It’s Time to Stop Listening to the Duopoly… Vote Your Conscience

According to the Constitution, in order to become president a person must meet three requirements. None of these requirements are to belong to a political party. Yet, the two major parties have a stranglehold on the government and no one outside the Republican and Democratic Parties has been elected president in over one hundred and fifty years.

How is that possible? There have been hundreds of challengers in that time period and many of them have belonged to a political party – just not the Democratic or Republican Party. The tendency of people to choose one of the two duopoly members as president has gradually morphed into an institutionalized choice. The duopoly chooses the two candidates and the electorate gets to pick which of these two becomes president for the next four years. If you don’t like it, tough!

The presidential election process has been skewed to favor the duopoly for many years and the obstacles seem to become greater with each election cycle.

Over the years, many independent candidates have run for president, but more often than not, they run for one or two election cycles. Many parties have come and gone and there are many parties running in this election. The difference this year is that two of them (The Green Party and The Libertarian Party) might have an effect on the election.

Just forming a party doesn’t guarantee victory — it’s just the beginning. The Green Party has been around for over 30 years and has fielded candidates for president for the last twenty. The Libertarian Party has run candidates for president for over forty years.

Part of the problem is just getting on the ballot in all 50 states. This isn’t required, but it’s something of a hindrance when people say: “That party isn’t even on the ballot in all 50 states,” as if this is indicative of the candidate’s qualifications for office.

Each state has different ballot access requirements, but they all need a certain amount of petition signatures to get a candidate on the ballot. Collecting these signatures is a problem itself. Frequently, the petitioners are harassed. The petitions themselves often contain fraudulent signatures and parties try to collect more than the number of signatures required. Some are deliberately in error because members of the duopoly have signed the petition falsely to inhibit another political party. Other signatures are invalid because some people enjoy signing a petition with a name like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

Since many signatures are needed, parties often use people who will collect signatures for a price. The going rate seems to be about two dollars a signature. Once the signatures have been collected, they must be turned into the proper state offices for review. This process itself is a great use of time and money and even after the signatures are turned into the state, many are judged to be invalid for one reason or another.

The waste of time and money by third parties is well-known to members of the duopoly, and that’s the point. They just don’t want any competition!

Getting enough signatures to gain ballot access is never a problem for the duopoly, but it is a problem for third parties. Even after the third parties have collected enough signatures, they are not guaranteed a spot on the ballot. Many states have requirements for third-party or independent candidates that are not required of Democratic or Republican candidates. These byzantine requirements are often embedded in archaic laws and take one or more trips to court to get them removed.

Examples of these laws include: more signatures required by third parties than are required of Democrats and Republicans, full slates of candidates must run for statewide offices, requirements that petitioners must live within the state they are collecting signatures for, more restrictive deadlines for third-party petitions, and monetary damages assessed against candidates who fail to qualify.

Usually, the only way to get on the ballot with these restrictions is to sue and have a court order the state to remove these restrictions. Lawyers also cost third parties more money. People have been challenging these, and many other laws, in courts throughout the nation for at least 40 years.

Even if an independent or a third-party candidate succeeds in getting on the ballot, the propaganda coming from the duopoly and their friends in the media is unrelenting. There is constant talk about how a third party on the ballot is going to spoil the election and that is the only reason they are on the ballot. This ignores the fact that many states require a party to run a candidate for president to qualify for a ballot line for that party.

Any story that can be used by the duopoly against the independent or third-party candidate will be, no matter how ridiculous. It doesn’t have to have any basis in fact, just a rumor. The third-party candidate spends a lot of time denying the story instead of getting their message out. I understand that this is how politics works. Politicians and the media use these tactics on a regular basis, but they are ALWAYS used against anyone who dares to challenge the duopoly and these challenges must be nipped in the bud.

The pretense that there is a difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties is something almost taken for granted. If you change from Democrat to Republican or vice versa, this is acceptable behavior, but if you challenge the duopoly and attempt to point out the lack of difference between the parties, then you must be demonized!

Ralph Nader is a perfect example of that. The myth that he cost Al Gore the 2000 election is taken for granted, despite the lack of facts supporting this. As Ralph Nader has said: “The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That’s the only difference.”

READ MORE: Are Third Party and Independent Candidates Really ‘Spoilers’?

The duopoly demonizes the candidate and a disproportionately large guilt trip is given you by most people with whom you discuss the issues. If their candidate loses, then it will all be YOUR fault. Anything bad that happens during the administration of the candidate they oppose will also be YOUR fault. Not only will these things be YOUR fault, but you must think of the bad example you’re setting with your behavior. All of this will occur just because you are: “wasting your vote.”

As Gary Johnson has said: “When someone tells you that you’re wasting your vote, recognize they don’t care about you. It’s a selfish statement. They are saying your beliefs aren’t worth being represented. That you should silence your voice so theirs can be louder. Vote your conscience, not someone else’s politics.” Because I have used a Gary Johnson quote in this article doesn’t mean I’m a Libertarian, just that the Libertarians have also struggled against the duopoly.

I support Jill Stein and the Green Party and think people who read this article should as well. There are many reasons for that. The Green Party presents an alternative to duopoly politics, especially in the areas of the environment and social justice. The duopoly would rather you listen to more name calling and irresponsible pandering than hear about real issues — so expect to hear the propaganda about how “they can’t win” or “she’s just acting as a spoiler.”

Jill Stein’s candidacy is just as valid as that of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. As Jill Stein has said: “Forget the lesser evil, stand up and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it – because they do.”