The three voicemails and final comments of a recent Best of the Left episode inadvertently do a decent job of walking listeners through the reasoning behind the Protest Party.
Voting for the major parties is futile. The first caller (a conservative who is a regular caller) declared that he was “probably never again” going to vote for a Republican or Democrat because they don’t do their jobs. “I’m going third party... I don’t know who yet.”
Voting for traditional minor parties is futile. With an example from his home province of Alberta, Canada, the second caller explains the strategic pitfalls of voting for minor parties in a First-Past-The-Post electoral system.
Voting for bad candidates is pointless and cowardly. The third caller is from the New York Green Party. “It is better to vote for what you want and maybe not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want and know that you are going to get it.” He implores us to be brave in all endeavors, including our votes. While I don’t actually agree that it is pointless to vote for the lesser of two evils if you have no better options, I do think this depressing situation is one of the main selling points of the Protest Party. Voting courageously for what we believe in speaks to our sense of honor. People are looking for something better to do with their votes, and the Minor Parties are simply not viable in a First-Past-The-Post system because of Duverger’s Law. While supporting the Protest Party requires some courage, if it brings about the right systemic changes we will only have to muster that courage for one election cycle .
Which brings us to final comments from Jay (the man behind BotL):
The system is spoiled. An election is said to have been “spoiled” when two similar candidates split the vote and allow a less popular candidate to win. As Jay says, “what I think the spoiler factor is, is neither of the candidates. It’s the system itself that is spoiled. The system is set up to allow elections to become spoiled like that.”
One simple reform could fix the whole system. Jay points out that if we had Instant Runoff Voting (aka Single Transferable Vote, Alternative Vote, Ranked Choice Voting, or Preferential Voting) we could vote for what we want without having to worry about “throwing away” our votes. The need to be brave would be eliminated.
These commentaries lay the groundwork for the idea of the Protest Party. The system is broken: voting for Major Parties is fruitless and unpleasant, but voting for Minor Parties is futile. A simple reform could fix the problem, but how to get the reform passed? This is where the Protest Party comes in. We aim to gain the support of all those voters who already know their votes are essentially useless for systemic reasons and empower them to change that system. Although I agree with Jay that an alternative vote would be a good choice, the Protest Party is flexible enough to make a different demand if its supporters see fit. Our job is to get people to understand this plan so they can help get us on the ballot for 2016.