my vote, and I was forced to pull the lever for a third-party candidate. All 11 of hard-red Tennessee’s winner-take-all Electoral College votes went predictably to Romney. Though Obama did end up winning the election, my vote did not in any way assist him in achieving that victory. All of my state’s votes went to Romney.

Did I waste my vote? I could have traveled all the way to the voting booth just to give Mitt Romney an even larger victory in Tennessee by a single vote that would have had no impact on his chances against Obama.

Voting third party on the other hand has some tangible effects. In some states, third parties gain legal status and ballot access when they obtain certain percentages in state-wide races such as presidential elections, thus expanding competition among political parties. Also, major party candidates tend to look at any unusually-high percentages earned by third-party candidates in elections as signals that it is time to take on some of the key issues that are gaining traction among independents in that party.

For partisans, voting third-party can push a favorite major party closer to that person’s views. Meanwhile, there is nothing stopping such a voter from continuing to support major-party candidates in state and local races down the ballot and continuing to support the party in general without being forced to vote for an unacceptable presidential candidate.

According to Politico, “In the current Electoral College battlefield, 40 of 50 states have voted for the same [party’s] candidate in all four elections since 2000. And, of the 10 exceptions, three [North Carolina, New Mexico, and Indiana] were fluky… That leaves just seven super-swingy states: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, all of which backed Bush and Obama twice each, and Iowa and New Hampshire, which have voted Democratic in three of the last four elections.

For voters in those 7-10 states, a close race days out from the election might lend a bit of credence to the lesser-of-two-evils theory. Also, in Nebraska and Maine, the only two states that do not allocate Electoral College votes in a winner-take-all manner and instead do so proportionally, the argument gains a bit more traction. That said, Maine only has 4 electoral votes and while it is possible that two candidates might split electoral votes in those states, according to the Office of the Federal Register, “It has not actually happened.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: RNC Loyalty Oath Goes Too Far By Asking Candidates to Endorse Unknown Nominee]

Partisans will point to obscure potentialities like a state radically politically shifting suddenly as a potential outcome justifying a lesser-of-two-evils vote, but the odds of that happening solely on the basis of a third-party candidate surging are slim at best in any particular instance. Besides, if that were going to happen, voters would be aware of media-reported evidence of the political shift prior to election day and could make adjustments accordingly if they so desired.

Too often it is said that a third-party candidate has spoiled an election when popular vote election returns appear to show that candidate getting a number of votes that, if given to a major party candidate, would have changed the outcome. This assumes wrongly that 100 percent of that candidate’s voters were available to the major party candidate in the first place. As it pertains to the U.S. presidential race, such an argument also oversimplifies the complexities of the Electoral College system.

Ultimately, the lesser-of-two-evils voter theory wrests on a backwards principle — that voters should vote against their least-favorite candidate rather than voting for their favorite candidate. It is not the voter’s job to win the election for a political party or candidate. Candidates and political parties must earn the support of voters by choosing positions that will convince them to travel to a polling location and pull the lever in the voting booth.

In July of 2015, the Truth in Media Project released a Consider This video highlighting the fact that independent voters now outnumber Republicans and Democrats. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


Jim Webb, Weighing Third-Party Bid, Says Clinton’s Policies Caused ‘Chaos in Libya’

Former Democratic Senator from Virginia Jim Webb, who said that his “views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and nominating base of the Democratic Party” as he dropped out of the party’s 2016 presidential primary, is still considering launching an independent run for the White House.

On Saturday, he unleashed an attack via Facebook on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record as Secretary of State, saying, “Hillary Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya, and the power vacuums that resulted in the rest of the region. She’ll need better answers than the recent nonsensical comment that she advocated taking out Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in order to avert a situation like Syria. The predictable chaos in Libya was bad enough, but it also helped bring about the disaster in Syria. Who is taking her to task for this?

[RELATED: Jim Webb Withdraws from Democratic Primary, is Considering Independent Run]

Webb added, “Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful. While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.

Webb, a highly-decorated Vietnam War veteran, Emmy Award winning journalist, and former Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, is expected to announce whether he will run for president as an independent at the beginning of 2016.

According to The Washington Post, in the key swing state of Virginia, a University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies poll found Webb at “between 13 and 19 percent” as an independent when pitted against theoretical Republican and Democratic challengers, suggesting that even a failed independent bid by Webb could impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.

Bloomberg Politics’ Ben Brody wrote, “Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his Webb2016 website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a #WebbNation hashtag. A run by Webb, who often manages his own social media accounts and has also used them recently to promote a petition in favor of his run and to deliver kudos to Bernie Sanders in his battles with the Democratic National Committee (‘nothing more than an arm for the Clinton campaign,’ Webb tweeted), could further complicate the already unpredictable 2016 election.

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Trump, Facing Potential Ban from GOP Debates, May Pledge Not To Run As Independent

At Fox News’ Republican presidential debate last Thursday, Donald Trump angered party activists and drew fire from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul when the billionaire real estate mogul refused to promise not to run as a third-party candidate if he were to fail to obtain the GOP nomination. However, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign reportedly told ABC News’ chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl that Trump is now considering reversing his position and pledging not to run as an independent.

The position change reportedly comes as the Trump campaign attempts to shift away from controversial comments Trump made recently about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly through more conventional campaigning efforts like rolling out position papers on trade and immigration and visiting with voters in Michigan, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Additionally, according to Jonathan Karl, the Republican National Committee might ban Trump from future debates if he refuses to pledge his support for the GOP. “Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has directly called on all candidates to pledge not to make a third-party run. The Republican Party has leverage here: senior GOP officials say it is possible that future debates could be limited to candidates who have pledged support for the party — a move that could leave Trump out of debates if he is still leaving open the possibility of running as an independent… The RNC has already made it clear that it will withhold valuable party data on Republican voters from any candidate unwilling to pledge support to the party,” wrote Karl.

At last Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, Fox News anchor Brett Baier said, “Experts say an independent run [by Trump] would almost certainly hand the race over the Democrats and likely another Clinton.

During the debate, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul criticized Trump for refusing to support the Republican Party’s eventual nominee and said, “He’s already hedging his bet, okay? If he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton or maybe he runs as an independent. But I tell you, he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.

For more 2016 election coverage, click here.