Ever since Gary Johnson began to get a bit of traction in this election cycle, media commentators and writers have been sounding off in droves with the age-old canard that any vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote, or an exercise in futility. Yet, far from tilting at windmills, a vote for the Libertarian Party means a very great deal.
While it would be easy to point out that there was a time when an upstart third party, fielding its second presidential candidate ever (a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln), managed to win the presidency and radically transform American politics, it is not necessary in this case. The reason to vote Libertarian in November is far more prosaic.
It is certainly true that, despite the fact that both major party candidates are deeply in the red when it comes to net favorability ratings, Gary Johnson is unlikely to win a state, let alone the White House. But that is not what matters this election. What matters is that Gary reaches a magic number in the popular vote: 5 percent.
If any third party candidate garners 5 percent or more of the vote, their party is entitled to federal supporting funds and get a far clearer path to 50-state ballot access.
That is vitally important for a tiny organization like the Libertarian Party. If the Johnson-Weld ticket gets over 5 percent, it will mean direct funding on the order of $10 million put toward future contests, and would save millions more having to be spent to fight for ballot access. In the long, grueling, and ruinously expensive world of American electoral politics, money is everything. And if the Libertarians could drastically improve its financial fortunes, it might actually be able to contest elections up and down the ballot in a number of states.
Yes, of course, there may be some libertarians who blanche at the thought of taking federal funding as a matter of principle. But the simple fact is that what we have been trying so far has failed utterly. Even now, when things could not be better in terms of competition, we are still languishing in the polls. Getting into double-digits in some polls, and even in the 20s in a few states is very heartening, sure, but it is still not enough to get over the line in a state. And, apparently, it’s not even enough to merit inclusion in the presidential debates. With millions more in the war-chest next time, it may well be enough to get there. That prospect is surely worth taking the federal dime.
So when we go out on the campaign trail, we do have a strong case. A vote for the Libertarians is about opening a chink in the armor of the two-party duopoly. The case we have to make is that the two-party system has to change and, while Gary Johnson won’t win, a vote for him provides vital resources in future fights. People are fed-up with the two parties, but they vote for them because they are conditioned to think only in terms of the present election. We have to tailor our message in order to expose and explain the nuance of the long game we are playing. If we can do that, we may stand a chance.
While making the case for Johnson-Weld, it would also be worth pointing out to prospective voters that even if they vote for Hillary or Trump their vote may well be a “waste” anyway. There are essentially only 13 true battleground states, and in 35 the outcome of this election is already a virtual certainty. So if you are a Republican voter in California, Oregon, or New York you do nothing to the final outcome voting for Trump. Same goes for Democrats in Alabama, Mississippi, or Texas.
That’s the pitch: Unless you are voting in a toss-up state, you can rest assured that a vote for Gary Johnson will not spoil the election for whoever you consider the lesser of two evils. And considering that the threshold you are contributing to is just 5 percent, every single vote for Gary Johnson is incredibly meaningful.
We need to spread the message that a vote for the Libertarians is the only vote that is NOT a wasted vote.
This post was written by John Engle.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.