How Can We Change The Two-Party System? The 2016 Election Should Inspire Voters To Start Organizing

Supporters hold signs as Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks at a rally on September 10, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

As much as the election results were a disappointment for Democrats, they were as bad (if not worse) for those who cast their votes for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, wanting to see a change to the system. As it turned out in this election, merely voting third party was not how to change the two-party system. If that's what you want, though, this is not the time to mourn. 

This is the time to stand straight up and start organizing. Building a viable third party, a third party that could get the support of pragmatic Democrats and Republicans across the country and eventually change the system absolutely must start from the lowest levels of government. 

Between Johnson's failure to hit the 5 percent mark that would have qualified the Libertarian Party for a big chunk of federal funding, and the claims now streaming in from disappointed Democrats about third party voters costing Clinton the election, this is not a good day for someone who wanted to see the two-party system take a hit. This is an established pattern, however. And if no one does anything about it, the system will not change next election just because you cast your vote for a candidate who's neither a Republican nor a Democrat (as simple as that would be). If you really want a change to the system, you have to get involved in it. 

With Millennials especially open to third parties, this is the time to act. Depending on your personal politics, get involved with the local or state branch of the third party of your choice. Try to get elected to city council in your town, convince someone you know and trust to run, or support the candidate that your favorite third party is running. There are about 520,000 elected offices in the U.S., and your goal should be to have your party represented in the elections for as many of them as possible. This election, for example, the Green Party ran under 120 candidates, which leaves plenty of room for improvement. 

If the Greens (or another party) could build up a base of elected officials across the country in the lower levels of government, these people could then prove their worth and then eventually get elected to higher and higher levels of government — eventually perhaps even the presidency. This is without a doubt a difficult and daunting task — but it is not at all impossible in the long run, and it's the only way that a third party would become a credible option to the sorts of people who voted for Clinton or Trump because they didn't want their votes to be wasted.

I'm not just saying this in the abstract. I'm a life-long, registered Democrat, and I've always voted for Democrats in national, state, and local elections. Although many of my views are left of the Democratic Party platform, as it stands I would never vote for a Green Party candidate for president for those same pragmatic reasons that so many other people cite. However, if I had a Green Party candidate for city council or the state legislature to vote for, I would seriously consider giving that person my vote. The problem is, though, that despite the fact that I vote in one of the most liberal districts in the country, I have never seen a Green Party candidate on my ballot. 

Until the Greens, or another third party left of the Democrats, builds a nationwide organization that my fellow pragmatists and I would deem worthy of our vote, no third party candidate will win the presidency, and the system will not change. Trying to change our minds about this voting strategy has not yet worked for any third party candidate, so another approach is clearly necessary. A third party presidential candidate needs the support of 50 percent of the American public, including a lot of people who vote pragmatically. Could you be one of the people to help change that? I'm certain many people would welcome it. 

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