I am really, really glad I wasn’t an Alabama voter last Tuesday.
The choices: A Democratic candidate who, though apparently a decent fellow, can be expected to largely vote the big government, big spending party line, or….Roy Moore — homophobe, theocrat, and apparently, at best, a creepy pursuer of very young women.
There was, of course, the “write-in” option, which would have been conscience-saving choice, but unlikely to have a great impact.
Why only two choices?
I’ve asked before, and I’ll keep asking: Who decided that voters should have only two real choices when they go to the polls or mail in their ballots?
The Founders didn’t design it that way. In fact, some of them warned against the consequences of having only two viable political parties. More than 200 years ago, the potential was recognized that two powerful parties would combine to exclude others and suppress meaningful debate.
The choices Alabamians faced in their special Senate election constitute Exhibit A. Imagine the relief among a great many voters — particularly fiscal conservatives who couldn’t stomach Roy Moore’s brand of intolerance or reported dating habits — if there had been a credible, decent candidate for whom they could vote without holding their noses.
A third choice might not have changed the outcome, but don’t voters deserve to have an opportunity to vote FOR someone? And that doesn’t just apply to the Alabama election a few days ago. Polls consistently show that voters across the nation want more options.
Republicans and Democrats rob Americans of the choice to vote third party
Why don’t we have more choices? Well…After decades of allowing the Republicans and Democrats to control the process, it’s no wonder that we today have a system that is designed to perpetuate the two-party model. Alabama is not unique in the difficulty faced by a candidate other than the Republican or Democrat to even get on the ballot, much less be taken seriously.
Believe me, having fought to get on 50 ballots, I know how difficult — and expensive — it is.
So where does that leave us? We can whine or, as in the wake of the Alabama election, dream of what might have been…or we can demand that ballot access be reasonable for third party or independent candidates. The majority of Americans want more choices. It’s the politicians who refuse to let it happen, and who can blame them? 99% of them are Republicans or Democrats.
They won’t budge until voters demand it.
And it doesn’t stop there. “Third” parties, whether they be Libertarian, Constitution, Green, or whatever, must field credible, serious candidates. Sometimes they do. Too many times, they don’t.
Change won’t happen overnight, but it has to begin somewhere. In hindsight, the door was wide open in Alabama for a credible third party or independent candidate to have a major impact on the election, if not win outright.
The voters are ready for more choices. It’s time we get serious about offering them.
(Photo of Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson speaking at a networking event in Scottsdale, Arizona by Gage Skidmore)