Think about everything you have heard from the two presidential campaigns. How much of it was attempts to convince you that an opponent is a “bad guy”, someone who probably doesn’t even care about the country (or even, in some diatribes, actually wants to undermine it)? For example, it seems we are expected to believe either that Obama hates people that build businesses or that Romney hates the poor. And where is any real discussion of actual issues and policies, instead of just straw men and flippant claims about dark motives? If you are like me, you have seen a lot of partisan personal attacks and precious little substance. It seems the adage, “attack the idea, not the man”, has been largely forgotten.
What do the two parties offer to those who complain about this? Little more than the use of charges of partisanship as the basis for partisan attacks on each other. Since a two party system allows few alternatives, it doesn’t matter how bad one party seems (or even actually acts), as long as it can paint the other side as “worse”. “You have to vote for us, look how bad the other guys are.”
What is a voter to do? One interesting idea that has been kicked around is for voters to be able to vote “None of the Above”. This gives voters a way of saying “this just isn’t acceptable” and would give voters a way of saying they are sick of the endless partisan war.
Of course these suggestions have gone nowhere, in part because the parties have no interest in this happening (and the one thing you can see them cooperate on, in a weird synergistic way, is blocking any alternatives to their endless partisan war). But, in fact, we do have a way of voting “None of the Above”.
This can be done with the write-in system. Almost all ballots have a place where you can write in a choice that doesn’t appear on the ballot. So you just write “None of the Above” into the space, and there you are. If a vote for “None of the Above” could get into, or even near, double digits, it would demonstrate that there are enough fed-up people to swing an election. That would make it that much harder for politicians to ignore the alienation of voters and could promote pushes for reform.
Some will argue, why not vote for a real third party? The two parties system, since it denies all alternatives to Democrats or Republicans, shuts out a wide range of alternatives. Trying to settle on one independent candidate or party is difficult for such a wide range of views, scattering the vote around and weakening the message. Writing in “None of the Above” avoids this and, thus, can let people with different viewpoints come together with a clear protest against the electoral system.
Now after all the effort they have put into tearing each other down, the parties don’t want people to just look for a third choice. They will fall back on their usual arguments. “You will be wasting your vote” is a popular one. If you don’t live in a swing state, there is little chance of your vote affecting anything, so why not put it to some real use to protest the partisan two party system? What if you do live in a swing state? Well, in my opinion, the fact is that neither Obama nor Romney (partisan attacks notwithstanding) are either fools or want destroy the country. Conversely, neither one innocent of the partisanship that corrupts the system. It seems clear to me that the damage done to our country, by continuing partisanship in our system, will hurt the country far more than whatever differences might exist between these two men. The idea that you have to vote for the “lesser of two evils” to avoid “wasting your vote” is a myth that serves to prevent voters from seeking alternatives. In the end, the “lesser of two evils” is still “an evil”.