“The Libertarian Party is in the same place where African-Americans were prior to the ’60s. We’re in the same place where women were prior to getting the right to vote. We have to try harder because we are judged more harshly.”
This was the response I received from Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian Party, when we discussed the unfair treatment that its 2016 presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, received at the hands of the media.
In truth, third parties do suffer from major structural disadvantages in the American system, as Sarwark pointed out, but I find it offensive to compare the ordeal of a libertarian candidate to the plight endured by victims of racial or gender-based oppression. No, they are not the same thing.
Of course, Sarwark spoke for a lot of people when he described the election between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a choice between “terrible and terribler.” He isn’t wrong in pointing out that “if you don’t vote your conscience . . . for what you want, you’re going to get what they shove down your throat. And that’s going to be them fearmongering you.”
I believe that our essentially two-party system, which has kept America alternating between Democratic and Republican presidents since the 1850s, stifles independent voices, fosters corruption and keeps out-of-touch elites in power. Creating a multitude of viable parties won’t solve all our problems, but a long-term solution might begin with that step.