It's Time for a Third Party in America

I think it’s time America gets serious about moving beyond a rigid two party system. If the 2016 election has confirmed anything, it is that the recent incompetence and unpopularity of the two existing parties is reaching a crisis point. The “third party candidate” stigma used to be reserved for extreme partisans, like the Green Party’s Ralph Nader or the Socialist Party of America’s Eugene Debs. Trump’s radical candidacy would normally be good fodder for a third party run, but in this election he has latched himself onto (hijacked?) one of the two existing parties, to everyone’s detriment. The crazy fringes are now taking over the mainstream parties (well, Bernie tried), which are becoming more and more partisan, and so I think it’s time we start thinking of third parties not as extremist dreams but as realistic options for the sane, moderate and balanced Americans who are being left behind. I personally feel completely unrepresented by the Democratic and Republican parties. If Michael Lind is correct in his recent column in the New York Times that Trumpism and Clintonism are the future of their respective parties, I want nothing to do with them. In Lind’s view the GOP of Trump is one where “a kind of European-style national populism is rising, for which protectionism and immigration restriction are central issues.” The DNC of Hillary Clinton is “a slightly more progressive version of neoliberalism freed of the strategic concessions to white working-class voters associated with Bill Clintonism.”

I want nothing to do with a GOP that is nativist, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-environment and still somehow claims the moral high ground on issues like abortion and family values.

I want nothing to do with a DNC that claims to care for the oppressed and “least of these” but excludes in this the millions of defenseless babies killed every year in the abortion industry.

I don’t want to associate myself with a party (Republican) that talks about freedom and the dignity of human life but supports torture, denying entry to refugees and “rounding 'em up” mass deportation.

I don’t want to associate myself with a party (Democrat) that talks about tolerance for all but hypocritically supports punitive legislation against organizations whose religious convictions on sexual ethics are out of step with progressivism.

Is there really no room for a third party in between these polarities? Can there not be a party that champions smaller government, job creation AND environmental protection? Is there no one else who would be interested in a party whose pro-life agenda includes abortion restriction AND gun control? Would it be too much to ask for a party that is built around civility and statesmanship and kindness and the humility of admitting when you're wrong?

Especially as policy realignment happens in the two parties (the GOP becoming less about social values and more about “America First!” fear/isolationism; Democrats becoming more the party of the 1%), I would think there would be more and more momentum for third party options among those who can’t in good conscience get on board either of the two existing platforms.

A Clinton vs. Trump election in November would leave me, and millions of other Americans, with no choice but to decline to vote, write in a candidate or vote for the other issues and races on the ballot but not for president. And that is unfortunate.

I don’t presume to know the reasons why third parties have never done especially well in America, though I’m sure there are many. I’m not saying we need to be exactly like European multi-party democracies, but it seems like something needs to be done. In 2004, 40% of Americans believed a third party was necessary. In 2014 that number grew to 60%. The majority of Americans want more than two options because they increasingly disapprove of the two existingoptions.

This is the 21st century. A multiplicity of options (on everything from media sources to smartphone choices to cars and colleges and Instagram filters) is our expectation. And this is America! How unAmerican is it to limit the options of anything to just two? I thought this was the land of free markets and competition and choice. Sadly there are two impenetrable monopolies on political choice in America, two unbreakable and uncompromising political unions. And both of them are corrupt.

We can do better.