Recently, I learned that 41% of voters were considering Ron Paul as a presidential candidate. I also learned that this is the highest consideration any independent has ever received from the general public in terms of a presidential nomination. This speaks to just how partisan our county is. But at least the independent party is being taken somewhat seriously, and that’s a step in the right direction to eradicating partisan politics.
This is not an article to endorse Ron Paul or any other potential presidential candidate—this is an article to endorse the idea of an independent president, and how that in it of itself could bridge the divide in our country more than any policy ever could.
The problem with most United States presidential elections is that voters often find themselves picking sides rather than picking a president. Anywhere from five to a dozen capable, qualified individuals from either party have to go through a cut-throat selection process in order to get their party’s nomination. The sad thing is that despite the rigors of this selection, it’s not necessarily the best candidate, or the person who could be the best president, who gets the nomination; it’s the person who is most likely to get elected. This means that person must be charismatic, charming, okay-looking, have the ability to get money for the campaign, and possess several other nuanced qualities that have little or nothing to do with running the country. It’s hard to cast my vote for president knowing that the person I’m voting for most likely wasn’t the best man for the job. In fact, I know that the reason my choices are for the best man is because it’s much harder to get a woman elected, no matter how qualified or capable she might be.
It’s hard to believe that bi-partisanship is what’s best for this country when the two parties in question aren’t even trying to get their most qualified members elected—just their most electable. This is so each party has a better chance of enacting their policies, presumably because each party believes that it’s their policies which are best for the country. Elections then become a chance to one-up the opposing party, whose own policies aren’t best for the country. Not to state the obvious, but this whole ruling by numbers and position thing isn’t the plan this country started out with. The United States started out with the idea that elected officials would work with other elected officials and—regardless of anyone’s political party—create policies together. Isn’t that a novel concept? One in which our country needs to get back to. But with our two main political parties at each other’s throats, I don’t see that happening as soon as we need it to.
Enter a third party presidential nominee. Now, for what I’m about to argue to be valid, this third-party nominee would have to be a “serious” one. He (or—dare we say it—she) would have to be on level with our other two main candidates. This is someone who has a serious chance of winning. This third-party nominee cannot be a Nader repeat (no offense).
Change could happen with the election itself. Voters would have to actually look at the candidates, and learn about their respective positions and plans, in order to vote responsibly. There are voters who take the time to do this even with just two candidates; these are the “undecideds,” the people with loose partisan affiliation if they have any at all. That’s why during campaigns, candidates virtually ignore the hard-core members of their own party, and the other. The candidates know these party members will vote for the nominee of their own party no matter what, and that time would be better spent convincing voters who want convincing to vote for them.
It’s sad how valid this strategy actually is. There’s been a few midterm elections where I don’t even bother to read the names on my ballot—I just fill in the bubble next to my party’s name which automatically picks out all the party members I can vote for. In my first presidential election, I had the benefit of my party choosing the person I thought was best for the job. It made it a lot easier to cast my vote. In 2008, I wasn’t so lucky. My party picked someone I thought wasn’t very qualified over someone who was extremely qualified. Yet I voted for this nominee anyway, because he was in my party. That’s not how presidential or any sort of elections should work.
Not only would having a third-party presidential nominee eliminate this “lesser-of-two-evils” type voting, but it also might allow for multiple candidates from the same party to run. After all, a serious third-party candidate would mean that campaign money from the government would have to be divided differently. Why not fund multiple candidates from the same party, and give the voters more choices?
However, the real change in our country’s politics would come from electing this third-party nominee. A third choice in an election would help voters take more consideration in who they’re voting for; a third-party executive branch would help our legislators take more consideration in what they’re voting for. It’s no secret that senators and representatives usually don’t take the time to read the bills they vote on. With partisan politics, why would they? They’re given a general idea of what said bill is; if it was proposed by a president (or someone else) of their party, they vote to pass it. If the bill in question was proposed by a president or member of the opposite party, they vote against it. There are instances when partisan voting doesn’t happen, such as when the bill in question is extremely controversial and requires careful attention, but generally this is how it shakes out. With a third-party president proposing bills, our congress couldn’t do partisan voting. Assuming our state senators and representatives don’t have the maturity level of a kindergartener, our legislators would actually have to read bills, discuss them, and vote on them based on what they think would be best for the country. Or, possibly, whatever private-interest group bought them their seat—point is, legislators would be swayed to vote with more consideration.
I’m not trying to say that a third party president, or presidential candidate, would magically eradicate all the problems our country currently faces. This third party member would still have to be a capable leader. Such a person wouldn’t even eliminate all the problems that arise from partisan politics. I’m just saying that he (or she) could greatly diminish them.