Let me be clear, every four years, the bullies come out. Make no mistake, they’ve been coming out for twenty years, in my case. These bullies say the same things in response to my choosing to vote for third-party candidates during presidential elections: “You’re throwing away your vote.” “That’s a fringe group.” “They don’t have a chance of winning.” “Third-party candidates aren’t viable.” “There’s no choice.” “You have no choice but to vote for the lesser of two evils.” “You’ll be responsible for such and such candidate getting elected.” “Get him in and then we’ll put his feet to the fire!” And so the bullying goes. I’ve said a lot in response over the past twenty years, and I’ve found myself saying the same things this time around: I explain some of the ways in which so-called viability is produced. I share the importance of enabling a third-party to receive five percent of the popular vote so that they are eligible for massive amounts of federal funding in the next election. I explain the dangers of believing in binaries. I touch on how the so-called lesser of two evils argument is a philosophical quagmire. Sometimes, I direct them to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, a book detailing many ways that citizens of this country have resisted tyranny in some of its many forms. I tell them that the two major parties lock out third-party candidates from the debates, which, besides making a mockery of democracy, further hampers the visibility of the locked-out candidates. I explain to them how the Electoral College works, and how, unless they are voting in a so-called swing state, they need not fear voting for a third-party candidate. I share that once the major party candidate is in office most people will not only not put his feet to the fire, they aren’t even likely to hold his feet to a feather. I explain to them that the major parties aren’t entitled to my support, that they must earn my vote. I explain to them that a vote, whether enthusiastic or with reservations, for a major party registers as the same thing to the candidate who receives it, viz., as a mandate. Voting for third-party candidates, however, can result not only in a third-party candidate winning (not an impossibility), but may also result in the so-called major party winner of an election receiving less than fifty percent of the popular vote, making that candidate less likely to believe that they have a public mandate. I explain to them what any toddler understands: You put enough drops in the bucket and the bucket will fill up.
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.