In 2012, over 98% of voters voted for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, despite there being six other candidates running for president. Looking at these results, one might come to the conclusion that Americans are reasonably happy with their choice of voting for either Democrats or Republicans. However, this is the wrong way to interpret the strong showing at the polls for our two major parties. Even a perfunctory look below the surface suggests a much more dire and troubling reality.
While national telephone polling does not provide a representative sample of American opinions, it does give us some sense of what the public is thinking about its government. Polling shows congressional approval at an abysmal 16%, with less than 10% saying Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Only about 20% of respondents even think the Federal government has the consent of the governed, quite a damning assessment of the government’s legitimacy. Even from this exceptionally low starting point, between 23% and 30% of Americans say the country is heading in the right direction. About the same percentage says that they think their representatives deserve re-election.
If Americans are not happy with their choices -- if, indeed, they are so unhappy with their choices that four-fifths do not even think their elected government is legitimate -- what explains the overwhelming percentage of votes going to the two major parties that overwhelmingly comprise this government? I think the answer is that most Americans do not think they have any choice except to either vote for one of those two parties or not vote at all (and over 40% of eligible voters did indeed decide not to vote in 2012). In one important way, they are not wrong. In today’s political landscape, to vote for a minor party candidate is to remove yourself from the process of deciding who represents you in government. I would still advocate voting for minor party candidates because it does provide some intangible benefits, and strong support for a minor party can push representatives to behave somewhat differently, but these factors either do not occur to most voters or are overwhelmed by the (supposed) importance of influencing the election’s outcome.
The Protest Party aims to change this dynamic. Whereas voting for one of the existing minor parties is viewed as Utopian dreaming, a vote for the Protest Party would be both sober and prudent. We do not aspire to win an election, which is all but impossible at this point. This means we do not have to support an idealistic and divisive platform. Instead, we aim to harness the intensifying discontent of the American voters, giving them an outlet for their disgust with the ruling class in a way that does not simply waste their votes. If the major parties want our votes, they will have to listen to a demand put forth by Protest Party supporters. Not a platform, but an ultimatum. This is the party that I want to vote for, and if there is any validity to the polling, I do not think I will be alone. Please help us get on the ballot in your state.