Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 07 September 2012 00:00
I primarily consider myself a centrist because my opinion tends to fall somewhere in between the Republican and Democratic camps, not to mention the conservative and liberal camps, whatever that even means these days. However, one motivating reason behind this classification is that I get to be miffed at everyone pretty much all the time. Are you a Republican? I disagree with you. Are you a Democrat? I disagree with you. Libertarian? Make up your mind about what you actually stand for besides generally being smug and condescending, and maybe I’ll disagree with you; it’s hard to say.
Given that being a centrist allows for pretty much equal-opportunity disgust, I’m continually surprised that this position isn’t more popular. In any event, it’s a real problem come election time: Do I vote for a major party candidate, which for someone like me will always appear to be a “lesser of the evils” scenario, or do I vote for a third-party candidate in an attempt to start moving away from the two-party system?
In general, I believe the current system is inadequate and we need to move away from it. It’s not even arguable at this point that both parties have become polarized to the point where understanding, let alone compromise, is nigh-impossible. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no third-party called “Centrists: A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B,” or “Moderates: People who aim to be not too hot or too cold but just right, like Baby Bear’s porridge.” Although if you know of a party with one of those names, by all means send me an e-mail ASAP.
Furthermore, if I vote for one of the third-party candidates, that’s fewer people voting for my “lesser-of-the-evils.” If enough forward thinking people who want to move away from the two-party system (aka intelligent people) split their votes among sundry third parties, we will increasingly be stuck with the candidates that the less intelligent portion of the population select. Some would make the argument that this has already happened, in some of our recent elections if not necessarily all of them. I plead the fifth on that one (for now.)
However, for me voting either Democratic or Republican is a kind of endorsement of a system that no longer works the way it should, one that needs to change if the country is to ever get out of this spiritual malaise we’ve found ourselves in. Putting it all together, this is what we have: Voting for one of the two major party candidates increases the chances that the “lesser evil” candidate will get into office, presumably keeping things from getting too much worse in the short term. However, the two-party system continues to destroy the country in the long term. Voting third-party is better in the long term, since it will both create more viable choices and force the two major parties to reign in some of their excesses if they want to win back the votes they’ve lost to the others, but we’ll likely be rewarded with Mr. Greater Evil for President in the short term, and how long can the country really stand that?
Furthermore, this isn’t a one-time, one-election thing; if more and more people decide that the only viable way out of the current deadlock is to vote third party, we can expect several Mr. Greater Evil presidents. Things could get a whole lot worse before they get better. In general, I’m in favor of looking at the long-term picture, but I don’t know if that’s responsible, or even safe in this case. After all, what if President Evil decides that going to war with random countries is a great idea? What if President Evil appoints someone to the Supreme Court who declares my womb a national park, subject to all forms of government oversight?
Voting for whoever you think is the lesser of the evils is hardly a new thing, but taken altogether, the current situation represents the opposite of voting: picking not who you think would best represent the country, but trying to assess which systemic level change will leave the least destruction in its wake. It’s like choosing where on your face you’d like to punch yourself.
Karen Gellender is editor of the Syosset-Jericho Tribune and Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald.