Vote your conscience, not your reflex

By Caleb Jonas

In last week’s Mac Weekly, Molly Griffard called on campus progressives to abandon their support of minor political parties in favor of DFL-endorsed candidates, because “we live within a two-party system.” While it’s undeniably true that today’s political landscape is dominated by the Democratic and the Republican parties, Molly seems unaware of some of the major successes achieved by third-party movements and candidates, both historically and today.Without third-parties, many of the underpinnings of today’s progressive movements would never have occurred. Minor parties were instrumental in introducing and promoting a woman’s right to vote, the establishment of a forty-hour work week, the groundwork for social security, and the implementation of a progressive tax system.

James Madison said, “when the variety and number of political parties increases, the chance for oppression, factionalism, and nonskeptical acceptance of ideas decreases.” Though there are other factors to be considered, it’s worth noting that a study using the criteria of high voter-turnout, the absence of legislative gridlock, and the power exchange between the two major parties as criteria, American two-party democracy was at its strongest when there were numerous and active small parties.

In today’s political culture, one need not look any farther than the U.S. House of Representatives to identify a prominent and effective small-party legislator. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist, has been a public servant for three decades. Though he caucuses with the House Democrats, he has refused to join the party because of what he sees as its subservience to moneyed interests. Throughout his career in the House, Sanders has been a forceful advocate for immediate universal health-care and drug reimportation (Sanders was the first member of Congress to take seniors to Canada to buy affordable medicine), a vocal critic of the Patriotic Act (Sanders wrote and introduced the Freedom to Read Act), and a leader against media consolidation.

While Bernie Sanders will not be on the ballot in Minnesota this election cycle, any number of passionate, committed, and bright third-party candidates will be. Minnesota has a proud history of supporting radical political movements and candidates-just look at the DFL. Minnesota has a proud history of voting its conscience. And though that independent streak has admittedly had its ups and downs, it is a history that we should build on.

Don’t decide who you’re going to vote for based on party affiliation, or because someone tells you that you’ll be throwing your vote away. Take the initiative: do some research, compare your choices, then vote for the candidate who you think will be the best public servant. That’s the only guaranteed way to affect the change you want to see.