I hate the two-party political system here in the United States. I think by restricting the American people of viable options and narrowing those limited options down to two people, it creates division among the population.
A history of the two-party political system can be found at ushistory.org (here), at apstudynotes.org (here), and of course there is a handy wiki page (here). There are Pros and Cons articles found at reference.com (here) and at connectusfund.org (here). Neither of those pro/con articles in my decision-making. I am referencing those to show that some see pros, some see cons.
Every presidential election cycle we go through a year’s worth of political TV ads, campaign signs, door-to-door (polluters) pamphlet-leavers. We are inundated with candidate info, controversy, soundbites on the news, social media and among peers. Some people educated themselves about the people listed on their ballots. Some people follow their chosen party to the T. Some fall prey to the inundation of political ads and vote for who the TV tells them. Some give sway to their peers through social media, through water cooler banter and even through the pulpit. To wade through all of this (right and wrong) information can be a nightmare. I try, to the best of my ability, to make my way through that bullshit and make an educated decision.
Depending on who you ask, the state I live in (West Virginia) can be or isn’t described as “Southern”. I use this as my judge: if it is south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is southern. West Virginia has been a red state for a handful of elections. I give credit to Charlton Heston for the change in hue. But that is a blog for another day. Following in line with other southern states, West Virginia has consistently voted for a Republican in the White House for the past five elections (including 2016):
- 1900 – William McKinley (R)
- 1904 – Theodore Roosevelt (R)
- 1908 – William H. Taft (R)
- 1912 – Woodrow Wilson (D)
- 1916 – Charles E. Hughes (R)
- 1920 – Warren G. Harding (R)
- 1924 – Calvin Coolidge (R)
- 1928 – Herbert C. Hoover (R)
- 1932 – Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
- 1936 – Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
- 1940 – Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
- 1944 – Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
- 1948 – Harry S. Truman (D)
- 1952 – Adlai Stevenson (D)
- 1956 – Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
- 1960 – John F. Kennedy (D)
- 1964 – Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
- 1968 – Hubert H. Humphrey (D)
- 1972 – Richard M. Nixon (R)
- 1976 – Jimmy Carter (D)
- 1980 – Jimmy Carter (D) (One of only seven states that voted for Carter)
- 1984 – Ronald Reagan (R)
- 1988 – Michael S. Dukakis (D)
- 1992 – William J. Clinton (D)
- 1996 – William J. Clinton (D)
- 2000 – George W. Bush (R)
- 2004 – George W. Bush (R)
- 2008 – John McCain (R)
- 2012 – Mitt Romney (R)
- 2016 – Donald J Trump (R)
So, as I was drowning in a sea of soundbites, from both Democratic and Republican parties, I thought to myself: there has to be something better. A viable (ie “they have a shot”) party. But, no matter how I looked at it, there is no viable option for parties other than “the two”. There was nothing about Trump that appealed to me (wait, that is not true – his campaign promise of implementing term limits for Congress on his first day in office – lied – is something I would have been ok with). His stance on issues…well, let’s just say I have not seen that many flip flops since Myrtle Beach 1986. Then we had Clinton. She was (IMHO) the better of the “two”. However, I was not won over on her. She was mired in controversy (real, made up or however you want to perceive it – it bogged her down and people ate up all tidbits of scandal news that popped up on a daily basis). Without going into the specifics of my views on particular issues (there will be blogs with details later), I can say that Trump gave me great concern and I believed his win would hinder America as a whole.
Then I was left with the question, am I ok with voting for Clinton? I read one of her books. I read articles on her, her background, looked up statistics. I just could not sway myself to be a serious supporter. Personal preference. Then, while lamenting one day that I wished we had “another” option other than the two, I gave thought to what it would take to make that change.
Currently, during debates, only the Democrats and Republicans are allowed on the stage. During the 2016 cycle, there were three presidential debates in total. Only the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Republican nominee Donald Trump met the criteria for inclusion in these debates. So, who decides the participants of Presidential debates? That would be the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a bipartisan organization formed in 1987. Their mission states: “The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates.” Their website has a section on debate history, per year: here. The specifics of how their internal structure can be found: here. Bottom line (also per same website): “Under the 2016 Criteria, in addition to being Constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. The polls to be relied upon will be selected based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations and the frequency of the polling conducted. CPD will identify the selected polling organizations well in advance of the time the criteria are applied.“
Ok, let’s review the percentage of West Virginians who voted Republican in the previous four elections:
Let’s add in the onslaught of negative media placed upon Clinton, WV being a friend of Coal (and her remark regarding shutting that down), Benghazi, emails, curtailing Bernie, etc etc etc etc… It was a GIVEN that Trump would win by a landslide (68.6% to be exact).
So, how could I make my individual vote more effective? I decided to vote outside of the two-party system in a hope that the numbers nationwide could potentially see totals large enough to open the debate stage to more than two podiums. And why would that matter? Because third-party candidates have nothing to lose (IMHO) and because of that, they will address and bring up topics which the top two contenders would rather leave alone. To vote that frame of mind in West Virginia was safe. That frame of mind in other states (ie Florida) won Trump the election. I knew it was safe to vote using that strategy in my state, and the results prove that.
If you add up all non-Trump votes, that equals 223,680 votes – less than half what Trump received. So my voting for a third-party candidate proved to not be ill-fated in my state (like it was those voting in Florida).
Because of where I stand on social issues, when chosing among the three “other” candidates that would grace the WV ballots, Jill Stein (Green Party) made the most sense. Did I agree with all of her stances? Not really. Was I uber familiar with the Green Party? No. But in an attempt to open up the spectrum of candidates that are offered on a silver platter to us, I was willing to vote for her, for that party, and hope for the best.
Did my protest vote succeed? Sadly, no. The third-party voters will not see “their parties” in the next election on the big stage. However, with the political climate as it is, the changes coming down the pike might stir enough change to give rise to a better class of candidates.
Had Clinton won would I have thrown my support behind her and her causes? “Thrown” might be a little overstated. I would have supported her while also calling to task the things in which I believe she shows need of improvement.
But, that opportunity never came to pass. And Donald John Trump now occupies the office of POTUS. In the past two weeks I have learned more about the working structure of our government, rights, historical supplementation and politics. I can say in all honesty, I do not believe I would have felt the need to educate myself for my own protection under a Clinton Presidency.
As I write the Bridges blogs, I encourage you to comment and to offer polite discourse. I will not put up with name calling, shaming or extreme negativity. I will delete comments that are harassing or demeaning. “Just because you’re louder does not mean you’re righter.”
I hope we can have a conversation about our country, what makes it (already) great and what we can do to keep it that way.
Welcome to Bridges.