The mindset that individuals should vote for a third party candidate over Obama due to the failings of Obama to live up to his campaign promises, especially with respect to the environment is foolish. The irrationality of this mindset is demonstrated in two parts.
The first element involves the value of single issue voting. Third party candidacy largely distinguishes itself through a strong differing opinion on a single political issue, be it in the realm of the economy, environment, judiciary, foreign affairs, etc. However, the problem with focusing on a single issue, for both the candidate and the voter, is that rarely is an issue an island unto itself. Therefore, one must analyze the entire policy platform put forth by the third party candidate to see if there are contradictions, which would eliminate the usefulness of the single-issue position. Unfortunately for most supporters third party candidates can rarely be characterized as ‘exactly like that major party candidate except on this one issue’.
Also due to the emotion and intensity that can encompass these single issues and their adherents, most single-issue voters erroneously convince themselves that there are more individuals who think as they do and will act on this single issue than there actually are, warping the probability of success. One reason for this mindset is most single-issue voters frequent environments that act as echo chambers of sort for their opinion on a particular issue catalyzing the belief that more people share the belief in question with a similar level of commitment and passion.
Another aspect to the emotional element of single issue voting is respect and the lack thereof between certain groups and a given political party. For example one psychological aspect that has grown in the environmental movement is that they feel neglected, that Democrats ignore them due to a belief that environmentalists will always fall in line and vote Democrat because the alternative (Republican) is worse. The almost comical nature of this element is that some believe that not voting for Obama will ‘show him that I matter’.
Such a belief is foolish because the 2012 election can realistically only play out one of two ways: 1. Obama wins despite reduced support from environmentalists; in this scenario Obama, and perhaps the Democratic Party, could view the power structure of environmentalists with less respect because he still won even with reduced support; 2. Obama loses; so what lesson did Obama learn that can actually be applied in the future? He may lament having neglected environmentalists (from an ego standpoint), but how is that relevant if he is not going to run for President (or for that matter any political office) again, thus the ‘lessoned learned’ cannot be applied because he will no longer be in a position to apply it.
The sad thing is that this neglect that environmentalists feel is self-inflicted as they have yet to produce a viable alternative to give Democrats pause, a real power vacuum threat. The Green Party is a complete joke and realistically has done more to damage the environment than to benefit it (the 2000 election springs to mind). Even if the idea is just to ‘teach the Democratic Party a lesson’ not necessarily Obama, without a viable political party to oppose both the Democrats and Republicans, all individuals who feel that their vote is being ‘taken for granted’ will essentially either continue to cast a ‘taken for granted’ vote or will instead cast a ‘thrown away vote’.
The previous paragraph flows well into the second element, a lack of preparation and organization required for victory. Pertaining to the most viable scenario as stated above, third party candidacy in the 2012 Presidential Election, what candidate is a serious challenger to both the Democratic and Republican nominees? Winning the Presidency demands name recognition, money and logistical support. What third party candidate has these attributes in such capacity to rival the engines of the two major political parties? A secondary influencing factor is the non-democratic nature of a Presidential election where whether or not a vote counts is determined by where you live.
The Electoral College, a relic from a bygone era, complicates voting for POTUS by heavily penalizing those individuals that do not have the above three elements. The best example of this detriment was seen in 1992 where Ross Perot garnered 18.9% of the total popular vote, yet received 0 electoral votes. Therefore, due to the role of the Electoral College in the process of electing the POTUS, Mr. Perot was no closer to winning the presidency at 18.9% of the popular vote versus had he received 0.4% of the popular vote. Do those who wish to challenge Obama and the Republican candidate in the 2012 election with a third party candidate actually believe that they could generate a better result than that of 1992 in the current environment? If so, what leads them to draw such a conclusion and does objective analysis destroy that ‘rationality’ behind the conclusion?
The simple unassailable fact is that this late in the game there is little reason to believe in the election of an individual not from one of the two major political parties. Some third party voters attempt to make a stand on the grounds of morality. This intent is largely seen as a strategy against those who claim to be voting for a particular candidate who they classify as ‘the lesser of two evils’. Such a classification signifies that the voter is not in agreement with that individual’s platform, but is instead concerned about his/her opponent’s platform. Third party voters believe that these individuals are doing a disservice to themselves and to their country by not treating their limited access to power (typically voting for representatives once every two years) with more respect; basically these voters should be voting for the candidate they want to vote for and will perform well, not a candidate that may not do the job well, but has major party backing. The ‘moral’ third-party voters believe that a vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ is still a vote for evil.
The problem with the morality argument is it is an abstraction. The mindset that one was not a coward and upheld his/her morals when voting is of little rational comfort if ‘the greater of two evils’ wins the election and begins to systematically lead policy completely away from those morals. Only one of incredible arrogance (or stupidity) would consider such a scenario a victory. In short these third party voters seem to neglect the reality that within this ‘classification’ mindset, evil is going to win the election, thus do you want less evil or more evil?
If third party supporters truly want to make headway they need to start in the non-presidential election cycles. Nominating candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate through the argument that both major political parties have failed to advance this country in a positive direction thus new ideas and perspectives are required to achieve such a goal. The process of electing these individuals will be easier during non-presidential years due to a smaller voter turnout as well as less money being spent in the political arena. Then after these individuals have demonstrated some measure of success over the two years between elections, supporters should use these successes as a means to introduce the advantage to having a POTUS from the given third party of choice.
Overall in the current environment any individual choosing to vote for a third party candidate because he/she does not believe in Obama is acting akin to the unfortunate reality associated with third party candidates, ‘throwing their vote away’; when one’s only power in the U.S. ‘democracy’ comes once every two years, why waste it sending a message that does not have enough volume to be heard?